Destinations for chocolate lovers

by Susan B. Barnes

Does the mere mention of chocolate get your mouth watering? Rest assured, you’re not alone. According to the National Confectioners Association, 52 percent of Americans claim chocolate as their favorite flavor.

Popular around Valentine’s Day, Halloween and seasonal holidays, the fact of the matter is that chocolate is a year-round treat for many, so why not add chocolate factory tours to your itineraries to satisfy your passengers’ sweet cravings? Here, we take a look at a half-dozen tours throughout the U.S.; the best season for these destinations, like chocolate itself, is any season.

Boston, Massachusetts: Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate in Boston’s Somerville neighborhood sets its chocolates apart from the others by stone-grinding cacao beans with hand-carved granite millstones. A more in-depth look at the process is available during a 45-minute presentation led by one of Taza’s Chocolate Guides, which includes growth and harvesting of cacao, Direct Trade sourcing methods and Taza’s grinding method that results in the chocolate’s unusual—yet satisfying—gritty texture.

Travel tip: Somerville is also the home of Marshmallow Fluff, said to be founded in the town’s Union Square in 1917. An annual What the Fluff Festival is held each fall, and this year it was held on Sept. 21.

Group travel tip: Because of the facility’s small size, reservations can be made for groups that number into the low 20s and should be made well in advance to ensure availability.

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Hershey, Pennsylvania: Hershey’s Chocolate World

Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, it’s safe to say that The Hershey Company has satisfied America’s sweet tooth for generations. During the free 30-minute Chocolate Tour at Hershey’s Chocolate World, your guests will watch, hear, feel and smell as cocoa beans are transformed into chocolates that are found throughout the world; 70 million Hershey’s Kisses are made within the factory each day!

For more tasting fun, Hershey’s Unwrapped is a terrific choice. Guests take a 30-minute chocolate tasting journey, learning how to properly taste chocolate and sampling some of the brand’s most iconic treats. True chocolate aficionados can go all in with Hershey’s Create Your Own Candy Bar, a 45-minute experience during which they’ll choose their favorite ingredients, use authentic factory equipment and finish up by designing their own wrappers for their personalized candy bars.

Travel tip: Visit Hershey Gardens, where your passengers can stroll through the 23 themed gardens and amongst hundreds of butterflies flitting about in their atrium.

Group travel tip: Individual attraction tickets are available, and Adventure Bundles combine attractions at discounted pricing.

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Delray Beach, Florida: 5150 Chocolate Co.

In between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach you’ll find 5150 Chocolate Co., where chocolate maker Tyler Levitetz makes “crazy good chocolate.” Tours of the Delray Beach factory take guests through the property while learning about the chocolate-making process, followed by a tasting of eight different types of single-origin dark chocolate, as well as chocolate in its different forms, including cacao beans, chocolate flake from the refiner and liquid chocolate from the temper.

Travel tip: Atlantic Avenue, considered the longest Main Street in Florida, runs from the ocean through downtown Delray Beach and is lined with boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants.

Group travel tip: Tours of 5150 Chocolate Co. are offered Friday or Saturday evenings and can accommodate up to 24 guests.

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Springfield, Missouri: Askinosie Chocolate

Your passengers can follow the 45-minute Askinosie Chocolate factory tour for a look behind the scenes at how the chocolate makers craft their bean-to-bar goodies, including ingredients and equipment. Their taste buds will stay interested, too, with tasty samples along the way. One- hundred percent of the tour’s $5 ticket cost supports Askinosie Chocolate’s Chocolate University, an initiative to inspire local students to become global citizens through the lens of artisan chocolate making.

Travel tip: Iconic Route 66 runs through Springfield, and there are plenty of attractions close to the Mother Road, including the Laclede County Route 66 Museum in nearby Lebanon.

Group travel tip: Public tours of Askinosie Chocolate are offered on Tuesdays, and private tours for groups of up to 35 passengers can be accommodated upon request.

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San Francisco, California: Dandelion Chocolate

In San Francisco’s Mission District is Dandelion Chocolate, a bean-to-bar chocolate factory dedicated to crafting small batches of chocolate that are big on flavor. Every step of the process can be seen when the chocolate makers are at work roasting, cracking, sorting and grinding beans before tempering the chocolate; each bar is molded and packaged by hand. Private tours may include a formal presentation of the chocolate-making process, a tour through the factory for a closer look and four tasting stops along the way.

Travel tip: The Mission District boasts some of the best weather in the city, which means plenty of fog-free days, something to consider when spending time in San Francisco.

Group travel tip: Groups (up to 24) are broken into smaller groups of 10 to 12, each with its own dedicated tour guide, to easily navigate the Dandelion Chocolate factory space.

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Seattle, Washington: Theo Chocolate

Located in a restored warehouse in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Theo Chocolate makes sweet treats for its neighbors and chocolate lovers around the country. During its one-hour factory tour, your passengers will learn not only the history of chocolate but the science behind it as well, in addition to fair-trade practices and the entire bean-to-bar process. Plenty of sampling is available during the tour and afterward in the store.

Travel tip: The chocolate factory is a block away from Fremont Canal Park, which sits along the waterfront.

Group travel tip: Groups of 15 to 24 (the maximum) are required to book a private factory experience; the chocolate makers suggest making reservations three to four weeks ahead of time.

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