Girlfriend, This Is Sweet

Planning a girls’ getaway? All you need is shopping, chocolate, and a good foot massage. At Hotel Hershey, girls just want to have fun—and they do.

A spa may be the ultimate girl getaway. A spa that worships chocolate? Irresistible—and that’s probably why the Hotel Hershey spa is full of women who’ve left behind jobs, children, and husbands for a weekend of pampering.

Built in the 1930s, when bigger was best and no one had heard of a boutique hotel, Hotel Hershey in Pennsylvania may be a bit grand for some—a large, fountained, Spanish-style lobby; elevators with tapestry wall coverings; oversized topiary H’s in the gardens—but the spa, a 2001 addition, delivers luxury on a cozier scale.

When traveling in a pack, planning is important. As weekends at the spa are busy, schedule treatments before you go.

Because this is about girlfriend bonding, leave time between facials and pedicures to linger with pals in the “quiet” room (a misnomer as it’s abuzz with gossip) with a cup of cocoa. Or in the airy aromatherapy lounge, where the scent of crème brûlée wafts freely and the latest fashion mags are piled high. (Forget herbs—the aromas that soothe here are all inspired by dessert.)

Not surprisingly, treatments are chocolate-centric, though there are plenty of choices for nonbelievers like mojito scrubs and green-coffee body wraps.

Two of the chocolate offerings are especially blissful. In the chocolate-fondue wrap, warm chocolate-scented moor mud is painted on and rinsed off and a “fondue” (frothy whipped lotion) applied before you’re swaddled in a blanket like a Hershey kiss. The cocoa massage, done with chocolate-scented oil, is billed as a Swedish rubdown, but ask and the masseuse will use other tricks like lomi lomi to work out the kinks.

Lunch in the spa cafe, Oasis, is a casual robes-and-slippers affair, with a buffet of creative salads and desserts—on our visit, the almond-flavored financier cakes were fabulous. There are tables inside, but in fine weather tables in the manicured gardens and by the reflecting pools are very pleasant.

You could spa all weekend, but that other girlfriend passion may call: shopping. Depending on your vices, there are the Hershey Outlets (Polo Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and more) or Crossroads Antiques Mall with dozens of dealers in a quaint barn nearby.

For women who like to giggle and scream like teenagers, Hershey Park has ten roller coasters. More grownup pursuits are hiking and biking the hills surrounding the hotel; strolling the 25 acres of formal gardens; Pilates, yoga, and tai-chi classes; or catching up and chilling out around the pool—there’s one indoors and out as well as four lighted tennis courts.

After all, there is dinner to plan. Shall it be at the many-windowed circular dining room with a sweep of the garden and Modern American cuisine—think white truffle-glazed scallops, braised lamb shank, and a pan-seared black cod with sweet potato and leek hash.  Or the more intimate and informal cafe, the Fountain, with its outdoor veranda and comfort food from chicken-alfredo pizza to Greek shrimp salad to steak frites?

If it’s ice-hockey season, you might head to Giant Center to cheer on the hunky Hershey Bears while nibbling on wings and fries. Whatever you do, before heading up to that plush bed with goosedown pillows, end the day with a chocolate martini in the lounge. Toast to friendship, men who give great foot rubs—and chocolate.

Hotel Hershey, Hershey, Pa.; 800-437-7439, 877-772-9988 for spa appointments; Packages include Sweet Retreat, a one-night package that includes a spa rain shower, 50-minute massage, and $125 in spa services or products per person; it starts at $758.

This article first appeared in the May 2006 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles like it, click here.