When I was a kid growing up just a few towns over from Hershey, Pennsylvania (www.hersheypa.com), there was no such thing as a chocolate fondue wrap or a whipped cocoa bath. Back then, Hershey meant roller coasters and almond bars. In many ways, the Hershey of today is a super-modern Orlandoesque hub of theme park rides, brand-name outlet stores and parking lots. The focal point for most visitors is Hershey's amusement park and interactive Chocolate World, though lurking amidst the 21st century trappings is an old-time charm that's survived since the company town was founded a century ago. Streets, with names like Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues, are topped with giant silver foiled Hershey Kiss candies, as they have been for decades. Just in front of the Hershey chocolate factory, built by local self-made businessman Milton S. Hershey in 1905, manicured hedge rows spell out a giant "Welcome to Hershey."
Though he made millions on the backs of the humble cocoa bean, Hershey dedicated his life to not only his thriving chocolate empire, but to helping the community and building a legacy for himself along the way. The Milton S. Hershey school, a boarding school for orphaned boys (it's now co-ed) and the well-regarded Milton S. Hershey medical center, are both important legacies. So is Hershey's grand hotel.
The Mediterranean-style 232-room Hotel Hershey is set on a hill overlooking town. Built by Hershey during the Depression, he modeled it after one he had seen in the Mediterranean on one of his many trips abroad, complete with a Spanish patio, tiled floors, fountain and a circular dining room. Rose gardens were the focal point of the landscaped grounds around the hotel and they still thrive today. A throwback to an earlier age of elegance and refinement, there's hardly a more dramatic contrast to the dairy farms and rolling green hills of central Pennsylvania than this castle-like compound.
But as old-world as the hotel is, it's managed to be edgy too, marrying the must-have spa concept with the very heart and soul of Hershey: chocolate.
A Whole New Meaning to "Chocolate Covered"
In 2004, the hotel's spa (www.chocolatespa.com) underwent a major expansion and since then has featured chocolate and Cuban-inspired treatments, as well as many more traditional therapies. The sweet stuff includes the whipped cocoa bath, a $40 10-minute chocolate milk bath meant to soothe and soften skin; chocolate bean polish, 30 minutes of exfoliation with cocoa bean husks and walnut shells, followed by cocoa body moisturizer ($60); chocolate fondue wrap, where warmed moor mud and essence of cocoa is applied to the body before one is wrapped and "baked" (60 mins, $110); and the cocoa massage, a Swedish massage using chocolate scented oil (50 mins, $95).
In homage to Milton Hershey's close ties to Cuba in the first half of the 1900s (he owned sugar plantations and mills there to produce the sugar for his candy), Cuban-influenced treatments include the Noche Azul Soak, a bath infused with the essence of Cuba's national flower, the La Mariposa Blanca (White Butterfly Jasmine) as well as hibiscus and orange blossom (10 mins, $40); Mojito Sugar Scrub, a sugar lime exfoliation treatment (30 mins, $60); and a Green Coffee Body Wrap, thought to reduce cellulite and help eliminate toxins (60 mins, $110).
Based on the design of nearby High Point Mansion, the home Milton Hershey shared with his wife (it still stands), stained glass, marble landings, hardwood floors and pale yellow walls come together to create an elegant country setting. In total, there are 15 massage rooms, six wet treatment rooms, nine facial rooms, and a hair and nail salon.
The hotel offers a number of spa packages that combine treatments with hotel nights. A company spokeswoman says rates tend to be lowest during midweek in the winter, and in the fall on weekends. There's more demand in spring and summer, though sweet deals are offered year-round.
Through May 24, the Heavenly Hershey Package is $538 per couple for each night, with a three-night minimum in a standard room. Price includes a 50-minute traditional massage (worth $95 a piece) for each person plus a $225 per person credit toward any other spa services or products. Lunch in the spa Oasis café is also included. Between May 25 and September 2, rate is $638 per couple per night, with a three-night minimum.
As you might expect, the shorter the stay, the higher the rates. Through May 24, the Hershey Getaway Package is $618 per couple for each night, with a two-night minimum. Rate includes the pair of 50-minute massages and a $175 per person credit toward any other spa services or products, plus lunch in the spa Oasis café. Between May 25 and September 2, rate is $698 per couple per night, with a two-night minimum.
One-night packages through May 24, called the Hershey Sweet Retreat, are a pricy $818 per couple including the 50-minute massages, $125 per person spa credit toward and lunch in the Oasis café. Between May 25 and September 2, rate is $898 per couple. In some cases, it's cheaper to book a room and spa treatments separately. For example, in low season rooms go for $269 for one-night stays; with the same spa treatments added in (but not lunch), the total comes to about $100 less than the package price.
Hotel Hershey has three restaurants, including the legendary garden-view Circular Dining Room, as well as the more casual Fountain Café and the Iberian lounge for cocktails and light fare.
For golfers, minutes away is the Hershey Country Club with a pair of 18-hole courses, while on the hotel grounds there's tennis, volleyball, basketball, nature trails, bicycle rentals, gym, playground and both an indoor and outdoor pool. During the summer months and during holiday periods, the Cocoa Kids Club operates for ages 5 to 12 for two sessions, full day (9am-4pm for $60 per child) and half days (9am-noon, or 1pm till 4pm, for $35). Admission is first-come first-served, so it's smart to make a reservation. Evening hours from 6pm to 10pm run $40 per child. Hersheypark and Chocolate World are a five-minute drive from the hotel.
Other Places to Stay
To save some dough and use the Hotel Hershey spa as a day guest, stay down the road at the 665-room Hershey Lodge. Geared to families with four casual restaurants, miniature golf, three pools and kids activities, what it lacks in personality it makes up for in rates. Rooms are typically at least $100 bucks cheaper per night than the Hotel Hershey. All rooms have mini-fridges and coffee/tea makers.
It goes without saying, but don't expect to diet in this sweet town. At the Lodge as well as Hotel Hershey, free chocolate kisses and bars are ubiquitous and forever tempting, appearing at bed time, when paying bills and in giant bowls through the public areas.
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