As the winter chill descends, many find solace in cozying up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. However, for those with a sweet tooth who love to explore, there’s an exciting alternative – embark on a chocolate-inspired vacation! With the upcoming release of the movie “Wonka” on December 15th, the allure of candy is sweeping across America. Luckily, you don’t need a golden ticket to enjoy some of the country’s most delightful chocolate experiences. Here are six extraordinary ways to indulge in a zany, chocolate-themed vacation this winter, guaranteed to impress even Willy Wonka himself.
1. Dive into a Chocolate Wonderland at Hersheypark
Hersheypark, a sprawling 121-acre amusement park, was originally founded by Milton S. Hershey as a recreational haven for his chocolate factory employees. Today, it boasts an array of charming candy-themed attractions, including life-sized candy characters, a dozen thrilling roller coasters, and family-friendly rides. What sets it apart is that it offers all of this at a more budget-friendly price point compared to industry giants like Disney or Universal.
Visiting Hersheypark between mid-November and December’s end is a real treat, as the park transforms into Hersheypark Christmas Candylane. This holiday wonderland dazzles visitors with a spectacular Christmas light show and the “Kissmass Tree” display, named after Hershey’s iconic Kisses. This year, Hersheypark celebrates its 40th annual Christmas extravaganza.
While Hersheypark takes a brief hiatus for off-season maintenance from January through March, there’s no shortage of year-round activities in Hershey. You can pamper yourself with chocolate-themed spa treatments, such as a cocoa facial, or explore Hershey’s Chocolate World, adjacent to the park, which remains open throughout winter, offering activities like chocolate tours and personalized candy bar crafting.
2. Savor Delectable Chocolate Dishes at The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium
The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, with its 19th-century Victorian steampunk design, feels like a page out of Willy Wonka’s playbook. The restaurant’s chefs have masterfully incorporated chocolate into typically savory dishes, presenting delightful creations like fresh chocolate almond bread paired with salted caramel butter and flash-fried chicken wings coated in a rich chocolate stout glaze.
You can find The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in Florida and California, where it’s a featured establishment at Universal CityWalk. This pedestrian-only, free-to-visit entertainment complex is affiliated with Universal Studios theme parks.
3. Sip on Candy-Infused Cocktails at Sugar Factory
Sugar Factory, a U.S. brasserie, offers a diverse menu that includes milkshakes, burgers, and ice cream. However, the star attraction is their bar, where you can relish candy-infused cocktails served in oversized goblets. These delightful concoctions come in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions and are garnished extravagantly, featuring gummy flamingoes atop piña coladas and lollipops adorning peach lemonades. Although the drinks may cost around $40 each, one serving can easily satisfy a small group.
Sugar Factory has an extensive presence worldwide, with more than two dozen locations, primarily situated in popular tourist hubs like the Las Vegas Strip, Minnesota’s Mall of America, and New York City’s Times Square.
4. Capture Sweet Memories at Interactive Art Galleries and Museums
In recent years, there’s been a surge in interactive art galleries designed with selfie enthusiasts in mind. One such establishment is the Sweet Tooth Hotel in Dallas, which, despite its name, is not an actual hotel but rather an interactive art museum. Its rooms are meticulously designed by various artists, many of whom prominently feature candy-themed art.
Another delightful addition to this trend is the Museum of Ice Cream, which operates in major cities like Austin, Texas, Chicago, and New York. Notable exhibits include a waterless pool filled with 100 million non-edible sprinkles made from antimicrobial, biodegradable material, offering visitors the opportunity to “swim” in them.
5. Explore Ghirardelli Square’s Chocolate Delights
Nestled along San Francisco’s scenic Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square was once home to Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli’s chocolate factory. Today, the square houses shops, restaurants, art galleries, and, most importantly, three Ghirardelli outposts. These include the original ice cream and chocolate shop, a more expansive Chocolate Experience store, and a quick, on-the-go shop.
6. Run in a Hot Chocolate Race
After indulging in chocolate delights, put your energy to good use by participating in a Hot Chocolate Run. This series of 5K, 10K, and 15K races takes place in nearly two dozen cities across the U.S., mainly during the winter months. The race routes often pass through popular tourist attractions, such as Chicago’s Navy Pier and Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Finishers receive not only a medal but also a keepsake mug filled with delectable chocolate treats.
These races are typically held in tourist-friendly cities and have become tourist attractions in their own right. In addition to the post-run festivities, the Hot Chocolate Expo, held before the event, promises a plethora of chocolate-related experiences.
Embark on a delectable winter adventure and immerse yourself in the world of chocolate with these unique and unforgettable experiences across the United States. Your taste buds and Instagram feed will thank you for it!