Travel Tips

Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Hershey, Pennsylvania & Beyond

Chocolate heartsForget about leaving cookies under the tree for Santa. It’s all about chocolate this weekend.

Peter’s radio show is broadcasting from the center of chocolate heaven, Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

With chocolate experts, chocolate historians and chocolate-centric authors, as well as the latest travel news stories, it’s a show you won’t want to miss.

But it got us wondering … can a town known for its theme park really have favorite local haunts?

We checked in with some residents to find out what’s happening in and around Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Pam Whitenack, Director of the Hershey Community Archives

Tulips at the Hershey GardensMy family and I love going to Hershey Gardens. Founded by Milton Hershey, the gardens feature 23 acres of beautiful roses, a Children’s Garden that is fun for adults as well, and an amazing butterfly house where the butterflies surround you.

I love Dafnos Italian Grille, a family-owned local restaurant that has really delicious food and offers gluten-free pasta as an option who people like me that are allergic to gluten.

For special occasions, the Hotel Hershey Circular Dining Room can’t be beat.

The Hershey Story and the Chocolate Lab is a new museum about Milton Hershey, chocolate and his amazing legacy. There are plenty of interactive experiences that make it fun while you learn more about our own Willy Wonka and the community he created. The Chocolate Lab is a classroom with chocolate-based classes—after all, who wouldn’t love to learn when it’s wrapped in chocolate?

Love chocolate? Don’t miss The Sweetest Chocolate Tours. To learn more about chocolate, try Worldwide Chocolate Workshops.

The Hershey Theatre showcases the requisite touring Broadway shows, ballet, orchestras, and other performances. But a really special gem is the theater’s Classic Film series. About once a month, it presents old movies in the setting they be meant to be seen. Each show is preceded by an organ concert with a truly spectacular pipe organ.

Sara Bozich, author of Hershey: A Guide to the Town Built on Chocolate

In Campbelltown, just outside of Hershey, Brass Rail Beverage is great little shop that sells six-packs and sandwiches.

Harrisburg at nightIn the capital city of Harrisburg, about 15 miles from Hershey, a decade-long renaissance has mostly focused on the downtown area, but the quirkier Midtown neighborhoods have quietly developed their own arts/coffeehouse boom.

Harrisburg Midtown Art Center, independent bookstore Midtown Scholar, Midtown Cinema, and the charming Cafe di Luna are all must-sees. Tröegs Brewing Company  is also an absolute gem.

Within Hershey, there are several restaurants not owned by Hershey Resorts that are worth a mention: Fenicci’s is consistently a favorite among locals, serving traditional and authentic Italian cuisine; What If … ? is a casual bistro with an extensive wine and martini list; Chocolate Avenue Grill serves everything from Central Pennsylvania-style hoagies to more upscale steaks and seafood.

It’s easy to get to Harrisburg by train–and it’s one of Amtrak’s most on-time routes. Learn more with the latest news on Amtrak.

Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, travel editor for Main Line Today magazine and author of The Hershey Pennsylvania Cookbook; Fun Treats and Trivia from the Chocolate Capital of the World

In this region, there are plenty of family-friendly celebrations and interesting ways of marking New Year’s Eve, all within a 30 to 60-minutes drive from Hershey. Some raise, others lower, and many drop …

  • Harrisburg drops a strawberry to celebrate the New Year
  • Dillsburg in York County drops an 8-foot pickle
  • Mechanicsburg drops a wrench
  • Hummelstown drops a lollipop
  • Carlisle drops an Indy Car
  • Lebanon drops a bologna

In the town of Lititz, Pennsylvania, a little more than half an hour from Hershey, visitors can stop by the unique Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania. It has been more than a century since wild wolves were last seen in Pennsylvania, but for more than 20 years, a family in Lititz has rescued and provided safe place for wolves. Tours are available year-round on Saturday and Sunday.

At this time of year tours are generally at noon, but also ask about full-moon tours. On the property is a beautiful bed and breakfast in a restored mansion operated by the people who run the sanctuary, which helps to pay the expenses incurred by the sanctuary.

Gallery Blu - Byway of the ArtsRoute 15 is known as Byway of the Arts, as many very talented artists with studios are tucked away in small towns throughout the area.  Some of my favorites are man who handcrafts autoharps, woman who continues the generations-old art of paper cutting, and a man who creates astounding art from found objects such as typewriter keys and old spoons. There is a concierge you can call or email to set you up personal tours and at least once a year is an open house.

There are at least five state parks, including Big Boyd Tree Preserve Conservation Area—one of Pennsylvania’s newest state parks—some of which offer fishing, cross-country skiing and hiking. Wildlife spotting is prevalent here, with white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, all kinds of songbirds and the annual hawk migration mid-October through early December.

Catch a glimpse of the Dauphin County Statue of Liberty. Close to 25 years ago, in the middle of the night, some residents of Perry County right outside of Harrisburg erected an 18-foot Statue of Liberty made out of chicken wire, papier-mâché and Venetian blinds in the middle of Susquehanna River off of Route 322. When it was swept away during a storm, locals replaced it with new one made of wood, metal and fiberglass.

For more information on Central Pennsylvania, visit

Learn more about Peter’s radio show.

Hershey is just one of the places in Unexpected Destinations to Celebrate Holiday Magic.

Check out previous Ask the Locals Travel Guides here.