Can You Tour a Chocolate Factory?
It’s always fun to visit a chocolate factory to see how your favorite product is made. Many factories open their doors and invite you to see what goes on in production lines. There’s a good chance you will get a sample as well! While you can walk into any grocery store and buy a selection of chocolate bars, there is something to be gained by taking a planned chocolate tour. For one, you can be exposed to a new brand, flavor, or process. You can learn facts about the history of chocolate or that of a particular company. You can experience the allure of chocolate with your friends and family. And it can enhance a visit to an already planned destination. Whether on foot, by bus, or over the computer, your sweet experience awaits.
Unfortunately, with liability and the recent pandemic, some factories have discontinued or limited their behind-the scenes experiences. Yet, with careful planning, there are still plenty of opportunities to learn the ins and outs, and history of a chocolate business.
There are various types of chocolate tours to be had. For instance, some large and smaller family owned businesses allow an in-person, individual or group tour. Many cities provide a self-guided walking tour which sometimes comes with coupons or tickets. Also popular are city tour packages that offer a bus tour of an area with stops at various food/chocolate venues. Increasingly popular is the virtual factory tour which contains close-up, detailed production images from your chair at home, but lacks the chocolate aroma and free samples! Lastly, for those with a sense of adventure, there are “chocolate destinations” or vacations where one can go to experience chocolate making form seed to bar.
It’s easy to get excited about visiting a chocolate factory while traveling out of town. But, some planning is necessary so you are not disappointed. For instance, some tours are free, while others have a charge. Some require a ticket while others do not take a reservation. Examples of types of tours and requirements will be featured in this article and are current as of the writing of this article.
I have dragged many people to various chocolate making companies. I say “dragged” because I can never get enough of the miracle of seeing a tree’s pods produce beans which somehow eventually melt like liquid chocolate love on my tongue. Who would have thought? While there are many similarities in the chocolate making process, it is always exciting to learn about details such as where chocolate is grown, how M & M’s came to be, or how Hershey went bankrupt early in his candy career.
Where Can I Take an In-Person Factory Tour?
Probably the most famous factory tour (Willie Wonka doesn’t count) in America is the one offered at Hershey Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It is 30 minutes long and free of charge and even includes a moving car. It runs continually and you do not need a reservation. Visiting Chocolate World can be an all-day adventure. Besides the tour, there are many other fee-based activities offered for all ages.
For a moderate fee, Theo Chocolates of Seattle provides an hour long factory tour (with generous taste-testing). They are open daily and invite guests 6 and older to participate. Reservations can be made via their website.
The Anthony-Thomas Chocolate Factory provides a tour on Tuesdays & Thursdays. Reservations are needed. There is a very nominal fee and all ages are welcome. The tour takes about an hour and is located in Columbus Ohio.
Seattle Chocolates offers an in person tour that starts off with a sample of melted chocolate in a cup. They are particularly notorious for their truffles but they also offer a variety of bars. Some of the proceeds are donated to organizations that empower young women. The small fee for the tour outweighs the samples that are offered.
For a small fee, you can take a short tour of the Rebecca Ruth Chocolates in Frankfurt, Kentucky. Tours are Monday-Saturday and a spot can be secured by reservation up to two days before your visit. Additionally, they take walk-ins on a first come basis. Please note, production does not occur on Fridays and Saturdays. All ages are welcome and the fee is reasonable.
Cerretta Candy Company not only offers a free factory tour, but also offers a chocolate tasting tour and other additional add-on experiences such as “make your own chocolate bar” and “chocolate teddy bear painting”. They are a family owned business located in Glendale, Arizona. Tours are Monday-Friday.
Whetstone Chocolates offers tours seven days a week in St. Augustine, Florida. Advertised as a tour for “the chocoholic with a discriminating palate searching for the subtleties that define artisan chocolate”, this tour accommodates all ages for a moderate fee. Reservations can be made online.
TCHO Chocolate in Berkeley, California has offered tours but has put a temporary “pause” on them as they do some reorganization of space. Check the website for updated information.
Chocolate Kingdom in Kissimmee Florida advertises a “chocolate experience”. It is not a particular chocolate brand as much as it is an attraction. Prices are more than typical and they have add-ons to choose from as well. Reservations can be made online.
Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Chocolates just north of Salt Lake offers a 45 minute tour, Monday-Friday. All ages are welcome and there is a fee but it comes with a coupon redeemable at the storefront. Reservations are by phone.
At Taza Chocolate, adults and children over the age of 10 can take a tour and learn about stone ground chocolate which involves grinding cacao beans using hand-carved granite millstones that results in a gritty-like chocolate. An additional tour is offered for families with children under the age of ten. Reservations are required and there is a fee. Taza is located just north of Boston, MA.
