A Weekend in Chocolate Land

At the top of the tallest hill in Hershey, Pennsylvania is the Hotel Hershey. And just a few hundred feet down the hill from the hotel is the high school that my husband attended.  He used to sneak into the hotel to buy cigarettes from a machine in the lobby.

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The Hotel Hershey was then, as it is now, a luxury hotel. It was built by Milton Hershey, founder of the chocolate company, to employ the people of his chocolate factory town during the Great Depression.  The official story is that he realized that he could either pay them welfare or put them to work.  He chose to create jobs. Eight hundred of them spent two years building a Pennsylvania Dutch chocolatier’s vision of a Mediterranian palazzo. It opened in 1933.

My husband had always wanted to stay at the Hotel Hershey, ever since his juvenile delinquent days took him as far as the lobby. A couple of months ago, his Milton Hershey School class had a reunion, and it seemed the perfect opportunity.  The Hotel Hershey is one of the Historic Hotels of America, so of course I was in.

At the front door of the hotel, a valet whisked away our car, a bellman whisked away our luggage, and a doorman led us into the lobby and to the registration desk.  The receptionist greeted us with the question: “Milk or dark?”  She was asking which kind of chocolate we preferred.  Why dark, of course. She handed me two dark chocolate Hershey bars.  Yes, I was going to like this place.

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It turned out that there were things that met my expectations, and things that didn’t.  Let’s start with the things that didn’t, and get that out of the way.  Our generic hotel room and the rest of the hotel, beyond a few public rooms, was a disappointment.  I’d describe the decor as circa 1980 Ramada Inn, which was less than I was expecting at the Hotel Hershey’s price point.

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Much better was the outside of the building and the grounds, which were beautiful, as was a second floor lobby that led to the restaurants.  That’s it, in the photo above.  The service — except for one pompous restaurant host — was exceptional. We were given free tickets to the Hershey Gardens, just a stroll down their driveway, and the Hershey Story Museum. We went to the garden — which included a butterfly enclosure — but not the museum. If we’d been around in the evening, we could have made s’mores over a campfire somewhere on the hotel grounds.

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Despite the “just adequate” room, I really did enjoy our stay.  And most important: my husband loved every thing about it (even the room).  Having dreamt about getting beyond the lobby for over 40 years, he finally did and it did not disappoint.

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5 Responses to A Weekend in Chocolate Land

  1. That looks like a nice lobby – shame about the rooms!

  2. Kathie Shattuck says:

    The lobby does look like a fantasy. Great place to settle for cocktails. And the butterfly photo is exceptional.

  3. Bummer about the rooms, but that lobby is quite stunning. And the butterfly is so beautiful! I had no idea about Milton Hershey creating jobs in the town – what a neat story.

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