Things look a little bit different in Hershey these days. Gone are the overflowing endless bowls of foil-wrapped Kisses stationed at the hotel check-in desk, spa reception area, and restaurant host stands—communal candy vessels don’t exactly pass muster during a pandemic. Couples’ treatments at the ever-popular spa have been temporarily suspended. And the fun experiences that wait at Chocolate World must adhere to closely followed protocols, including restrictions on numbers and social distancing. Nonetheless, this Pennsylvania town that Milton built is still the sweetest place on earth—especially for a weekend stay.
On March 1, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf lifted the out-of-state travel restrictions, opening the door for more visitors. However, the hotel and other experiences at Hershey are still requiring safety enhancements while on the property, including masks for all guests over the age of 2, observing social distancing, and staying home if they have COVID-19 symptoms, are awaiting a test result, have been exposed, or have tested positive.
Book a room at The Hotel Hershey and you’ll encounter contactless check-in and check-out. Don’t fear though, chocoholics, as all guests still get their choice of a full-size dark chocolate or milk chocolate Hershey bar along with their room keys. To sweeten the deal, there’s the option to upgrade to a king or two-queen room in a Woodside Cottage for $100. Is the extra charge worth it? In our opinion, absolutely. Located just a short drive away, these cottages are the hotel’s most premium accommodations, with more room to spread out and features including native stone hearths flanking gas fireplaces, marble bathrooms with soaking bathtubs, upscale furnishings, and a porch with rocking chairs. If you’re arriving with your pod, you can book several units; reserving an entire two-bedroom or four-bedroom cottage gets you access to a communal multi-functional Great Room with cathedral ceilings, fireplace, microwave and wet bar with refrigerator.
During “normal” times, The Spa at The Hotel Hershey can occasionally feel overcrowded, especially on weekends, when they would often welcome groups of friends as well as bachelorette and wedding parties. With the reduced capacity restrictions in place though, it’s easier to find your zen. The space itself is pretty sprawling, with treatment rooms and relaxation areas (including a quiet room and aromatherapy room) located over several floors. The self-serve beverage stations have been removed, but spa attendants will happily help satisfy your hot cocoa, coffee, or tea fix. Facials became available again earlier this month, and while you and your bae can’t get a couples’ massage just yet, you can book Sweet Feet Pedicures, during which you’ll be seated next to one another at Plexiglas-separated pedicure stations outfitted with massage chairs. The luxurious treatment starts with a chocolate sugar exfoliation followed by a chocolate foot mask, intensive moisturizing treatment, nourishing chocolate massage, and nail polish (if you wish). After your treatment and while your toes are drying, grab a chaise lounge in The Oasis, which has suspended food service right now but is the perfect place to relax and unwind. You can also stay for a dip in the indoor pool or soak in the Jacuzzi, both of which are open.
Dining options are a bit more limited right now than usual. The property’s stunning Circular Dining Room is only open for breakfast, meaning that if you have a hankering for the restaurant’s signature cocoa-dusted seared scallops, you’ll have to plan a return visit. Trevi 5 is open Tuesday through Saturday for both lunch and dinner, with modern takes on Italian cuisine. Start with an off-the-menu Woodford Reserve Manhattan with chocolate bitters to sip along with salt-and-pepper-flecked fried calamari and banana-peppers-and-beet salad with pine nut gremolata. Entreé standouts include George Bank scallops with speck, sage, potato, and brown butter and Tuscan filet mignon with forest mushrooms, baby spinach, and rosemary. Save room for the chocolate cream pie, the most popular dessert here. Your other option for dinner is Harvest, the property’s local and regional farm-to-table concept, open Friday through Monday for lunch and dinner. For a quick bite, Chef’s Market adjacent to the lobby has coffee, pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and pizza.
After check-out, spend a few hours at Chocolate World, located just up the street from The Hotel Hershey, where you can start with a free 20-minute ride simulating a chocolate factory during which you’ll learn about the process of making chocolate and end with a free sample. The paid experiences are well worth it, too. During the interactive 4-D Chocolate Movie, you’ll help Hershey characters solve a mystery involving a villain who hates all things sweet while watching the action jump off the screen, along with other sensory surprises. Hershey’s Unwrapped is a tasting journey where you discover the different flavors in chocolate while sampling your way through a tin of treats. But it’s Create a Candy Bar that’s the coolest thing for both adults and kids to do. Don an apron and hat, use a computer to select your chocolate and fillings and design your label, then head into the factory to watch your bar glide down the assembly line as it’s filled, enrobed in chocolate, wrapped, and labeled before taking home your creation. Leave some time to pick up goodies from the huge shop, which sells candy and branded merchandise, including harder-to-find flavors like Reese’s Peanut Butter cups filled with pretzel bits. Employees of Chocolate World do an amazingly efficient job of adhering to COVID-19 protocols for queues, social distancing and cleaning.
Before heading back to DC, order a flight and lunch at Tröeg’s, one of Pennsylvania’s most popular independent breweries. Flagship brews include year-round offerings like Perpetual IPA, DreamWeaver Wheat, and JavaHead Stout, as well as seasonal beers like Blood Orange Tangerine Shabang and Nugget Nectar. Don’t leave without ordering an overflowing basket of browned-butter popcorn with rosemary hop salt, and spicy tempura cauliflower with sweet-and-sour chili glaze and peanut sauce; the brisket sandwich with Troegenator barbecue sauce and fries is a great sharable option, too. While the brewery isn’t currently offering tours, you can peruse the shop for six-packs, growlers, and merch to go.
Hersheypark opens for the 2021 season on April 2 with two new dining experiences: Milton’s Ice Cream Parlor and The Sweeterie Confectionery Kitchen. For a limited time, guests can save 40 percent on Hersheypark tickets by booking online at hersheypark.com/tickets.
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