Now that all that troublesome snow has melted, Hershey is preparing for another season of hosting out-of-town guests. Although there's no Big New Ride planned for Hersheypark this year, there are plenty of changes taking place around town that will make your stay in Chocolatetown even better!
Let's start with restaurants. The Fountain Café at the Hotel Hershey is now officially undergoing its transformation to an upscale Italian grill, which is slated to open this spring. And no more Tudor Grill at Hersheypark: it's rumored to be reopening as a family restaurant with a carousel theme.
In the village of Hershey, our favorite pizza place (Bricker's) has a new sister restaurant and bar next door called The Brickhouse (try the Angus burger there!) If you've ventured outside the Hershey orbit slightly to try the fine dining at al Mediterraneo in Hummelstown, you won't find it there—at least not in its former fine dining format. Al Mediterraneo has just reopened as The Gas Station gastro pub. Finally, if it's been more than a year since your last visit, you'll want to try the Hotel Hershey's new Harvest Restaurant and the new Devon Seafood Grill downtown (in the Hershey Press Building).
There are some non-culinary changes afoot in Hershey as well this year, and these are of the temporary-inconvenience-permanent-improvement variety. That's right, the dreaded road construction. There's a new bridge under construction over Swatara Creek, within sight of the GIANT Center. The bridge will replace the historic (and narrow) bridge just to the west on Hersheypark Drive.
While the bridge construction won't slow down many visitors, the realignment of Rt. 743 will irritate plenty of people for the next two years. Here's the scoop on the project, which will begin this summer and continue through 2012:
- Cocoa Ave. will be realigned beginning at the Cocoa Ave. / Caracas Ave. intersection and ending at Chocolate Ave. This will reduce the number of intersections from two to one in this area.
- Park Ave. will be realigned beginning at the Park. Ave. / Chocolate Ave. intersection and ending at the ZooAmerica parking lot entrance.
- A new bridge will be constructed east of the existing bridge to span over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. The existing bridge will be removed once this construction is finished.
- Park Boulevard (T-591) will be extended east to meet with the relocated Park Ave. roadway.
- New traffic signals will be installed at the Chocolate Ave. / Park Ave. intersection. Once the project is complete, only one signal will be used to control traffic in this area.
Definitely a needed improvement, and one that will ease traffic...eventually. But construction will have an impact on anyone driving through downtown Hershey in the meantime, and it's worth planning a detour if you're visiting Hershey this year!
Finally, Hershey's Chocolate World is adding a two-story, 1800-square-foot "factory experience" area that is expected to open by summer. Visitors will get to create their own chocolate bar, similar to the smaller Chocolate Lab program now available at The Hershey Story museum.