I have proven, definitively, that you can indeed have too much of a good thing. My proof came in the form of a case of red, itchy hives that covered my neck and arms after my return from a weekend visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The hives were a result of a weekend so indulgent that I have only myself to blame. I have suffered from chocolate-related hives before, but did that stop me from eating, drinking, bathing in and wrapping myself in chocolate? Nooooo. In fact, this has happened to me once before when I was a child, but I had long forgotten that an overdose of chocolate leads to an itchy skin condition for me. (Incidentally, the same thing will happen to me if I eat too many pickles, but luckily, I haven't heard that Vlasic is planning to open any gherkin-related hotels or spas.)
But the hives were well worth it -- after all, how often does an entire weekend of your life revolve around chocolate? Not often, I bet. In Hershey though, every day of the year revolves around chocolate -- hence the reason it's called "the sweetest place on earth." You might not necessarily associate Hershey, Pa. with romance, but with the onset of winter comes the closing of Hershey Park and a big decline in the number of children visiting -- in other words, a perfect time for couples to take advantage of the romantic Hotel Hershey, its Chocolate Spa and a number of dining options for all budgets.
My husband Ryan and I left New York City Friday night and headed west to Hershey for an early Valentine's Day getaway. We divided our nights -- one at the Hershey Lodge and one at the Hotel Hershey. Upon check-in at the Lodge, we received two -- what else -- Hershey Bars. These were the first of the 10-plus Hershey Bars I consumed in the next 36 hours. Once we checked into our spacious and tidy room, we headed to the Bears' Den, a sports-themed restaurant and bar, for a late dinner of pub-type fare accompanied by chocolate beer. One of the many activities aimed at adults during Hershey's "Chocolate-Covered February" is a class on chocolate and wine pairings.
After a quick hotel tour we headed to our room for the night, where on our pillows we found, you guessed it, chocolate.
Saturday started with a trip to the Cocoa Beanery for a hot chocolate latte. Then we checked out of the Hershey Lodge and headed to the Hotel Hershey for a day of spa treatments. Though our room wasn't yet vacated by its previous occupants, the hotel took Ryan's cell phone number and promised to clean the room and call him as soon as it was empty.
They made good on their promise -- though check-in was not until 4 p.m., we were able to get into our room around noon. Oh, and they gave us two more Hershey's chocolate bars at check-in. Since I hadn't had a proper breakfast I figured, "why not?"
I made my way to the spa and was surprised to find that, despite the relative off-season calm in town, the Chocolate Spa was bustling. I arrived a few minutes late for my first treatment, a chocolate fondue wrap, but was quickly and politely ushered through the pre-spa paperwork and changed from street clothes into a plush robe. I had never had a body wrap, chocolate or any other kind, and enjoyed the process of having dead skin brushed off my body and being wrapped in a chocolate cocoon and placed under warm overhead lights.
Less enjoyable was the process by which the mud and cocoa essence is removed -- a series of shower heads extend from the wall and, with help from the technician and a cloth, wash the elements from your body. It felt a little like being bathed by another person, something I had hoped not to experience until the much-later years of my life.
Next up was a spa lunch, which I enjoyed in my fluffy Chocolate Spa bathrobe, accompanied by Ryan in his normal clothes. The asparagus soup, a selection of salads, healthy sandwiches and juices were delicious. My next spa treatment was a 20-minute chocolate oil-scented massage, which was very relaxing but not nearly long enough -- treat yourself and go for an hour-long massage.
The last treatment of the day was a Whipped Cocoa Bath -- basically a very relaxing soak in chocolate milk complete with candles, music, lots of bubbles and chocolate kisses to snack on. Eating chocolate kiss after kiss while actually bathing in chocolate felt delightfully sinful.
After I had been dipped, slathered and bathed in chocolate, I finally got to check out the room. The king-size bed was dressed in luxurious linens and the oversize bathroom featured a giant whirlpool bathtub and spa products. Ryan and I then strolled around the vast grounds of the Hotel Hershey -- past the formal gardens and the site of the outdoor pool. The hotel has six miles of nature trails and, weather permitting, romantic horse-and-buggy rides.
After enjoying pre-dinner cocktails in the Iberian Lounge (chocolate martini for me) we made our way to the Circular Dining Room where we enjoyed lobster bisque, filet mignon, grilled venison chops and chocolate panna cotta for dessert. Relaxed from a day of pampering and pleasantly full of food and drink, we retired to our room where we were greeted by chocolate on our pillows. "When in Hershey... " I thought. Into my mouth the chocolate went.
Sunday MorningWe woke up early and decided to check out some of the sights that are open in Hershey year-round. We took in a 3-D movie at Chocolate World (more Hershey Bars on the way out of the theater) and a trolley tour that offered a historical perspective on the town. We checked out of our plush hotel room and discussed the possibility of heading to nearby Amish Country to sightsee and buy a quilt. On the way to the parking lot we made a quick stop in the Cocoa Beanery for another one of those delicious hot chocolate lattes.
I was taking the last sip when I turned to Ryan and said, "I feel sort of itchy ... "
How to Get There By Car: Hershey, Pa. is within driving distance of many cities in the Northeast. It is approximately 90 minutes from Baltimore; two hours from Trenton, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.; three hours from New York City; and four hours from Pittsburgh.
By Train: The Harrisburg train station is serviced by Amtrak and is about 15 minutes from Hershey. Some hotels have a shuttle service from the train station to Hershey; call to inquire.
By Air: The Harrisburg International Airport is 15 minutes from Hershey. Rental cars are available at the airport and some hotels offer a shuttle service. Call your hotel to inquire.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Hershey is a family-friendly, 232-room luxury hotel. It offers indoor and outdoor pools, nature trails, golf, a fitness center, a spa and several on-site restaurants including fine dining in the Circular Dining Room. Guests enjoy free admission to the Hershey Gardens and the Hershey Museum. Off-season rates from $259 per night. Chocolate-Covered February rates may be higher.
The Hershey Lodge is a 665-room hotel and conference center affiliated with the Hotel Hershey, which means guests have access to many of the Hotel Hershey amenities such as golf and the spa. The Hershey Lodge offers several on-site casual dining options including the sports-themed Bears' Den, the Hershey Grill, Lebbie Lebkicher's (buffet), and the Forebay. It also has indoor and outdoor pools and on-site miniature golf. Off-season rates start at $169 per night.
What to Do
Besides all the chocolate-themed attractions, Hershey also offers over 60 outlet stores for shopping enthusiasts. It is within an hour's drive from Lancaster, Pa. and Amish country. Also about an hour away is the Civil War-buff haven of Gettysburg, Pa.
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