The Sweetest Place on Earth

That's the official motto of Hershey, PA, a place where the main street is Chocolate Avenue and the street lights are in the shape of those famous Hershey kisses.

This is the place that Milton Hershey chose to base his chocolate empire and practice his incredible philanthropy. He personally built the town, intending it to be a model for other towns, and the school that bears his name remains today a cost-free, private, co-residential school and home for children from lower income families.

We've been visiting the town of 14,000 for several years now every September to attend the huge RV show there, officially known as America's Largest RV Show. But we like the place so much that the RV show is only half the reason we go.

hersheychocworld

There's a great amusement park there – Hersheypark. There's the high end luxury Hershey Hotel. There are Hershey Gardens, a Hershey History Center museum and Chocolate World, a place where you can actually take a turn at making your own candy bars – something you can see in the above photo that Jennifer and I happily did.

Hershey, PA is a pretty unique place. It's really not even an official town. The fact is Hershey has no legal status as an incorporated municipality at all, it's just called that. Officially, all its municipal services are provided by Derry Township, in which it is located. Hershey was raised in the Lancaster County countryside and came to Derry Twp. in 1883. He began as a candymaker but not with chocolate, but instead with caramels. Raised in a Mennonite family. he spoke Pennsylvania Dutch as he grew up, and his frugal ways and honest and solid work ethic made the Lancaster Caramel Company a huge success.

Hershey melted chocolate pouring over the Hershey bars at Chocolate Eorld

Hershey melted chocolate pouring over the Hershey bars at Chocolate World

But he sold the caramel company in 1900 and, using fresh milk from the nearby area, started experimenting with milk chocolate. The first Hershey Bar was made in 1900. In 1908, he made the first Hershey Bar with Almonds and he soon became the largest chocolate candy manufacturer in the world.

He gave all his assets to a trust fund to finance the school.

Mike made this bar at Chocolate World

Mike made this bar at Chocolate World, choosing the ingredients of milk chocolate, toffee chips, chocolate chips and butterscotch ships. It costs $19.95 to make your own bar. Jennifer opted for dark chocolate covered with milk chocolate and pretzel bits instead of the toffee. Our granddaughters tried both and pronounced Jennifer's the best.

For decades, the smell of chocolate wafted down the streets of Hershey. Now, except for a small factory that is closed to the public, most of  the company's candy (which also includes Reese Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, Twizzlers, Almond Joy, Milk Duds and many more) is made elsewhere, including Mexico, China and Brazil.

We love touring Chocolate World.

But on our most recent visit, we traveled about 20 miles east from Hershey into Lancaster County to the little town of Lititz, PA where another chocolate company has been making its own candy even before Milton started producing Hershey Bars.

 

The Wilbur Chocolate Company in neaby Lititz, PA opened before Hershey started making chocolate

The Wilbur Chocolate Company in nearby Lititz, PA opened before Hershey started making chocolate

In 1884, the Wilbur Chocolate Company started operation.  In 1994, the company started making Wilbur Buds.You thought Hershey's Kisses came first? Think again. Wilbur's bite-sized buds beat 'em to market. H.O. Wilbur and sons developed a technique for depositing specially blended chocolates into a mould that resembled a flower bud, and thus, Wilbur Buds were born!

 

The Wilbur Cocolate Bud came before the Hershey Chocolate Kiss

The Wilbur Chocolate Bud came before the Hershey Chocolate Kiss

Visit the factory and you can try rich, silky smooth chocolates, still being produced using the same technique and recipe today. The cramped building that houses the Wilbur factory also lets you watch some of the Wilber chocolate makers hand crafting some of their candies.

A chocolate maker molds melted chocolate into a mold

A Wilbur chocolate maker molds melted chocolate into a mold

See why we love the Hershey area?





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There are lots of commercial campgrounds in the area. Our favorite is the Hersheypark Camping Resort, right across the street from the amusement park. The Hershey KOA in nearby Elizabethtown is also nice.