Who says you have to have snow to welcome in the holiday spirit? If the crowds at Ethel’s Annual Chocolate Wonderland are any indication, us desert folk know how to ring in the most wonderful time of the year … even if we can do it in capris and light sweatshirts!
Ethel’s Chocolate, located in Henderson on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Nevada, has both a fully functioning chocolate factory and a four-acre botanical cactus garden. I promise to share all the details of Ethel’s Chocolate Factory in a future post of I Love Las Vegas, but for now I’m smitten with the half a million lights illuminating the desert foliage in the garden.
The botanical garden boasts more than 300 species of plants, all of which, it seems, are lit up with a rainbow of Christmas lights. Because Ethel’s Chocolate is owned and operated by MARS Incorporated, it’s little surprise that, interspersed between the golden barrel and prickly pear cacti, you’ll find the occasional lit-up M&M character or Mars-inspired ornament. Overall, though, the gardens aren’t overladen with gaudy Christmas decorations, and it’s easy to spend ten minutes or two hours making your way around the winding paths.
Las Vegas’ winter months make an evening stroll a very real possibility—it rarely gets so cold that a hat, scarf and sweater won’t keep you warm. We spent the better part of an evening admiring the handiwork it must have taken to drape thousands of strings of lights over less-than-forgiving cactus thorns. If I had family coming into town for the holidays, this would definitely be on the to-do list.
During the holiday season, the chocolate factory stays open to visitors, though there is no guarantee that it will be up and running when you pass through. Nonetheless, visitors can warm up by wandering through the factory and gift stores. Kids will want to line up to see Santa Claus who—it should be no surprise—gives out M&Ms instead of candy canes.
This year, the botanical gardens in all their glittery holiday glory are open 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. every night (except for Christmas Day) until January 1, 2009. This is an ongoing tradition at Ethel’s, however, so check for details about seasonal hours in upcoming years. Though it can be a bit crowded in the prime times after dinner and on the weekends, it’s easy to escape the shoulder-to-shoulder mentality if you stroll toward the grounds farthest away from the chocolate factory.
As an added bonus, this event is FREE to the public, and if the children laughing and running around were any indication, it’s a great family activity for the holiday season.
Ethel’s Annual Chocolate Wonderland | 2 Cactus Garden Drive, Henderson, Nevada | 702.435.2608 | 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. daily (except Christmas Day) | Free