I don’t remember when I first heard about the spa at the Hotel Hershey, but as soon as I did, I knew it was something I had to experience and, hence, added it to my life list. Reading the descriptions, it sounded like I could luxuriate in warm chocolately goodness. I’d mentioned this to my friend, Suzanne, who is much more of a spa person than I am and game for all sorts of adventures. (For example, she did the fish pedicure with me a couple of years ago.) It took a bit of effort to find a time that worked for both of us, but we finally managed to make it work.
Part of what makes Suzanne a good person for me to travel with is that she is not into constant togetherness. She flew in (to Harrisburg) on Thursday night. I spent Friday working at home in the morning, followed by finishing my taxes. So it was early afternoon by the time I got out of the house to drive north. Most of the drive was pleasant, but I got stuck in some crawling traffic within the last 30 miles or so. Still, I got to the Hotel Hershey in just about 3 hours. When you check in, they ask you whether you prefer milk or dark chocolate and then give you a chocolate bar. (I am, of course, a dark chocolate person, though Hershey’s dark barely qualifies based on cacao percentage.) I called Suzanne and we set a time and place to meet for drinks, leaving me a little time to rest beforehand.
The Iberian Lounge had some chocolate themed drinks on its menu (misnamed as martinis. Sorry, but just using a martini glass does not a martini make. It must contain vermouth and either gin or, if one is being liberal, vodka.) Ignoring such atrocities, I had a glass of pinot noir, while Suzanne noticed that the beer list had Smithwick’s, which is her favorite. We moved on to dinner at Harvest, where I had a tasty cream of onion soup and a very nice beet and arugula salad. We figured that we would email and text to coordinate plans for the rest of the weekend, with no actual necessity to do things together.
As it happened, she was up when I emailed her that I was going down to breakfast (included in the hotel package we’d booked), so we ate together. Breakfast is served in The Circular and the buffet has a reasonable variety, including made to order omelets and little waffles with the shape of a Hershey’s kiss pressed into them. We then used the tickets to The Hershey Story (also included in the hotel package). This is a museum of Hershey history – both Milton Hershey’s and the company’s – and is reasonably well done. I can’t say that I learned anything much new, but, then, I’d been to Hershey before (and taken the trolley tour around town.) Overall, I’d say it was worth an hour and a half.
While Suzanne drove back to the hotel for her first spa appointment, I drove over to Chocolate World, where I did the (free) Great American Chocolate Tour. This is a ride past animatronic singing cows and such. Key word is free, and you do get a chocolate sample at the end, but it’s really pretty forgettable. The sad part is that I had actually done this ride once before, so I had apparently not learned my lesson.
The Chocolate Tasting Adventure (about ten bucks) is more educational. There’s a lecture on the history of chocolate. Then you get to do the tasting. There’s a chart with various flavors listed (e.g. caramel, cinnamon, tobacco, leather, etc.) and there are small bars of a number of different Hershey products. Starting with their regular milk chocolate, the instructions were to let the sample melt in your mouth and not to chew. That one was pretty simple, dominated by the (slightly sour) cream flavor. The Hershey’s special dark was more complex. Then came Hershey’s bliss, which is slightly darker. The best piece was a Scharfenberger sample, though it was one of their milk chocolate pieces, not one of their darks (which have a much higher cacao content than the products Hershey makes themselves). Finally, there was a candy kiss. While this was entertaining enough for a 20 minute session, I would have preferred something less mainstream. I am clearly not the target demographic, however, since most of the people present expressed clear preferences for the insipid milk chocolate varieties.
The hotel package also included admission to Hershey Gardens. This was not the optimal time of year for that, but it was still pleasant to stroll around for an hour or so.
Then it was spa time. The check-in area is poorly designed, in that the chairs to fill out their forms are actually out in the hall outside the spa. Your spa host gives you a robe and a locker (and, if your feet are not as average sized as mine, gets you different sized sandals). I changed, then got shown to the three rooms where one can wait for treatments – the aromatherapy room, the silent room, and the quiet room. The latter has tea and muffins (and, of course, chocolate – both hot chocolate and bowls of candy kisses) available and I settled in with some tea and a book. It wasn’t long before my name was called and I was off for the "sweet feet" pedicure. This included a nice chocolate sugar scrub and a cocoa oil hydration thing (as well as more normal pedicure stuff). It was enjoyable but the pedicure area was crowded, so it was kind of weird having all these other conversations going on around me. I did buy some cocoa sugar scrub so I can replicate the best part of the experience.
After that I went back to the quiet room. Suzanne showed up there eventually (in between her pedicure and massage) and we noted that we had chosen way too similar nail polish colors. I was summoned for my other appointment – chocolate hydrotherapy. This was, frankly, disappointing. I love soaking in Jacuzzis, but I was expecting something with more chocolate scent. The water (which did have cocoa essence) had little scent, though the cool washcloth provided had more. And the room was rather bland.
Bottom line is, that as spa experiences go, this was not quite up to what either of us expected, especially for the price. It was worth trying once, but there are other, nicer spas in the U.S. (and, of course, for good value, one should go to Asian spas, like the mud baths I once went to in Vietnam).
Our chocolate adventures were not done, however, as Suzanne insisted that we go to play Chocolate Bingo in the early evening. We were the only adults there without children, but why should that stop us? They used the sort of bingo cards that have sliding windows over the numbers. They started with normal bingo and moved on to several variants. The prizes were, of course, chocolate. I won a 2 piece prize with an H-shaped victory and was ashamed of depriving young children of the victory. Suzanne, who won three pieces (a one piece and a 2 piece prize) and a large bag in the final round, had no such scruples. It was pretty entertaining. We followed that with dinner at Trevi 5, which was reasonably nice. I should note that we had expected the restaurants to have more interesting dessert menus than they did. For chocolate-themed food, one would be better off going to Co Co Sala in D.C.
Sunday morning saw us back to Chocolate World, where we did the Make Your Own Candy Bar attraction. This was fun. You put on an apron and shower cap and swipe your card at various stations to make choices. I selected a white chocolate base with toffee brickle and chocolate cookie crumbs. I watched it go down the conveyor belt and get filled (rather unevenly), then enrobed in milk chocolate. You get to design your wrapper, too. It’s as close to a factory tour as you can get at Hershey nowadays, so think of it that way, versus spending fifteen bucks for a few ounces of mediocre chocolate.
Chocolate World also has a huge gift store. I bought a couple of things for the office. I am pleased to say the bag of little Scharfenberger bars was far more popular than the box of kisses. Suzanne bought a lot more, but it’s more of a novelty for people who live in California. Then I drove home, via the longer route. I ran a few errands along the way. Unfortunately, the outlet mall did not have the right type of pantyhose (it is hard to find the sandal foot ones so I had hoped to stock up). I did get rid of a box of books and magazines at The Book Thing in Baltimore. And, since this was just before Passover, I stopped in Pikesville and bought all sorts of things at the large kosher supermarket there.
All in all, it was a relaxing, albeit expensive, weekend. It is always good to check off a life list item, too. The relaxation was, alas, undone within minutes at work on Monday, but that’s another story.