Seeing as I’ve been to Germany so many times in the past, I consider myself *somewhat* familiar with the fine cuisine of chocolate. After all, I’ve even been to the Lindt chocolate museum in Cologne (and I think I’m long overdue for a repeat visit!).
Still, I couldn’t resist dragging Heinrich with me to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for a visit to Chocolate World. Initially, it was really just an excuse to indulge my sweet tooth, but the more I learned about the town, the more excited I became to go. Was the chocolate named after the town, or was the town named after the chocolate? Well, as it turns out, the town of Hershey (also known as “Chocolatetown” and the sweetest place on Earth!) did not even exist before Hershey chocolate was invented and produced there. The town was actually created by Milton S. Hershey (the inventor of Hershey chocolate, as you may have guessed) for workers at his chocolate factory! So the entire town (current population of over 14 000!) was based on CHOCOLATE!
Heinrich and I were at the entrance of Chocolate World before it opened that morning. Along with other families who simply could not wait, we stood in the rain, eagerly anticipating what awaited us on the other side of those doors. And then, the doors opened.
How can I describe Chocolate World? It is wonderfully, delectably, quintessentially … American (and I do mean that in the most complimentary way!). It is basically an enormous store where one can buy anything and everything imaginable related to Hershey. Aside from the obvious selection of sweets and candy boxes, there are shirts, games, props, and books. There is a cafe and a restaurant. They sell special “experiences” at the front door, such as an addtional exhibit or making your own chocolate bar in their factory assembly line (more on that later). But being the frugal traveller I am (or at least try to be), I beelined straight for the only free thing in there: a gondola ride on their Hershey history ride (fittingly called the Great American Chocolate Tour ride!).
On this Great American ride, we were taken on a journey of the history of Hershey chocolate. It was total sensory overload: there were singing cows, flowing streams of “chocolate,” and the scent of chocolate was actually infused into the air. I was in heaven!
While a lot of the extras at Chocolate World seemed a little over the top, even for me (I think it’s OK that I missed a 4D chocolate “mystery” experience!), I could not pass up the chance to create my own chocolate bar and watch it be made on a real factory line! Heinrich was a little less enthusiastic about the idea than I was and chose to sit out. Big mistake.
Other than the pesky hairnet, it was AMAZING. The whole process is automated. First, you get to choose what you want in your bar, as well as what kind of chocolate you’d like your bar to be based on (they’re all coated with milk chocolate). I chose to have my white chocolate bar filled with pretzels, butterscotch chips, and butter toffee crunch, and covered in SPRINKLES! After that, you line up to actually start production, when you watch with your very eyes as the bar is assembled right in front of you! (This was actually thrilling to me!) As the bar is cooled, you can create a label for your bar (I did the best I could with what they gave me!), and then finally…
When I met Heinrich on the other side of the production line, he was more than ready to leave (I guess he just wasn’t as enthralled by the chocolate consumer paradise as I was!). We had barely scratched the surface of the town. We missed out on Hershey Park, the (what I can only imagine to be incredible) theme park. We missed The Hershey Story, the museum about Milton S. Hershey (side note: the S stands for Snavely. It’s no wonder that name has kind of died out!). AND, most notably, we missed out on The Chocolate Spa, a spa where they literally cover your body with CHOCOLATE! (I’m not sure if it says more about my gluttony and chocoholism or my IQ that this is incredibly appealing to me!)
But I guess we needed to leave something for us to do next time. It was time to cross the border and make our way to Atlantic City.