2004-12-09 / Travel

Sugar Treats In Pennsylvania

By Theresa Everline

When I told people I was going to spend a weekend in Hershey, home of the world’s largest chocolate factory, almost everyone made a Willy Wonka reference, which probably says something about the age group that my friends fall into. In response, I have to report that I didn’t see a single Oompa Loompa while in Hershey, and I witnessed no obnoxious preteen girls swelling up into humongous blueberries. At one point, however, when I was sitting on a bench outside Chocolate World, a young kid dropped her very large bag of candy, and as the pieces rolled away, the sidewalk for a moment really was a river of chocolate.

The town of Hershey, with its classic amusement park and its endless supply of candy treats, immediately conjures images of yelping, sugar-fueled children. Indeed, if you need to entertain little ones during the warm months, Hershey would be a good choice: The park has 10 roller coasters, and the Chocolate World visitors center has a 3-D movie and a simulated Kisses man-ufacturing line.

But Hershey is also a first-rate destination for adults, thanks mainly to the elegant Hotel Hershey. This AAA Four Diamond property, which opened in 1933, has a very traditional style, right down to the formal gardens with reflecting pools out back and the enormous central lobby dotted with upholstered chairs and plump sofas. Since the hotel sits on a hill, its veranda overlooks Hershey and the surrounding countryside of central Pennsylva-nia. This vista reveals how integrated the town and its attractions are. The amusement park isn’t pushed off to the middle of nowhere with access only by some three-lane exit jammed with cars. Instead, the park is part of the town, a few blocks from the Hershey factory, which is in turn just a few blocks from the early-20th-century houses and man-sions built by Milton S. Hershey for his workers and executives. Some of these homes are right on Chocolate Avenue, which is lined with streetlights in the shape of Hershey’s Kisses.

One impressive fact about Mr. Her-shey is that he left his entire fortune to the school he founded in 1909, now known as the Milton Hershey School, which provides free education, career training, housing, clothing, meals and health care to more than 1,300 financially needy boys and girls. Therefore, when you splurge on a Hershey-owned treat, you can know that the profits are going to a good cause.

And if you want to indulge yourself, look no further than the luxurious Spa at the Hotel Hershey. Many of the treatments offered by the spa are appropriately themed—for example, there’s a Whipped Cocoa Bath and a Chocolate Bean Polish. The combo that I got, called the Peppermint Pattie, started with a tingly peppermint exfoliating scrub followed by a slathering of mud infused with cocoa essence, which made me feel like a piece of chocolate-coated candy. Then I was enfolded in a soft plastic sheet (a wrapper for the candy bar!), swaddled in a blanket, and left to relax in a dim room as the mud did its skin-softening trick. I’m the type of person who has a hard time quieting all the random thoughts skidding across my mind, but this experience of being all warm and chocolatey, like a brownie fresh from the oven, almost—almost—did the trick.

Starting last month, the spa expanded and began offering a new line of Cuban-themed treatments, inspired by the sugar plantations that Hershey own-ed in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century. You can now get things like a Mojito Sugar Scrub, a Green Coffee Body Wrap and a Paradise Mango Mas-sage. Be forewarned: The spa gets book-ed well in advance, especially for its more elaborate offerings.

I drove to Hershey—actually, I want to say I “zipped” there—in a metallic-blue Mini Cooper S. Not only is the Mini utterly adorable, it also handles great, with fantastically responsive steer-ing. Did I mention that it’s adorable? The interior has an appealingly retro look—all the features, from the air vents to the speedometer to the nifty GPS screen to the door handles, are round or oval. If you pulled them out of the car and put them on a shelf in Target, they’d fit right in with that store’s cool-looking Michael Graves-designed kit-chenware.

At one point when I was in Her-shey I rolled down my window to ask directions from a parking lot attendant, but before I could say anything, he smiled at the Mini and exclaimed, “That’s one stylish ride you’ve got there.” A Mini seems to get people to talk sweet, even when the scent of chocolate isn’t in the air.

©2004 Car&Travel - December 2004

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