“I grew up in Pennsylvania. In a whorehouse.”
This is not normally the kind of sentiment that comes to mind when you think of Hershey, Pennsylvania, the self-dubbed “sweetest place on Earth.” You’re supposed to think of Hershey’s kisses, and Reese’s Cups and the scent of chocolate wafting through the air. You’re supposed to think of wholesomeness personified, but leave it to Don Draper to take something nice and turn it somewhat sordid (see also: Sally Draper).
Is anyone else out there excited for Mad Men’s return tonight? I am. Even though we actually have to wait an entire year to find out how the lives of those working at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce (I know it’s a new name now, but I don’t like change) will end up (even though a recent interview with Matthew Weiner made it clear that Sally and Roger would not be going to Woodstock, which was my dream for a year). Don Draper, (Mad Men’s protagonist for those of you unaware) did grow up in poverty in a central Pennsylvania brothel before becoming a scion of Madison Avenue and I liked the specification we got in last season’s finale that Hershey, was where he spent his dysfunctionally formative years. And showing what a good sport they are, Hershey’s (they were pitching the chocolate giant) did too.
Don talks about how to him Hershey’s bars represented a life he could have had. He’d heard about the Milton S. Hershey school that took in orphans and turned around their lives. That school does exists and sits in a town that was created by Milton S. Hershey to meet the needs of his factory workers and which still today largely revolves around the Chocolate Company that gives it it’s name.
Hershey, which is actually an incorporated municipality of Derry Township, is a town of about 15,000 in Dauphin County, approximately 15 miles east of Harrisburg and 30 miles northwest of Lancaster, where I’m located.
Initially, while Hershey does have an interesting history and Hershey Park is one of Pennsylvania’s top tourist attractions (I have to confess, I find amusement parks wildly overrated) I wasn’t sure it was somewhere I’d suggest someone go for an entire weekend, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how dumb I was being. Even if you don’t love chocolate (I like chocolate ok, but I’m not obsessed with it-unless we’re talking chocolate milk) or rollercoasters (see: me, again), there’s definitely enough to do and see in the area to warrant a weekend getaway, and while, as I mentioned previously, Hershey is synonymous with wholesome family fun, there’s enough other stuff going on that even Don Draper might have a good time-or at least pretend to have a good time for the sake of Megan and the kids (if they brought them-for this itinerary I’d suggest leaving them with your iteration of Betty).
I’ll be going to Hershey in approximately a month to see Bruce Springsteen play at the Giant Center (GA too, I’m so pumped) and if you’re not from the south-central PA area, a concert might be a fun excuse to go and subsequently stay in Hershey for the weekend. Hershey is also home to the Harrisburg/Hershey bears, a very popular minor league hockey team that would also promise a good time and excuse to stay over and then not leave until Sunday.
Depending on what time of year you visit, the amusement park may or may not beckon you, but Hershey’s chocolate world is open year round and mandatory viewing at least once (I’ve been in there at least 10 times and cheesey as it is, would probably go back). If you’re feeling family-friendly (which, just pointing out, is not very Draper of you) then perhaps take a peek at the Hershey Trolley Works or nearby Indian Echo Caverns.
If you are in Draper mode, then you’re probably going to wake up still a little boozy from your concert or hockey game (try to enjoy your show a little bit more than Don enjoyed the Beatles) and try to figure out where and when you could start boozing again. Hershey’s got you covered! Troegs brewery is located right on Hershey Park drive and the tasting room is downtown. The Vineyard (and brewery) at Hershey is technically located at a Middletown address but closeby and Hershey/Harrisburg has their own burgeoning wine country and craft beer scene. The Susquehanna Ale Trail (which I had a blast partially completing yesterday) is also within driving distance, as are Lancaster, Gettysburg and Perry County. If you really want to be part of the boy’s club, head to Harrisburg to check out our state’s capital and imbibe on the shores of the Susquehanna. Here are my recommendations or if you really want to be classy stop by Savannah’s for dinner (this is not something I normally endorse but it’s what Roger Sterling would want me to tell you).
Visit Hershey/Harrisburg also has a great website if you need to do anymore planning.