For the Ken Watrous Family in Las Vegas, chocolate is a surefire way to have a good afternoon. The attractions available at Ethel M Chocolates may not seem like the most straightforward choice for parents and kids to enjoy at the same time, but it was a really great time for me and mine. The two main attractions are chocolate and a cactus garden. Both things you wouldn’t normally want your kids to be hopping into hands first. Which is why you have to keep a tight leash to prevent either type of catastrophe, but assuming you have that kind of skill, the overall visit offers these two contradictory activities and offers something unique over any other family outing.
The botanical cactus garden features several hundred different plants in it. These are a collection of cactuses from all over the southwest and also some succulents from the southwest, Australia, and South America. The garden has a nice walking path that works through and you can look at all of the beauty of the arid desert lands. The stroll is nice and the collection can be really pretty to mysterious to exotic. The kids will be tempted to reach for things, but for the most part they would have to step off the path to do so, and it isn’t hard to keep them on the path. The promise of samples at the chocolate factory later will do wonders to keep kids in line. That said, the kids will also enjoy the different sights and smells of all the different flowers that bloom from the cactuses and the succulents. The stroll is not overly long, so they don’t get too tired. The parents can enjoy some quiet and also get some fresh air. The garden is a little further out of Vegas in the Henderson area.
Once you have finished walking through the gardens, then the excitement for the kids ramps up. Even if you have a kid that is really into some of the outdoors plants, like mine is, they will still get more excited when you walk into the factory. The smell of chocolate is thick and there is an under smell of caramel and peanuts (allergy warning). There is a walking tour that is self-guided you can take through the factory. The glass is a little high, so you might have to carry the under 6 or 7 set a little to make sure they see. Inside you can see the chocolate being cooked, poured, set, cut, shaped, all sorts of things. Different chocolates are decorated or designed with several layers or ingredients. There is a lot of ‘wow’ and ‘gasp’ to be heard from the other kids and even some of the adults. The experience is like watching magic happen. I think everyone retains a level of that childlike feeling watching something being created and watching candy be created just doubles it.
At the end of the walking tour you can get tickets for a tasting room. Well, the room is after the tour but it is best to call ahead for reservations so that they are prepared for you. This lets the whole family check out some different chocolates and other confectioneries. This is a great way to explore something you haven’t tried and might be an insight into what cake to get a kid at the next birthday. The flavors range from super sweet to darker bitter flavors. And the presentation is also nice. The staff is friendly and shares in the excitement. They like to watch people enjoy what they are creating, and I can’t blame them.
Finally, they have a store where you can purchase quantities of chocolate and other confections. These are well presented and interestingly displayed, but they are pricey so it is good to go in with a firm budget and if you are letting the kids pick something out, direct them to a quantity before hand. Then expect them to be begging for just one more until they have more than doubled their allotment.
I suggest this order because it helps to keep the kids in line while walking around the dangerous cactuses, and also because going on a walk in the sun while holding a bunch of chocolates is just a really bad idea. You can enjoy your family time any way you want. I’m just putting it out there.