Besides Hersheypark, town has golfing, botanical garden, museum


May 19, 1991|By Tom Belden | Tom Belden,Knight-Ridder News Service

HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA — Mere mention of this squeaky-clean All-American town brings to mind two of the great basics of family entertainment: candy and a first-rate amusement park.

Those lures are reason enough to spend a day or a weekend in Hershey. But if you don't have kids, want to leave them at home or with a hotel baby-sitting service, or would just like to divide your time between family and adult activities, you may be pleasantly surprised at the fun that grown-ups can have in Hershey -- without ever going near Chocolate World or Hersheypark.

One of Hershey's biggest draws is golf, especially as the weather warms up in the spring. By staying at the grand old Hotel Hershey or its slightly less elegant cous- See HERSHEY, 0X, Col. 0HERSHEY, from 1Xin, the Hershey Lodge, you can play the two challenging, well-kept courses of the Hershey Country Club.

There are three other regulation layouts in town, among them Hershey Parkview, one of the best public golf courses in America.

If you've no interest in golf, the Hotel Hershey, the most famous and luxurious lodging place in the area, could serve as the focal point of a Hershey-for-adults visit, with a very good dining room and beautifully manicured grounds suited for wandering.

Another strong attraction is just down the hill from the hotel: Hershey Gardens, a sprawling botanical display open from April through October. April and May are when the tulips emerge. Rhododendrons, bearded irises, peonies and viburnum are not far behind in late May and June.

If you're curious about how all this bustling enterprise and the town around it got started, there's the Hershey Museum. In addition to displays on the history of Pennsylvania's earliest settlers, including American Indians, it tells how, at the turn of the century, candymaker Milton S. Hershey established what would become one of the world's most famous chocolate factories 12 miles east of Harrisburg, Pa. Around the plant he built an orderly company town to serve its needs and provide a stable environment for his workers.

The massive Hershey chocolate factory still stands today at the center of town, its cocoa-rich aromas often wafting over the well-tended homes of employees. Main Street remains as spotless as ever, with its ever-so-cute street lights in the shape of Hershey's Kisses. Out on U.S. 322, the founder's legacy lives on in the Milton Hershey School, for children who have lost one or both parents, and the Hershey Medical Center, both endowed from his fortune.

Hershey's major family-oriented center is on the edge of town, at the Hersheypark amusement complex. Next door is Hershey's Chocolate World Visitors Center, the free 12-minute demonstration of chocolate-making that has taken the place of the once-famous Hershey factory tour. The Hershey Museum is served by the same parking lot, just a short walk away, as the 11-acre Zoo America adjacent to the park. Four miles west, off U.S. 322, there are the Indian Echo Caverns to explore.

Milton Hershey probably would approve of the enterprising ways of the subsequent managers of his empire, of the remarkable variety of moneymaking schemes they've dreamed up. Yet Hershey's many attractions haven't fouled the town's pleasant atmosphere to any great extent. Perhaps that's because of the amount of open green space that still exists, which leads us back to the reason for a Hershey-for-grown-ups tour.

On my most recent trip to Hershey, I didn't let an excellent hotel, chocolate-making demonstrations or a garden full of beautiful flowers distract me too much from the real purpose of the trip. It was to play golf, especially at the Hershey Country Club, which is ranked by Golf Digest as among the 75 best golf resorts in the country. It also recently received the Silver Medal Award from Golf magazine.

If you're a serious golfer, Hershey Country Club's West Course -- a classic, championship layout, one of the best in the Mid-Atlantic region, where the Ladies Professional Golf Association Lady Keystone tournament is played -- is worth the effort it might take to get onto it. (We made sure we had a reservation for a Saturday tee time before we checked to see if the Hotel Hershey had any rooms for Saturday night.)

The West Course roams up and down the rolling, beautifully wooded hills where Hershey is so pleasantly situated. At the same time, the course is thoroughly integrated into the town. At one point, it borders a major Conrail freight rail line that runs into the Hershey plant.

The fourth hole runs right up to the edge of town and the chocolate factory. The next hole, the par-3 fifth, is a challenging gem, crossing a ravine to a green on the spacious front lawn of the handsomely restored Milton Hershey mansion, built in 1908. The house now serves as executive offices of Hershey Foods Corp.

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