- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

HERSHEY, Pa. - America's capital of chocolate has something for everyone regardless of age or season. Hershey is a must-visit destination for many reasons, but it all begins and ends with chocolate and Milton Hershey, the founder of such a sweet industry.
Chocolate, after all, is what brought Hershey back to his boyhood home of Derry Township in Lancaster County. He sold his Lancaster Caramel Co. for $1 million so he could start the Hershey Chocolate Co., which opened in 1905.
He knew there were enough dairy farms in Lancaster County to supply the fresh milk his chocolate would demand.
Mr. Hershey's new chocolate business has grown into a worldwide industry. The community that is home to his business still welcomes visitors and makes them feel it would be a nice place to live. Call it a Hershey kiss.
High up on a hill is Hotel Hershey, a mere 2 to 2 hours from the Capital Beltway.
Built in the 1930s, the hotel is an architectural study in palatial, Mediterranean-influenced luxury that is a result of Hershey's dream to create a hotel to rival the world's finest.
The hotel, the Hershey Theatre, Hershey Park Arena and Hershey Stadium were all built under the founder's "Great Building Campaign," a building boom he sparked to provide work for nearly 600 unemployed people during the Great Depression.
Almost 70 years later, these buildings are still vital entertainment destinations.
On pre-Christmas weekends at Hotel Hershey, guests enjoy the elegant trappings of the holiday season and also a holiday lunch with St. Nick and Mrs. Claus. This is followed by a leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride in the forest.
Elves transform Hersheypark the Hershey amusement park into a winter Candy Lane with more than a million twinkling lights, children's rides (including a carousel) and a holiday walk through ZooAmerica, the home of more than 200 animals native to North America.
There are also many shows, singalongs and the annual Dinner with Dickens, which is held at the sister property, the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.
Hotel Hershey offers fine dining, indoor and outdoor activities, and a world-class spa for eliminating stress and invigorating mind and body.
Reached off the main road, the hotel is perched on more than 300 acres, standing guard over the town, Hersheypark and Chocolate World (which has retail shops, a food court and a simulated tour of the Hershey factory).Halfway up the winding drive, the crisp cold mountain air is filled with the scents of moist dirt and pine trees.
At the portico, valets rush to help guests from their cars. Inside is the warm oak reception lobby where guests are met with a smile and a "just made fresh" Hershey chocolate bar.
Hershey's personal favorite building had to be the hotel, with its Spanish Mediterranean ambience. From the ceiling of the two-story Center Court lobby, trompe l'oeil paintings of wisps of clouds in a summer's blue sky look down on the tiled and sculpted fountain, the mosaic floors and graceful oak railings that surround the second-floor balconies.
Dining venues inside the hotel include the Fountain Cafe, the Circular Dining Room for fine dining, and the Iberian Lounge for a liquid refresher. The Circular Dining Room is true to its name, with curved walls of two-story windows and great views of the surrounding forests, formal gardens and quiet reflecting pools.
Hershey is said to have hated dining alone because he was invariably seated in the corner of a restaurant. To ensure that none of his guests ever felt similarly slighted, this room was designed to have no offending angles.
The Circular Dining Room serves breakfast and lunch buffets, dinner, Sunday brunch and, on the first Tuesday of each month, an afternoon high tea. The service is seamless and while the atmosphere is generally festive, the high ceilings and plush surroundings create a peaceful, unhurried experience that demonstrates why this is a preferred spot for nearby residents.
The Fountain Cafe's imaginative menu features distinctive salads, pastas and entrees at lunch and dinner, but whatever the meal, the hotel's pastry chef prepares fresh chocolate delicacies every day, including his "chocolate soup" an amazing experience that begins with a chocolate ganache (made with heavy cream and bittersweet chocolate), topped with a honey-hazelnut cream then topped with a bittersweet chocolate cake.
The entire dessert is then baked and served warm. For the real chocolate lover, this dessert may be reason enough for a trip to Hershey.
The 235-room hotel offers guests plenty of amusements no matter the weather, including indoor and outdoor swimming pools, world-class golf courses, marvelous hiking areas, shopping, theater entertainment and the full service, European-style spa.
The spa overlooks the famous Hershey Gardens and creatively combines both chocolate and roses into innovative, refreshing and luxury services.
