A visit to Hershey: America’s favorite chocolate mecca

hershey-chocolate

The Hershey’s Kiss chocolate confection has come to be the icon of the Hershey Chocolate Company. But the name of Hershey’s stands for so much more.

I’ve just returned from America’s holy grail of chocolate–Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hershey is far more than a chocolate destination. It is without question, the place and name all Americans think of when they first think of chocolate. I think of Hershey as the Chocolate Mecca … a place where chocolate lovers of all ages come to immerse themselves in a world of all things chocolate.

For those who have never been to Hershey, in contemporary terms, think of it as the Vegas of chocolate (without the gambling.) Hershey is an escape. It can be anything you want it to be. There is an amusement park with campground for families on a budget. There is an upscale resort and spa specializing in chocolate spa treatments. There are manicured gardens complete with a butterfly atrium. And there is a chocolate museum and attractions where you can learn all about the world of chocolate.

hershey-chocolate-mecca

This crazy gravity-defying ride in Hershey Park is one of the most popular attractions with thrill seekers.

This might be where chocolate snobs tune out. But I assure you–not only has the Hershey brand itself evolved to offering dark quality chocolate under its flagship brand. Hershey now owns Scharffen Berger, a well-renowned bean-to-bar company that spearheaded the American craft chocolate movement from its San Francisco beginnings in 1997.

And Hershey owns Brookside Chocolate, a division of the Hershey Company that specializes in chocolate covered acai and blueberries, as well as a terrific line-up of artisanal chocolate bars. So the range of products that Hershey produces under its expansive wings is quite incredible. More about that and everything else mentioned here in future posts.

In honour of Independence Day on the Fourth of July, this post is a salute to the enterprising American spirit. That spirit is brought to life in the story of Milton S. Hershey. He made chocolate affordable for the average American family during a time when chocolate had exclusively been consumed by the rich.

hershey-chocolate-mecca

Milton Hershey made sure that every aspect of life including education, health care, music, and fellowship were all readily available to his employees. Pictured here is the Hershey Band from the early 20th century.

I am deeply inspired by the altruistic world of Milton Hershey–his many failures, his great successes, his partnerships, his empire, his school for disadvantaged children, his medical centre, and his philanthropical style ensured that all profits from all things Hershey will continue to go to the Hershey Trust in perpetuity. The Hershey Trust in turn uses the funds to maintain and expand the Milton Hershey School and other community endeavours to help disadvantaged families live their own unique American dream.

harrisburg-pennsylvania

This beautiful tile mosaic becomes you to Harrisburg International Airport.

My thanks to the Hershey Harrisburg Visitors Bureau for covering the costs of my trip to Hershey and Harrisburg. I can’t wait to go back and continue my exploration of this world class chocolate mecca.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

50 Responses

  1. Janice Chung
    Twitter:
    says:

    I kept thinking to myself, “I didn’t know that” when you mentioned all the companies Hershey owns. I SO wanted to make Hershey part of my route when I head down to Philadelphia next week but it just doesn’t work out. It’s been on my list for ages so I’ll have to try to get down there sometime. Looks like so much fun!

  2. Anita
    Twitter:
    says:

    Love your chocolate posts, Doreen, and in this one, I was delighted to learn that I can visit Hershey and still get my bean-to-bar fix 🙂

  3. Carol Colborn says:

    WAs there in 2012. I would go back for sure, with grandkids this time!

    • Hi Carol: may I ask where you stayed in 2012? There is a lovely new Courtyard by Marriott that I stayed at for 2 nights. I spent one night at Hotel Hershey and one night at the Hershey Lodge. The Lodge would definitely be the place to take your grandkids! Or of course, the campground. It looks lovely.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…my salute to Canada 150My Profile

  4. Emily
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow, it sounds so fun with the amusement park and resort and of course chocolate! Everything you need to have a good time.

  5. We were so close to Hershey, Pennsylvania when we visited the US last fall and I’m still kicking myself that we didn’t make the detour. Hershey’s candies are an American tradition and symbol but I loved learning that there are some finer brands owned by the company for those of us who really appreciate chocolates. And what an amazing man you’ve introduced me to. He shows that failure is no reason to give up and that philanthropy can have an impact on so many lives long after you’re gone. Loved this post, Doreen!
    Anita recently posted…Terezin: If A Picture Paints A Thousand WordsMy Profile

  6. Beverly says:

    Wow! You were really impressed with your trip to Hershey and the Hershey Company.
    Your lively and informative blog makes me want to visit Hershey and Harrisburg. I was particularly impressed with all the good works of Milton Hershey. I love those miniature Hershey bars that come in a variety of flavours. They have been favourites of mine since childhood.

  7. Linda
    Twitter:
    says:

    Thank you for educating me about Mr. Hershey. I had no idea he was a philanthropist. If only this country’s president had an altruistic bone in his body… I look forward to learning more about this American icon.
    Linda recently posted…A return to hummingbird bandingMy Profile

  8. Hershey sounds a bit like Cadbury World in England (I’ve not been, but it is similarly “all things chocolate”). Interestingly, the Cadbury family were also philanphropists, providing model conditions and housing for their workers and their families.
    Karen Warren recently posted…TBEX Killarney, A Sneak PreviewMy Profile

  9. The Vegas of chocolate? Wow, that is pretty good. Have you been to Ghirardelli in SF? I am also inspired by the philanthropic nature of Mr. Hershey. I just read yesterday that he only completed the 4th grade in school.
    Charles McCool recently posted…9 Divine Secret Places to Eat in Richmond VirginiaMy Profile

  10. Rachel Heller
    Twitter:
    says:

    I love some of Hershey’s products, like Reese’s, but not for the quality of their chocolate. It’s more for the nostalgic value of eating something from my childhood. Having said that, now that they’ve bought Scharffen Berger (assuming they don’t compromise its quality), it seems they’ve raised their game!
    Rachel Heller recently posted…Dubai Miracle Garden: Absurdity in the desertMy Profile

  11. noel says:

    I’m sure this a family place to enjoy and explore. I haven’t tried any new Herhey’s chocolate in awhile, time to check out my local Longs for a chocolate fix.

