If you want to take a break from the Las Vegas Strip, see the making of chocolate and wouldn't mind a free sample, Ethel M is sure to be a sweet stop.
Located on the southeast side of town, Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Garden is only a 15-minute drive from the Strip. If you've ever eaten Ethel M Chocolates, they were made here. Forrest Mars Sr. opened the location in 1981. This is the only Ethel M factory in the world. He named the brand after his mother Ethel, who made chocolates from scratch -- right in their own kitchen.
The factory follows the same traditions of Ethel's kitchen. The recipe for the chocolate never changed. To this day, chocolates are still hand-packed into the boxes. While you're touring the facility, see chocolate in the making through the factory's windows. In addition to chocolate, the factory also creates pecan brittle, peanut butter and caramel.
Picking up a piece of chocolate and popping it in your mouth only takes a second. Preparing the filling, texture and shape of it takes a lot longer. In fact, this factory has a series of pipes, conveyer belts and tanks that hold 20,000 and 35,000 gallons of chocolate. Workers actually have to be latched into belts so they don't fall into the chocolate!
At the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, visitors witness the time and effort it takes to create that perfect morsel. After seeing and smelling the rich aroma of these sweets, we bet you won't be able to wait to devour a piece. You get a sample of your favorite chocolate in the retail area.
There are plenty of chocolates to choose from that are fit for all tastes. Select from white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate with fillings like fruit, caramel or nuts. The store offers festive flavors and box packaging during Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas. If you're purchasing chocolate during the summer, you'll be given an ice pack so your treats won't melt. Since the chocolates are preservative-free, the freshness of each package only lasts two weeks. But we're pretty sure you'll be done with the box before then. The gift shop includes M&M's chocolates and souvenir items.
Ready to walk off all those calories from the chocolate? Just next door is the unique, three-acre Botanical Cactus Garden. It features more than 300 types of cactus including spotted aloe, agave plants, Texas prickly pears and yuccas. Flowers bloom starting from the end of April to the beginning of May. During the holiday season, the garden transforms into a breathtaking winter wonderland complete with lights, festive decorations, Santa visits and carolers.
Even after more than three decades, Ethel M Chocolate Factory has maintained its popularity. Almost 1 million visitors from all over the world visit each year. After all, who would ever get tired of chocolate?
Life doesn't get any sweeter than this.
-- Review by Jeannie Garcia