Daily worries and stress melt away within the spa's Old World elegance that has been designed to mirror the style of Milton and Catherine Hershey's home, Highpoint Mansion. Stained glass, marble landings and pecan paneling combine with rose-inspired colors to reflect the nature of the surrounding countryside and the formal gardens that the Hersheys loved.
The three-story, 17,000-square-foot spa offers some of the most indulgent services. The bustle of the reception room belies the calm found in the Quiet Room, a gentle space to relax and rewind for a moment before your experience begins.
The first floor of the spa dwells on health and fitness, with cardiovascular and resistance equipment, a mind-and-body room for aerobic and yoga classes, and access to the indoor pool. Fitness classes, including yoga, tai chi, outdoor walking workouts, step, low-impact and aquatic-aerobic begin at $10 per class with personal trainers available for an extra fee.
Beyond the hotel are plenty of activities for everyone in the family. Hershey has earned the title "golf capital of Pennsylvania" for good reason. The area's first golf course was the Country Club of Hershey, which has hosted numerous golf greats including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Enthusiasts of every skill level will find a golf course in Hershey that suits their game. The Country Club of Hershey has three 18-hole championship courses and there is a nine-hole course on the grounds of Hotel Hershey. The chocolate magnate designed the Spring Creek Golf Course especially for children.
For a walk without the work of carrying a full bag of irons, Hershey Gardens makes a perfect spot for resting or a leisurely stroll. The formal rose gardens originally were planted by Mrs. Hershey.
Hershey, the town, also is a destination for touring Broadway shows. Performances at the historic Hershey Theatre range from classical music to modern dance, with productions such as "Riverdance," the musical "Fosse" and the London City Opera's production "The Merry Widow."
The theater also runs a classic film series, designed to recreate moviegoing of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. Films such as "Bells are Ringing" (1960) and "Jailhouse Rock" (1957) provide an experience suitable for the whole family at $5 per ticket. To add to the nostalgia of the old films, a concert on the theater's Aeolian-Skinner organ precedes the films.
Other all-season highlights include the Hershey Museum, where many of the Hersheys' personal effects are exhibited as well as equipment used in the early days of making chocolate.
The museum also hosts guest storytellers and singalongs. Of course, no visit would be complete without a tour of Chocolate World, which is designed to familiarize visitors with the chocolate-making process.
Within walking distance of Hershey Park and its many roller coasters and amusement park features, Chocolate World begins with a gentle free ride accessible to all ages and abilities, for the special cars can accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. Through animations, films and displays, visitors learn about chocolate from the harvesting of cocoa beans to the wrapping process of the finished product.
After the ride, visitors receive a bite-size Hershey bar that seems to taste really fresh. It may have been the piped-in scent of freshly melting chocolate during the ride.
The Hershey Town Cafe food court in Chocolate World offers a variety of temptations from hearty Pennsylvania Dutch chicken and noodles to pizza, ice creams and salads. Chocolate World also features a store where chocolate-inspired foods, candy and memorabilia are sold.
The town of Hershey also offers the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, whose 665 rooms are decorated to reflect the rural Pennsylvania Dutch heritage of Hershey. Dining facilities include the many choices from the Fireside Steakhouse to the Hershey Grill, a more casual dining experience. The Grill is a bustling environment that has seasonal patio seating, quick service and signature desserts.
The Lodge also has two magnificent pools, an arcade gaming room and a fun playground for the toddler set.
There is plenty to do in Hershey every season. Attractions during the year aside from the amusement park include Big Band Weekends, Chocolate Lovers Weekend, Family Easter Weekend and Halloween in Hershey (the last two weekends of October during which children receive a free bag of treats at Chocolate World).
Christmas in Hershey (mid-November through December) is a town-wide celebration in which Hersheypark is transformed into a sparkling Christmas Candy Lane. Highlights include yuletide carolers and brass bands, carriage rides and hearty feasts.
Hotel Hershey and the Hershey Lodge begin special Friday and Saturday weekend rates on Nov. 22 for the Christmas season. Programs include caroling, photos with Santa and a stroll down Santa Claus Lane and maybe some chocolate.
B.B. King will perform in Hershey on Jan. 13, and the Mississauga Ice Dogs and Mississauga Ice Bears play ice hockey in season in Hershey. Jan. 25 is the date for the Women's Tournament of Hearts and the Men's Nokia Cup curling championships. More information about Hershey events is available on the Web (www.Hershey PA.com).


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