  12. I haven’t been to Hershey for nearly 2 decades and from your description, I doubt I would recognize it anymore! What a great share for 4th of July – thanks, Doreen. 🙂
    Marquita Herald recently posted…Reflections on Persevering With PurposeMy Profile

  13. We have driven past Hershey but never gone in. I suppose the brand just doesn’t mean as much to non-Americans. I am not even sure you can buy Hershey chocolate here in Australia, although I can’t say that I have ever looked for it.
    Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields recently posted…Berkeley River Lodge: A wilderness resort in the Kimberley, Western AustraliaMy Profile

  14. Catarina says:

    Sounds both fun and delicious to visit Hershey. Love their chocolate.
    Catarina recently posted…Do you thrive in the social era?My Profile

  15. Rosary says:

    I love Hershey’s kisses, although they’re more on the expensive side in my country and therefore not many places sell them. As a big sweet tooth I have to say that Hershey’s is one of my favourite. I’ve never been to Hershey but I did get a chance to go to Cadbury’s chocolate factory while I was still living in the UK and I loved it! I will definitely have to give Hershey a visit if I’m ever in the States. Thanks for sharing this very informative post =)

  16. I didn’t know Hershey owned those other companies or about the Hershey Trust. Pretty cool. Looks like a fun place to visit.

  17. Yasha
    Twitter:
    says:

    This sounds like an interesting experience. I confess I’m a bit of a chocolate snob, and being Australian have never managed to develop a taste for America’s icon, Hershey. And I am very impressed by the philanthropy practiced by the company.

  18. Phoenicia
    Twitter:
    says:

    This looks like a great place to take the children. Chocolate and theme park rides – I would be in my element (oops I meant my children of course!) I ate Hershey bars when I visited America. American milk chocolate is very different to the UK. I cannot quite put my finger on why…………..
    Phoenicia recently posted…8 tips to minimise clutter in your home!My Profile

    • Hi Phoenicia: Indeed, it is true that America-made milk chocolate tastes very different than British-made milk chocolate. It has something to do with the milk. Each company uses a different form of milk product. Some use a milk powder, some use regular milk. Hershey uses a double condensed milk in their chocolate, which many say accounts for its creaminess and unique taste.
      Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…my salute to Canada 150My Profile

  19. Billie
    Twitter:
    says:

    While I was a big Hershey fan when young- my palate now craves really dark chocolate- 80 or 90%. But I would have loved visiting here as a child- that’s for sure.

  20. kathleen says:

    i NEEEVER thought i’d say it in my lifetime, but here it is ‘i never want to eat a hershey’s or mars candy bar ever again’… this only happened a few weeks ago though!

    we were at home depot and i was starved, grabbed a snickers bar for a snack… i ate it and then felt sick… it was tooooo sweet. that’s because i’m now the owner of an artisan handmade all-natural belgian chocolate shop! my husband is the chocolatier and i do everything else, include being the #1 taste tester. oh yes, i am sooooo spoiled!

    i bet ya anything though that the next time i’m hungry and i see a hershey’s bar, i’ll for sure eat it! this phase won’t last. like rachel said above, it’s the nostalgia of it.

    looks like a lot of fun there!

  21. As a western Pennsylvanian, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Hershey–and I went to college mid-state! I don’t do theme parks and kept that as my limited view of what Hershey is. Bad on me! I also didn’t know that Hershey profits go into the trust. That is amazing and so foresighted of Mr. Hershey. I am impressed.

  22. I have heard it called the Sweetest Place on Earth.
    Actually, the history and legacy of Milton S. Hershey, is rather amazing. His chocolate brought joy to millions of children, but had no children of his own.
    His life became that of a philanthropist, assisting others.
    Thanks for sharing.

  23. Sue Reddel
    Twitter:
    says:

    I just love a great American entrepreneur story and Mr. Hershey and his company certainly qualify. I’m not a chocolate snob but I love dark chocolate glad to see that Hershey has some good alternatives within their company and ones they have acquired.
    Sue Reddel recently posted…Monteverde Chicago Is SpecialMy Profile

  24. Erica says:

    Here’s my trivia about Hershey Park. 1) My husband worked there in the summer while in college leading tours 2) I was going there for my sweet 16 birthday, and there was a storm after months of being in a drought. I was so devastated that my celebration wasn’t going to be “perfect” but quickly got over it after my initial drama. Anyway, glad to here Hershey did amazing things with his good fortune. It is always great to hear when successful people “give back.”

  25. Milton Hershey is a true hero on so many levels including how his trust is still helping others; keeping his employees working during the Great Depression by building his beautiful hotel among other structures in Hershey; and, as you mentioned, he brought chocolate to the average citizen. I really enjoyed reading your account; I must get back there soon!
    Marilyn Jones recently posted…Burano Island is a Venetian TreasureMy Profile

  26. Emily John
    Twitter:
    says:

    hii doreen nice post Hershey best place to on celebrations with the fun of family…….

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