Weekend Trips for the Chocolate Lover
Calling all chocoholics! Plan a cacao-inspired weekend with tours, festivals and chocolate shops.
Photo By: Manoa Chocolate Hawaii
Photo By: Hershey's Chocolate World
Photo By: Donato Sardella / Contributor
Photo By: Ghirardelli Square In San Francisco
Photo By: Stephen Chernin / Stringer
Photo By: Jean Philippe Patisserie
Photo By: Alma Chocolates
Photo By: John Sciulli / Stringer
Photo By: Chocolate Vitale
Photo By: Richard Lautens
You can find Manoa Chocolate Hawaii in Honolulu, but detour to its flagship, a half hour outside the city in aforementioned Kailua, to take a 45-minute tour of its chocolate factory. Afterward, a tasting might involve in-demand flavors such as Hawaiian Sea Salt, Goat Milk or Ghost Pepper. Not least, Honolulu Chocolate Company is a local favorite for its chocolate-dipped fruit; the small-batch chocolate is made at its factory behind the store in Ward Center.
For more than 100 fine chocolate options, beeline to the annual Chicago Fine Chocolate Show held at the Navy Pier. The best part? Free samples. True aficionados shouldn’t miss The Chicago Artisan Chocolate Festival, featuring some of the best local and national chocolate makers. However, if you really want to elevate your chocolate knowledge, the Chocolate Academy offers classes ranging from beginner to advanced.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco’s chocolate history all started with Ghirardelli. The now-ubiquitous chocolate company was founded in 1852, and claims to be the nation’s oldest continuously operating chocolate maker. Every year it holds a weekend-long Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival, filled with live music, chef demos and opportunities to gorge on Ghirardelli chocolate.
Beyond Ghirardelli, there are now dozens of artisanal chocolate shops in the city: at small batch Dandelion Chocolate, you can take a "bean-to-bar" tour of its factory, pop into its café and participate in chocolate classes. They even organize educational chocolate vacations. Charles Chocolates, Recchiuti Confections and Christopher Elbow are other standouts. To properly understand San Francisco’s burgeoning chocolate landscape, consider a walking tour with Gourmet Walks.
New York City
Kee’s Chocolates began as a combination flower/chocolate shop, and has evolved into a destination spot for inventive and unexpected chocolates, such as blended pepper and elderflower. Try your hand at making chocolate by taking a two-hour class at Raaka Chocolate’s factory in Brooklyn—your own creation is a sweet reward.
Las Vegas, Nevada
However, not all of Vegas’ best chocolate shops are branches. HEXX chocolate is a local bean-to-bar chocolate maker that focuses on single origin dark chocolate. It’s conveniently located on the strip, and offers free tours of its kitchen. Or eat your way into a chocolate coma at the Las Vegas Chocolate Festival and Pastry Show, which showcases some of the world’s best chocolatiers and pastry chefs.
As the name suggests, Batch PDX whips up small batch goodness while elevating truffles to the next level. For example, the Vietnamese Ice Coffee and Thai Ice Tea appear to be miniature cups filled with liquid. Batch doesn’t have a brick and mortar store, but its creations can be found at Cacao, a specialty shop that sells some of the best craft chocolates from around the world.
Los Angeles, California
Valerie Confections has earned major accolades for its hand-dipped Petits Fours; the fact that its first cookbook was a James Beard-award finalist is further testament to its craft. When available, grab a chocolate Oscar statue as an iconic souvenir. ChocoVivo was the first in LA to focus on bean-to-bar production, and uses an ancient stone grounding technique employed by Mayans and Aztecs. It produces only dark chocolate, so opt for one of its pure chocolate bars to really taste the flavor.
Chocolat Vitale is where to go for European-style drinking chocolate, and you can also buy some to bring home. If you don’t have time to hit all of Seattle’s chocolate shops, the Chocolate Box sells a curated selection of the best local and international chocolate offerings. The store also holds chocolate-making classes and chocolate- and wine-pairing events.
As far as chocolate shops, David Ramirez Chocolates is worth a visit for its handcrafted, visually stunning chocolates, along with its macarons. Farris and Foster’s Chocolate Factory is popular for its chocolate-making classes—resulting in a pound of chocolate. Speaking of which, the Festival of Chocolate is the largest chocolate event of its kind in the Southeast. Besides plenty of options to buy chocolate, there are also chocolate classes, demonstrations and chocolate-pairing seminars.