After a full-body exfoliation, I was slathered head to toe with chocolate moisturizer, a rich blend of shea butter and cocoa essential oil gently massaged onto all my limbs before they were wrapped in a layer of sheets. At the Hershey Spa it’s called a chocolate hydrating body wrap, and now, after a gentle head massage, I’m absorbing the balm, stretched out prone on the treatment table like a giant chocolate bar.
In truth, after a day in “The Sweetest Place on Earth,” I’m probably closer in shape to a plump little Hershey’s Kiss. Predictable chocolate immersion kicked off with a complimentary Hershey’s bar (my choice of milk or dark chocolate), offered when I checked into my room at the Hotel Hershey. For dinner in the cozy Harvest restaurant, I chose Hershey’s Cocoa barbecued ribs, then proceeded to the Iberian Lounge for a chocolate panna cotta dessert and a signature chocolate martini (a skewered Hershey’s Kiss substituting for the olive).
From its street lights shaped like candy kisses to the Cocoa Cruiser roller coaster in the Chocolate World theme park, every aspect of Hershey, Pennsylvania, pays tribute to its enlightened entrepreneur, Milton S. Hershey. After devising a recipe for affordable milk chocolate, he established a factory in 1903, selecting this region for its abundant milk, water, railroads and workers, and then set about creating a model community with churches, schools, theaters, and parks to keep employees happy. The utopian village flourished into a full-fledged resort with a zoo, botanical garden, lodging, museums, outlet mall and interactive activities.
The Hotel Hershey, principal lodge of Hersheypark, is another extension of the founder’s fantasy, an exotic Mediterranean-style tile and mosaic concoction inspired by Milton and Kitty Hershey’s overseas travels. Updated guestrooms are serene, spacious and comfortable, and 20 years ago the property added a spa, a three-story section replicating features of the magnate’s High Point mansion. Stained glass, polished marble and warm pecan paneling decorate the salon and treatment rooms, solitude spaces and the sprawling Oasis first-floor “social spa” with a restaurant, couches, upholstered armchairs and outdoor porches in summer. Hotel guests and drop-ins can spend the day lounging in robes while interspersing treatments, relaxation and light meals. With therapies tailored to men, women, pre-natal and teens, many families and couples come to celebrate birthdays, reunions, honeymoons and anniversaries.
Early arrival to appointments is encouraged, enabling clients to “relax before relaxation.” After changing into robes and slippers, they’re escorted into a Quiet Room (one a copy of Hershey’s paneled High Point library) and offered a choice of refreshments: trail mix, tea, water and, of course, Hershey’s Kisses, chocolate muffins and hot chocolate.
Four treatment series reflect Hershey themes: Rose Garden complements the Hershey Gardens arboretum with remedies employing anti- oxidants and rose oil to encourage radiant, petal-soft skin. Inspired by the surrounding rural landscape, Country Abundance treatments are imbued with hydrating lavender, milk and honey. Cuban Experience acknowledges the plantation town just east of Havana that Milton Hershey established to assure a stable source of sugar. It features raw sugar, jasmine and lime solutions applied in invigorating “mojito” massages and body wraps.
But as the spa website makes clear, the heart of the spa revolves around the Everything Chocolate services: chocolate wraps and facials, cocoa massages, whipped cocoa bath and the chocolate-dipped strawberry immersion. Chocolate even pervades all four stages of the Sweet Feet pedicure: chocolate body scrub exfoliation, cocoa oil massage, dark chocolate mousse mask and a final coat of cocoa body lotion — all procedures enjoyed while sipping a cup of hot chocolate.
Staff at the spa are all friendly and accommodating, leading tours through the facilities and offering refreshments. Gratuities of 20 percent are automatically added to spa prices, which range around $70 for manicures and pedicures, $150–305 for massages and $205 and up for experience packages. For weekend bookings, an extra $10–35 is added to each fee.
During the pandemic, some spa services and amenities have been adapted or temporarily discontinued. Facials, body scrubs, wet wraps, immersions, rain showers and makeup services aren’t currently offered. The Steam Room and Oasis restaurant are closed, and capacity of the Aromatherapy Inhalation Room and the Quiet and Silent rooms is limited.
Spa guests can sample a variety of activity options to counterbalance the omnipresent cocoa calories. A fitness center with views toward the forest offers a Peloton, Life Fitness machines, exercise balls and mats. Workout classes are offered in the yoga studios and the indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Three hiking trails and paths offer strolls through the 23-acre Hershey Gardens which evolved from the Hershey family’s love of roses. Learning the history of the town and the legacy of its model community adds an extra dimension to the spa experience. The founder’s vision endures, and I left Hershey surfeited in chocolate, inside and out.
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