As a kid who didn’t watch a movie like Willy Wonka and secretly want to go to a chocolate factory. Exploring miles and miles of chocolate rivers, fun creations and tasting the sweet deliciousness was on a short list of childhood fantasies. But much like any childhood fantasy, eventually you find out that places of our imagination do not exist and the hope and wish slowly fades.
But somehow, I managed to find a chocolate factory to at least set this fantasy at bay in my adulthood. While it didn’t have a path filled with edible gumdrops or a sea of Oompa Loompas tending the ever need of the factory, Ethel M’s painted a much more realistically tasty picture of chocolate as I visited their walk through factory tour.
I first discovered Ethel M’s when searching a popular look up for myself when traveling “free things to do in (fill in the blank with city)”. I noticed there were tours of the Chocolate Factory as well as a unique Cactus Garden and I felt as though it could be worth a glance. I didn’t know exactly what to expect as it is an active manufacturing facility so I assumed access would be limited.
When I arrived I noticed ample parking and that the touring facility was shared with specialty shop for those visiting wanting to pick up tasty treats. Another large facility remained closed to the public. I entered and was given a special selection of chocolate to start my self guided tour, a brief 50 yard glass lane passing by the manufacturing floor.
With each step down the passage etched text on the glass explained the process and machines used for the production of some of their most popular sweet treats. While many of the machines and staff were hard at work there were a few areas which at the time of the day I was visiting were not in up and running, however the descriptors were helpful in allowing me to understand the importance of these stations.
After completion of the tour I quickly discovered that the candy shop and specialty store is where most of the tourism takes place, the tour itself being more of a novelty, hundreds pour into the shop each day to pick up tasty treats and discover all the famous flavors offered by Ethel M’s. Samples abound, boxes of chocolates in every shape and size can be created and special additional product tastings can be purchased for individuals and groups for those wanting to learn a bit more about how flavors are cultivated at the factory.
On the day I was visiting, a tour bus had just arrived pouring out some 50 or more tourists into the shop at the same time of my arrival. It was a bit difficult navigating around the isles despite adequate spacing and the photo area at Ethel M’s, a large box of chocolates, held a line which snaked throughout the displays as everyone wanted to commemorate their adventure.
I decided to move outdoors toward the Cactus Garden to avoid continued overcrowding. I must say I wasn’t sure what to expect of a Cactus Garden at a Chocolate Factory, but I was instantly at peace as I walked through the 3 acres and nearly 300 species of vegetation. It was the perfect ode to the Nevada home of the factory and a glimpse at a different kind of beauty.
I discovered that during the holidays they decorate this area for those wishing to see the bright lights of Christmas come alive in the desert setting and even host special events throughout the year to showcase the natural beauty of the property.
Was it Willy Wonka’s candy property, no but was it the adult version, YES! A great must see for those with an active imagination and a sweet tooth or those seeking a peaceful retreat from the daily grind in the desert oasis.