Hershey and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Hershey and Gettysburg

Most places you go to in Harrisburg have piles of tourist info folder and maps.  The most popular handout map  shows Harrisburg on the left side and Hershey on the right.  Such a wide view shows little detail for either city but does indicate who spent the money to print the maps.  Sure, Harrisburg is the capital city, but Hershey is where chocolate comes from.  Signs everywhere point the way to Hershey World.

Welcome to Chocolate World

Arriving at Hershey World, you are funneled into a huge parking lot with separate areas for tour buses and a staging area for the Hershey city trolley tour.  Inside you are confronted with your choices.  There is a free chocolate tour, a create your own candy bar tour, a kid’s chocolate mystery movie, a tasting tour, and the city trolley tour.  All of this is available in various combinations, for individual tour or package deal.

Happy Chocolate

I liked the free chocolate tour.  We are seated in a candy car ride that runs through vivid displays showing how chocolate is made.  Animatronic cows and chickens sing a catchy tune about the milk.  Magical chocolate bars show us swirling chocolate being mixed with milk.  Convincingly impressive big robot arms click and clack as they process the chocolate.

The Cow Choir sings about adding milk to chocolate.
Swirling the milk into the chocolate
The final mixing makes it silky smooth

I could have done without the make-your-own tour, but Marylu wanted to do it, so we did.  I have to admit I was impressed with the software and hardware they use to run this show.  First you have to don hair nets (and beard nets) and an apron.  Then you create a recipe for your candy bar.  Pick a milk or dark chocolate base.  Select up to three ingredients for inclusion.  Design your label from a selection of logos and text that you can slide into place, rotate, and size.  Then watch each step of the process as chutes deliver measured amounts of “inclusions”, a layer of chocolate is applied overall, optional sprinkles are added, and finally, the bar enters the Cartoner, where it is packaged and your label applied.

The cartoner combines my chocolate bar with wrapping and my label
Our custom-designed labels. Love those cows!

We were too late for the chocolate tasting tour and didn’t care that much to see what Hershey, PA looked like, so we had to settle for Marylu stocking up on chocolate from the chocolate store.   And, of course, after a hard day of chocolate tasting, we had to rest up at the nearby Troegs Brewery.  Great selection of standards, seasonal, and experimental beers.

The new brewery has large tanks and a big restaurant with unique snacks

Our next road trip was about a 45 minute drive away from Harrisburg, but not something we would pass by.  The Gettysburg National Military Park is a large swath of land, hundreds of acres, South of the town of Gettysburg.  The land has been restored to appear as it did during the Battle of Gettysburg.  All of the buildings, fields, and fences are either original or closely resemble them.

Historic old Gettysburg, as seen from the battlefield
Looking across the valley to the East lie Little Round Top and Big Round Top
Looking down on the battlefield from the top of Big Round Top

Our guide on the bus tour points out the routes of the Union and Confederate forces and explains the tactics involved on a large battlefield.  Though it is over two hours on the bus, it goes by quickly.  We pass hundreds of monuments dedicated to military units, states, or individuals.




The Museum is a huge building and, like the one in Harrisburg, arranged in chronological order from causes for the war to campaigns fought to the aftermath of the war.  This museum has a lot more artifacts than Harrisburg.  Our tour starts with a movie that describes the Battle of Gettysburg in vivid detail, with Morgan Freeman narrating.

Confederate infantry uniform and gear
Union infantry uniform and gear
Union General George Meade’s sword

Then it is on to the Cyclorama.  This is an enormous oil painting that depicts Pickett’s Charge.  It is 44 feet high and 377 feet in circumference.  It is displayed on the walls of a round room where the viewer stands in the middle.  Narration and colored lights highlight the details of the battle.

The Union artillery fires at the oncoming charge
Opposing armies charge into the fray

Both of our Harrisburg side trips were interesting and informative and well worth the drive.  But I would not want to live in either place.  It would be wearing, I think, to have a constant flow of rubbernecking tourists and school kids in buses slow-driving through town.  I prefer a nice boring suburb with no history.

Next up: McGaheyville, Virginia


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We are two recent retirees who decided to sell the house, pull up stakes, and explore North America. We are both being tourists and looking for the right blend of people, place, and geography that makes for the perfect place to retire.

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