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Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botancial Cactus Gardens

With the gambling, shows and attractions in Las Vegas, it can become quite pricey to visit the city. But if you’re looking for something that is both free and family friendly to do while you’re in Sin City, add the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens to the top of your list.

The chocolate factory is located 15 minutes away from the Strip in Henderson, so you’ll need a rental car to reach it. More than 700,000 visitors make their way to the factory each year, where they are welcome to watch the chocolate making process. Factory employees mix, make, shape and box thousands of chocolates each year, and visitors can watch the entire laborious process from behind a large window that spans the length of the factory floor. Churning out chocolates all year round requires an impressive configuration of pipes, conveyor belts, vats and tanks that hold thousands of gallons of chocolate at a time.

After wandering through the factory viewing area, visitors are invited to sample a generous portion of chocolate produced on site then relax in the lounge area. This is where you’ll have the opportunity to buy specialty chocolate products to take home with you (wrapped with cooled packaging during the summer months) or sip on a cup of hot chocolate. Enjoy this heated room in the winter or the air conditioning in the summer before stepping outside to view the Ethel M Chocolate Factory Botanical Cactus Gardens.

Chocolate and desert vegetation may seem like a strange match, but they both reflect the passions of founder Forrest Mars. The gardens consist of four acres of more than 300 species of desert plant life including cacti, drought-tolerant ornamentals and other succulents. Many of the plants are native to the Southwest, and placards placed along the paths provide further explanation about the vegetation.

If you happen to be in Las Vegas in late November or December, you’ll definitely want to consider adding the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens to your must-visit list. This is when the botanical gardens are covered in half a million holiday lights. Everyone in the family will enjoy strolling through the lit-up gardens, and kids will be especially smitten to visit Santa Claus, who hands out M&Ms instead of candy canes.

The chocolate factory is generally in operation Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., but there is no guarantee that you’ll see people at work. Taste the chocolate, enjoy the chocolate lounge and wander through the botanical gardens seven days a week.

Located at 2 Cactus Garden Drive in Henderson. Call ahead at 702.435.2655 to find out if factory workers are on the floor for viewing.

>>More free things to do off the Las Vegas Strip.
>>Free things to do on the Strip.

Photo credit: Doramon