Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Hotel Hershey

Dave blames Samantha Brown and the golden age of the The Travel Channel (back when shows were about destinations and not men eating big sandwiches) for his interest in iconic hotels. When we visited Peru in 2012 his only mandate to the travel agent was our stay must include a night at Sanctuary Lodge near the entrance to Machu Pichu. A number of travel show piqued his interest in visiting Pennsylvania's Hotel Hershey.

One good thing about The Hotel Hershey is it's very close to where Holly's family lives so at least once a year we are within an hour's drive. Dave has inquired about a visit in past years, but time with family is short around the holidays so we never made it. This year, Holly decided to surprise Dave for Christmas and booked a one night stay. On the agenda was a visit to the spa for a chocolate (scented) massage and dinner in The Circular Room.

The quick history of the hotel is Milton Hershey went to Cairo, Egypt and had a great hotel stay. He came back home with postcards of the hotel and told his men to build something inspired by the images. All this was in 1933, during the Great Depression.

Our visit to Hershey, PA that day started at Tröegs Brewery for a few drinks and lunch. We lingered a bit longer than planned (mainly because it took a while to eat through the massive portions of great food) and had a rushed visit to Chocolate World.

Chocolate World is a big Hershey store outside the gates of Hershey Park that contains several interactive add-on experiences such as create your own chocolate bar. The best feature of this location is the free Disney-style dark ride that gives visitors a tour of how chocolate is made. There were no lines at the time we visited so we rode it twice.

After visiting Chocolate World we headed over the hill, passed the Milton Hershey School, and reached the entrance to the hotel. With the slight rain occurring we took advantage of the free valet parking.

The check-in lobby was on the lowest level of the hotel. This area was nicely decorated, but nothing over-the-top. The shops of the hotel were located on this level along with the cafe/bakery. After checking in we browsed the shops and met the Hershey characters in the lobby.

The spa section of the hotel was very large and could accommodate a lot of guests at any given time (you could tell it was an addition to the original building). The locker rooms were well appointed and we were provided very plush Hershey Hotel robes. After slipping into our robes we were told we could visit three different waiting rooms before our therapists would retrieve us. They had a silent room (we didn't visit it), an aromatherapy room which was a smallish room encased in glass (the scent that day was some form of Christmas meets burnt cinnamon. Yuck!), and the third room was the quiet room. It was a very masculine room with dark paneling, club chairs, and a fireplace. The best part about the room: the snacks! Coffee, hot cocoa, muffins, snack mix, fruit, etc. there seemed to be a lot of people just lingering in this room, with some even in their street clothes. A lot of women were reading Kindles which seemed to indicate they were making a day of their visit to the spa. Our massages were in separate rooms. When we've seen travel shows featuring the spa they've always displayed a woman getting painted with chocolate and this was our original vision of the treatment, however it was actually just chocolate scented massage oil. Still very nice.

We were allowed to walk back (quite a distance) to our room in our robes. By all calculations we determined no one would know if the robes came home with us. But being honest people we left the spa robes in our room.

We dressed for dinner and headed to the Fountain Lobby. This is one area where the hotel took its Moorish inspiration from the Cairo hotel. Since it was Christmas a giant tree stood at one end of the hall with a vacant chair for Santa. Two restaurants and one lounge were directly off the lobby, with a third restaurant across the garden in another building.

This is a good time to point out that the hotel brands EVERYTHING! Soap, napkins, pancake syrup, loofahs, door knobs, valet tickets. Hershey Kisses and minis are available at every restaurant and bar. There is no chance you will forget you are at The Hotel Hershey.

Each restaurant had a small bar with some good local beer options as well as Hershey candy inspired drinks. We had pre-and-post dinner drinks in the Iberian Lounge, which was just off the Fountain Lobby.

Dinner was in The Circular, the hotel's iconic dining room. We had an excellent table but some spotty service. The food was fantastic. We started out with scallops and popcorn shrimp, and then moved onto excellent filet mignon with demi-glacé, truffle mac & cheese, and heirloom carrots. Dave was also happy to find DuClaw Brewing's Sweet Baby Jesus peanut butter/chocolate porter on tap. We returned to The Circular for breakfast the next morning where Dave had the Hershey Kiss Waffles (no chocolate inside) accompanied with chocolate butter.

We both really enjoyed our stay at The Hotel Hershey and would like to visit again. Perhaps our next visit should be in the spring or summer when the gardens are open. The hotel's amenities are available even if you are not a guest. It's very easy to self-park, walk around, and have a drink or meal without the overnight stay.

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