If you love chocolate, you won’t want to miss this delicious morsel: the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, tucked into the southwest corner of the Vegas community.
Founded by Forrest Mars and named for his mother, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory produces gourmet chocolate through recipes that haven’t changed since their inception. In fact, the factory is still family-owned and operated; chocolate is produced in small batches and boxed by hand; and the chocolate is crafted solely with premium ingredients. As the factory likes to say, “Eat chocolate, not preservatives.”
That’s not to say the famed chocolatiers don’t innovate. A few years ago, under the leadership of then head pastry chef Jin Caldwell, they produced a new line of dozens of custom designed, handmade chocolates while simultaneously re-releasing several varieties of classic, old-school chocolates.
The chocolate factory is a certified hit: it attracts almost 1 million visitors from all over the world visit every year. They come for the chocolate; for the free, self-guided factory tour; and for the beautiful Botanical Cactus Garden.
Note that a visit to the factory will be relatively brief, likely an hour or less; it makes an excellent stop on the way to or from a visit to the Hoover Dam.
Open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visitors can take a free tour of the factory. The tour is modest: a simple stroll through the factory that can be as quick or as lingering as you like, concluding in the Ethel M chocolate store, where you’ll get a free sample to enjoy.
And trust us on this: if you haven’t tasted chocolate made fresh, on premises, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Note that since the tour is self-guided and unscheduled, combined with the fact that they produce their chocolates in small batches, you’re not guaranteed to see the machinery working on your visit.
We recommend going outside of lunch hours to maximize your chances of seeing the staff at work. Coming at high season helps too: as Jin Caldwell, Ethel M’s former head pastry chef, explains, “If you come here during holiday season, which is gifting season, then you’re going to see a lot of people working the factory.” She says during those busy times, they sometimes work three shifts.
When you’re finished with the factory tour, head outside to see the factory’s amazing Botanical Cactus Garden.
Boasting beautiful and distinct varieties of cactii – like the Texas Prickly Pear, Teddy Bear Cholla and Bishop’s Cap – and over 300 species of plants spread over four acres, the Cactus Garden displays the Martian beauty of the Las Vegas desert at its liveliest. All of the plants were selected due to their hardiness and ability to adapt to the local climate. Again, the holidays are a prime time to visit: each year, the Cactus Garden lights up into a dazzling display.
Did you miss your chance to visit the factory but still want to sample their sublime chocolates? Never fear: you can find Ethel M chocolates at several locations at McCarran International Airport.
Gates A & B: Located outside of AB Security entrance (Across from Chili’s Restaurant)
Gate C: Located between Gates C4 and C5, next to the Coffee Bean
Gate D: Located Left of the Main Escalator from the Tram