When Rick Dunlap, Public Relations Director for the Visit Hershey & Harrisburg CVB, invited me to tour Hershey Chocolate World, I wondered what I would do in four days except eat chocolate. I have never been more wrong in my thinking. This was one of the most intriguing and interesting press trips ever.
After a 3.5 hour trip on Amtrak from Penn Station NYC to Harrisburg, I had only a few minutes to drop my bag in the room and it was off to Hershey.
I was about to experience a chocoholic’s dream- Hershey’s Chocolate World. The following are only a sampling of the brands under the Hershey umbrella: Breath Saver mints, Bubble Yum bubble gum. Ice Breakers gum & mints, Jolly Rancher candy, Lancaster soft crème, Twizzlers candy, Good & Plenty, Hershey’s brownies and cookies, Hershey’s syrup, soy fresh soymilk, cocoa, dark & milk chocolate.
Adjacent to Hershey Chocolate World is Hershey Park with 14 roller coasters, ZooAmerica, an 11-acre zoo, and Hershey Gardens (butterflies) .
The Milton Hershey School should be an inspiration for anyone who believes in good deeds. The Hersheys had no children hence the founding of the school that invited orphans (no longer a requirement) to a fully paid education and living arrangement. The Milton Hershey School Trust owns the Hershey Food Company and the Hershey Entertainment & Resort Company.
Our tour began with a 75-minute trolley ride thru town, past the Milton Hershey School, and both the old and new Hershey chocolate plants. I learned a lot and returned to many of the locations the next two days.
The Make Your Own Chocolate Bar was interesting. The Chocolate Tasting Experience was a good educational experience for those with younger children or grandchildren.
On the way to dinner, we stopped at Cullari Vineyard & Winery tasting room located on Chocolate Avenue. They are the only winery located in Hershey. Thirty different varieties of wines are produced including Coco Nostra Chocolate wine. It is a café style tasting room with tables and chairs.
Dinner was at Troegs Brewery in Hershey. The self-guided tour shows the craft brewing process. The food & beer were excellent.
Najib Guerch, restaurant manager, conducted my tour of The Hill Society that is a private club that leases space on the main floor. Open Monday-Saturday from 7AM-11PM with its own bar, wine storage facility & cigar humidor, plus tables for meetings both business and personal.
My first two stops are absolute must-sees in Harrisburg. The National Civil War Museum, which sits above the highest point with nearly a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding mountain ranges. They preserve material, culture and are a source of information for the period 1861-1865 as well as its aftermath. It is praised for being one of the only Civil War museums that tells a balanced story from both the northern and southern perspective. There are interactive displays, video interviews, and still photos.
The State Capitol tours are free and definitely a must see. What a magnificent building built between 1902-1906 in the Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival style. Words cannot do it justice. There are 475 rooms on 4 floors with a grand staircase and a rotunda with paved Moravian tiles. This building always ranks #1 or #2 most beautiful capitals in the country. In 2006 the building became a Historic Landmark.
The Broad Street Market consists of 40 vendor exhibitors. Opened in 1860 in the Midtown neighborhood and open Thursday & Friday 7AM-6PM & Saturday 7AM-4PM. The goods are locally grown and organically produced with meats, baked goods, and freshly prepared meals. It is the oldest continuously operated market house in the US. I visited Buddy Boy Winery, Eight Oaks Distillery & Artisan Spirits as well as Urban Churn gourmet ice cream.
On the corner outside the market sits The Midtown Scholar Bookstore (opened 2001) where I was once again in the right place at the right time and spoke to Mayor Eric Papenfuse who also owns the bookstore. Well worth a visit.
Our last stop of the day was at Midstate Distillery where I sat with co-owner Brian Myers. The first distillery to open in Harrisburg (2013) since prohibition uses only Pennsylvania grains, water, labor, and bottles.
Darrel Showers, owner of Lost Pint Tours, was fabulous as I learned about the history of the wine and beer business in the area. The City Island tour was a one-hour Riverboat cruise of the Susquehanna River. The Pride was a stern-driven 30-year-old “authentic” paddle wheel riverboat that is one of six remaining in the US. The tour offers a wonderful view of the capital city skyline.
Darrel then drove me to four wineries. The Vineyard at Grandview in NE Lancaster County. The Kennel family produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay among their varietals since 2009.
The Vineyard & Brewery at Hershey is both a winery & craft brewery/cidery located on a 150-year-old farm.
Waltz Vineyards are part of the Brookside Stables established in 1903. They produce European style wines from the Vitis Vinifera grape varieties in Lancaster County (opened in 2009).
Our last stop was at Cassel Vineyards near Hershey Park. They are part of the 135-acre family farm with 5 acres of vines.
For more ideas on how to explore the Hershey & Harrisburg region.
About the Author:
Ron Kapon has over 50 years of experience in the wine & spirit field, starting with his first drink (mixed with water) at age three. His family’s business, Acker, Merrall & Condit, was established in 1820 and is the oldest wine merchant in the United States as well as the largest wine auction company in the world.