NORTHERN VIRGINIA, July 5, 2011 - How many ways can you smell, taste, and consume chocolate, that sweet, dark edible that’s refuted to deliver euphoria and delightful mood changes?
During our family’s recent three-generation visit to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the granddaughter’s third birthday bash, we encountered plenty of sensory decadence.
But taste isn’t the only sensation in “Chocolatetown”. Sure, chocolate is in the destination’s candy product, martinis, and decadent desserts chef creates for your table in Hotel Hershey and Hershey Lodge. Cocoa derivatives are even in your spa rub if you order them. But there’s more.
As soon as we stepped through the gate, it took me back to my son’s, first Hersheypark visit at age three. And for him, it was memories of a high school band competition that came rolling back.
Other sensations enveloped the girls as they sampled rides like Buzzy Bees, Ladybug and Traffic Jam. Their elders took pleasures in watching smiles of delight and pleadings for “more” from the little ones – and in the memory driven returns to their own childhoods.
With delight, we grownups joined the wee ones on the old-fashioned carousel and the monorail that lifted us above the park for great view of swirling, dipping, twisting and revolving coasters in motion.
Touch was the order inside The Children’s Garden and The Butterfly House where the girls learned about the lifecycle of the colorful insects. There were squeals of delight when the gentle, winged creatures landed on arms and heads.
Other sensory thrills did involve the sweet stuff. We tapped our cerebral senses to create our own candy bars and dessert choices in Chocolate World – after we did the chocolate making plant tour ride, receiving a new treat being marketed by the confectionary, at the end.
Stepping toward the lab, donning hairnets and aprons elicited plenty of giggles. Once in the candy lab there were choices to be made - dark, white or milk chocolate, pretzel or rice crunchies, jimmies or no jimmies, and designing our own candy wrapper via some computer interactivity gave insight on how its really done.
If that weren’t enough satisfaction, the tour continued into the dessert creation studio, where big cookies are adorned with colored candies and syrups creating sweet laden personal pizzas, before roasting marshmallows on an indoor pit for s’mores and gorging on hot fudge-drizzled sundaes.
We spent our Hershey overnight in possibly the town’s best beds inside our Woodside Cottages suite behind Hotel Hershey. New, spacious and designed for privacy when you want it, with a multi-functional great room separating our over-sized guest rooms, our quarters overlooked woodland trails and tennis courts.
Come breakfast time there is the sumptuous chocolate accented buffet in the hotel’s famed Circular Dining Room, another trademark of the Milton Hershey legacy that is now in its second century. Though Hershey’s chocolate story reaches back to the late 1800’s, there’s nothing dated about it. Hershey’s managers continue to build on the world’s most famous candy man’s entertainment foundation for families with contemporary activities and attractions.
And best of all for us – no planes are needed - because it’s only two hours’ drive from our DC area home base – a very doable getaway for the 24 hours we had in hand.
We didn’t have enough time to sense everything, so on the way home we talked about returning for repeats of experiences we loved, and some we missed – like the water park and rides our girls may grow into.
Hersheypark should be a good fit for us a long time, because unlike larger theme parks, it doesn’t overwhelm the little ones. And when they are teens, perhaps they’ll want the ultimate sensory rush on Hersheypark’s coaster array like Fahrenheit and Great Bear.
We heard there’s another ripper in the works for a 2012 debut, and probably more after that.
One thing’s for certain, return visits will include lots of chocolate!
For more information on Hershey’s sensory array, visit www.hersheypark.com. To read more of Ruth Hill’s columns, visit Contemporary Christian Travel.
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