You'd think that with Halloween just gone by, your kids will have had their annual fix of treats, but it seems that children (and quite a few adults) could think of nothing better than a day trip or weekend getaway that includes a visit to a confectionery factory. Here is a selection of seven sensational sins; tempting destinations that will ensure that the next few months will give your family just as much of a sugar rush as October did.
You can eat chocolate with a conscience and help save the world. Theo Chocolate (tel. 206/632-5100; www.theochocolate.com) in Seattle, WA is proud to be the only organic, fair-trade, bean to bar chocolate producer in the country, meaning that all of their ingredients are carefully screened to ensure they meet the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. The proceeds from their Theo Jane Goodall chocolate bars benefit cocoa farmers, promote conservation in tropical rainforests and directly contribute to the Jane Goodall Institute's efforts to save chimpanzees, develop community centered conservation efforts and direct youth education programs around the world. Their factory offers public tours seven days a week where you will be entertained with the story of cacao, including the transformation of the cacao fruit into what we know and love as chocolate and the social and environmental issues relating to cocoa and cocoa farmers. Best of all, you get to try all of their products during your tour experience. Public tours are heldÂ Monday through Thursday at 2pm and 4pm and Friday through SundayÂ at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4 pm, plus additional tour times during holidays. Tours are $6 per person for ages one and older. You need to call to make a reservation to ensure a place on a tour. Private tours are also available by appointment.
Cerreta Candy Company (tel. 623/930-1000; www.cerreta.com) is located in historic Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, AZ. Makers of fine chocolates, caramels, caramel popcorn, and other sweet indulgences for over 40 years, this family-owned and operated business runs free 30-minute guided tours of their coated factory each weekday (Monday through Friday) at 10am and 1pm. See how a sea of caramel becomes tempting taste treats and learn how cream centers are hidden within chocolate to form your favorite selections. They can also arrange private tours for large groups by appointment. Self-guided video tours are also available during normal factory hours, Monday through Saturday, 8am to 6pm. Television monitors throughout the facility provide plenty of information while you watch chocolate flow.
Wolfgang Candy (tel. 800/248-4273; www.wolfgangcandy.com) is in York, PA, about 50 miles north of Baltimore (and if you're doing a chocolate road trip, only 45 minutes from Hershey, PA). This 87 year-old, family-run business offers chocolate factory tours Monday to Friday at 10am and 2pm (their museum and store are open Monday to Friday 9am and 4:30pm and Saturday 10am to 3pm). The tours are free and open to the whole family. Depending on what is being produced that week, your quarter-mile walking tour would include seeing the step by step process for making treats like raisin clusters, toasted coconut cups, chocolate covered pretzels, and milk chocolate bars to name but a few of the products Wolfgang specializes in and creates on the premises. All their chocolates are certified kosher too. The visitor center and museum features display cases with antique confectionery equipment, historic photos and a video of the candy-making process. There's also an early 20th century ice cream soda fountain. Closed-toe, low heel shoes are required for the tour, as are long sleeve shirts/tops, hairnets (and beardnets if applicable), and only plain band jewelry is allowed. Each child under six must be accompanied by an adult.
Anthony-Thomas Chocolates (tel. 877/226-3921; www.anthony-thomas.com) is a 152,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art candy factory situated in West Columbus, OH. They provide free open house factory tours every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30am to 2:30pm; for groups of ten or more they can arrange tours during the same hours Monday through Friday by appointment only. In about an hour, tour groups can experience candy making from start to finish. Walk along a comfortable, glass-enclosed suspended cat-walk and observe eight lines producing 25,000 pounds of chocolates per shift. Experienced tour guides explain each process step-by-step, from the kitchens to the final packaging. View huge copper kettles where the centers are created, and unique silver wrapped pipes that carry liquid chocolate throughout the factory.
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker (tel. 800/930-4528; www.scharffenberger.com) in Berkeley, CA in the San Francisco Bay area, has factory tours where you can sample their fine chocolates and learn about how chocolate is made. These hour-long programs are free and open to the public. The first part of the tour includes a presentation about the history of cacao, how and where cacao is grown and processed, the history of Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, and a tasting of Scharffen Berger chocolates. There is plenty of time for questions and answers. The second part of the program is a brief walking tour of the factory. Reservations (online or by phone) are required, but walk-ins are accepted if room is available. Children must be eight years or older to participate. Private group tours are available by reservation for a $35 fee, which secures a tour guide, your private tour time, and $1 gift certificates for each person in your group redeemable in the gift shop after your tour.
For close to 90 years, Hammonds Candies (tel. 303/333-5588; www.hammondscandies.com) in Denver, CO has been churning out candies the old-fashioned way, with the same tempting recipes and careful craftsmanship. Toffee is still dipped in chocolate and hand-rolled in crunchy almonds, hard candy is still hand-pulled to extra-shine and they still make hundreds of different candies, including chocolates, creamy caramels, brittles, lollipops, candy canes, and marshmallow treats. Free factory tours run even half hour from Monday to Friday, 9am to3pm and Saturdays 10am to 3pm.
The most famous chocolate town in the country is inevitably Hershey, PA, which changed its name from Derry Church over a hundred years ago. More of a themed attraction rather than a factory tour, no round-up of candy conveyors would be complete without at least a mention of the big daddy of them all, Hershey's Chocolate World (www.hersheys.com/chocolateworld). There is a free tour experience that features animated characters and special effects beginning in a mock tropical rainforest where cocoa beans grow. Their Chocolate Tasting 101 class lets you can learn the art of chocolate tasting through guided sampling. Test your taste buds with hand-selected chocolates to find a new favorite on this 30-minute experience and receive a special gift. Tasting classes run daily throughout the year and cost $9.95 for adults, $9.45 for seniors and $5.95 for children. No reservations are required but you can call tel. 717/534-4900 for more details and times.