The South Bend Chocolate Factory offers one of the biggest bang for your buck tours. Children of any age will find a visit to our factory and Chocolate Museum one sweet trip. The 58,000-square-foot factory and museum is located in South Bend, Indiana.
The Ethel M Chocolate Factory in Henderson, Nevada, offers a free & self-guided viewing aisle, where you might just catch chocolatiers and machines creating the Ethel M Chocolates that you know and love! They also offer a tour of a beautiful cactus garden (paid admission) as well as several add-on tasting options.
Explore Maui’s Ku’ia Estate Chocolate Factory!
Happen to be in Maui, Hawaii? Explore the Ku’ia Estate Chocolate Factory Tour. This tour takes you from farm to bar and is over an hour long. Admission is not cheap, but it is more interactive than other tours.
Self-guided Walking Tours
Most self-guided walking tours will be located in dense cities, where there is likely to be more than a few options for exploration. Certainly you can design your own walking tour based on your interests, energy and time. Most cities publish a suggested “chocolate trail” route. Retailers are glad to team with one another to be included in a route as it enhances their business.
How Can I Take an Escorted Chocolate Tour?
Many cities offer escorted walking tours, where you purchase a ticket and visit several stores or restaurants with chocolate on their menu. Besides visits, tour guides may provide local history information. Tickets are purchased and a guide systematically takes you to approximately five venues to have a chocolate treat. Quite often the treats are selected for you ahead of time and will often include a baked dessert, a hot chocolate, and some type of bonbon. Some cities tours offer a history of chocolate, or some chocolate trivia. An example of a city chocolate guided tour in Brooklyn, NY is offered by Viator (cost $70): “Visit some of Brooklyn's most delicious chocolate shops on a bus tour. Sample treats at The Chocolate Room, Jacque Torres Chocolates, Lilac Chocolates, and Raaka Chocolate as you learn about the history of chocolate and how it’s made.”
Can I Tour a Factory Virtually?
Not planning on traveling in the near future? Perhaps a virtual chocolate tour is for you. From watching chocolate production videos, to interaction via Zoom, there is something for everyone.
Theo Chocolate out of Seattle offers an interactive one hour tasting class. After purchasing a class and supply list, chocolate samples will be sent to your home. Then you can sign up for a virtual class at your convenience, where you will have the opportunity to ask questions or make comments.
Similarly, Taza, the stone ground chocolate company, offers a virtual class twice per week. It is similar to the tour/discussion you would get if you were to visit in person outside of Boston.
Dandelion Chocolate (San Francisco) not only offers an in-person tour, but SEVERAL virtual experiences as well. Depending on your interests, you can sign up for one or more different classes. Some involve tastings while others are just informational. Additionally, there is a class specifically geared toward children.
Other virtual tours are available over the internet for no cost. Of course there are no samples either but you can prepare by purchasing chocolate samples beforehand. The most comprehensive virtual tour is more of an exhibit and it is sponsored by San Francisco’s Exploratorium’s “Sweet Lure of Chocolate” and consists of several pages of information including embedded videos. Other companies, such as the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory are worth a look at as well.
You can make your own tour by visiting you tube sites specific to a chocolate brand. For instance, you can see M & M’s being made, coated and bagged in a New Jersey plant or the amazing engineering displayed in making KitKats.
Can I Visit a Cocoa Farm?
While you won’t find any cocoa trees growing in New York City, you will find the Institute of Culinary Education that boasts of the nation’s first educational bean-to-bar Chocolate Lab.
If you are looking for more of an adventure, you can go where it all begins. Chocolate grows near the equator in places like southwestern Africa, Eastern South America and the Caribbean Islands. Several destinations offer packages ranging from a short excursion to several days of discovery including the opportunity to actually work on a cocoa plantation. Many chocolate farms are small, family-owned, while others spread over hundreds of acres. Tours vary in length and experiences and can be booked through tour companies via the internet.
What Other Chocolate Visits are Possible?
While not specifically a tour, Jellystone Park (Campground) has created weekends famous for their “death by Chocolate” and “Chocolate Lovers” weekends. There are several chocolate festival weekends held throughout the United States, particularly in the month of February. Some major festivals had to take a break due to Covid, but are returning to the calendar. A quick internet search reveals numerous events-some paired with wine and cheese, others with a footrace, and many that include chocolate desserts as well as traditional bars.
About THE AUTHOR
Lori has been a Culinary Arts instructor for twenty years. She has taught in the public school setting, at the collegiate level and through adult continuing education as well as running several cooking and baking camps for children. She has participated in several cooking, cake & chocolate contests and has been well recognized. She has raised thousands of dollars for charities using the byline “Saving the World one Cupcake at a Time”. Additionally, she has had several articles regarding food published in various magazines.Read More About Lori Gilmore