Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together….to Hershey and Gettysburg, Pa.!
Sharing an adventure with great friends you don’t get to see very often is a special treat. In October 2017, I met some friends in Hershey, Pa. for a few days – I drove down from Albion and they drove up from Sanford, N.C. I went down a day early because I wanted some time to explore along the way and not feel rushed to get there. It also gave me the pleasure of stumbling on some cool attractions to kill the time until they arrived.
When thinking of the Hershey / Gettysburg area, you typically think of Hershey Park and the battlefield. But there is so much more to see and do, if you have the time. I got there just after dusk, so I got some dinner and settled into a nice little motel in Hershey. The next day, I had several hours before my friends were expected to arrive later in the day, so I got up early and started exploring. I found a great vintage diner in nearby Hummelstown called the “Soda Jerk Diner” for breakfast. I went to Hummelstown looking for a dam that was listed on a local attractions list as a “must see.” I never found the dam … must be a well-kept secret location … but I did find “Indian Echo Caverns” and decided to stop and check it out. It turned out to be a great way to spend an hour or so of my morning. If you like caverns, it is well worth the time to visit and it isn’t far from Hershey.
After my cavern tour, I headed back to Hershey to see what I could find. I drove by Hershey Park – it was closed for the season (we were there over Halloween weekend), but what I could see of it looked really nice. I’m not a big theme park fan, but it looked like a great place to go, if you are! Near the entrance to the park, I spotted “Zoo America” full of wonderful animals that can be found in North America. Well, I love animals and zoos, so my next stop to kill time was a no-brainer. I spent the next few hours enjoying the lovely little zoo and all of its residents.
My friends arrived from North Carolina late afternoon, so after an adventurous morning, I met up with them at the condo they had booked for us. We heard that a visit to Hershey must include chocolate martinis … we all agreed that sounded scrumptious, so we asked for a recommendation for a restaurant that could deliver on a good dinner and chocolate martinis. We found a great restaurant and had a fantastic meal … and topped it off with the famous chocolate martinis! WOW – they were so good – very potent – but so good! There were several to choose from – I chose one with caramel and my friends chose one with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and one that was with Special Dark Chocolate. We tried each other’s and decided that, while they were all amazing, our favorite by unanimous vote was the Special Dark Chocolate one.
Of course, the trip included a tour of the battlefield at Gettysburg.
When we were planning the trip, we debated how we would do the tour. We could save money and drive through ourselves at our leisure, but since none of us had ever been there, we wanted a guided tour so we could learn more about what we were going to see. There are bus tours available, and that was what we were leaning towards doing … until I stumbled on the option of a personal guided tour with a park ranger! I found it on the park’s website – the option to have a licensed park ranger drive your vehicle and give you a personal tour. The cost was a flat fee per vehicle and it ended up being less than the three of us would have paid for our bus tour tickets … so, yeah – that’s what we did! And we were so very glad! If you really want to do Gettysburg right, get a personal guided tour – you get to go somewhat at your leisure (they do have a time schedule, but it is a bit flexible) with photo stops at all the major monuments, impromptu stops as time permits, and the best information, stories, conversation, and answers you can’t possibly get in a large group or on your own. If you’ve never been to Gettysburg, I really recommend you go … it isn’t like any other battlefield or war memorial site. There are so many monuments – one for every state and regiment that participated in the battle, even ones to honor the dogs and horses that lost their lives beside their humans. Some homes and structures are still standing after all these years with cannon and bullet holes in the walls. It really is amazing, overwhelming and emotional.
After we finished our tour of the battlefield, we went to The Hershey Story Museum. This is a nice little museum that tells the story of Milton Hershey, his very interesting life, and how he brought chocolate to Pennsylvania. It really was quite fascinating. We got our tickets for the museum off Groupon and it included a special chocolate tasting, which is usually an additional charge. At the end of the tour, we sat down for our tastings. Each set had six flights of hot chocolate made from cocoa beans from different places around the world in shot glasses. Each one had a distinctly different taste, and we were instructed to taste them in order – darkest to lightest. My favorite was the one from Java with 33% cocoa and a subtle caramel flavor. There were three of us and our ticket gave us four tastings, so we got to share the fourth for even more delightful deliciousness … and I so wanted even more!!! (hahaha)
Another fun attraction in Hershey is Hershey’s Chocolate World. We were told they had the best gift shop and chocolate shop – they were RIGHT!!! What a place! Candy and candy-related gifts as far as the eye can see. They also had rides and other activities, but we were just there for the shopping.
I like to find little local favorite spots for meals when I’m traveling. We drove past a place that had a big sign saying “Best Food in Town.” We had to stop to see if they were just full of themselves or if it was true … it was true!!! If you’re in Hershey, check out the Parkside Hotel. It’s a small pub-style bar and grill that’s not much to look at, but has really great food, friendly staff, and the locals at the bar made sure to make us feel welcome, too.
So, our trip came to an end and we went our separate ways – I headed back to NY and my friends back to NC. I would have liked to tour the Hershey factory, but sadly they stopped allowing tours back in the 70s. But, you can drive by and see the factory and smoke towers. It is pretty cool – I pulled in there to check it out on my way out of town. All in all, it was a really fun couple of days with good friends and exciting adventures.
If you’d like to see more photos from my Hershey / Gettysburg trip, visit my blog post.