Full Van Fun is all about food, music, and destinations the whole family, parents and children can enjoy – and there are few things both parents and children can enjoy more than CHOCOLATE! These are our Top 10 Chocolate Destinations from more than 20,000 miles of roadtrips around the U.S. and Canada over the last few years. In alphabetical order . . .
We don’t have to go very far to enjoy this one! Artisan Confections focuses on inventive fusions of high-quality ingredients and Valrhona chocolate. Some of our favorite treats include their Ancho Chile (dark chocolate, ancho chiles, cayenne), Chai Tea (dark chocolate, chai tea), and Earl Grey Tea (dark chocolate, organic Earl Grey tea) bonbons.
We found this little gem walking around downtown Boise, ID in the summer of 2015. The Chocolat Bar combines organic, local and premium ingredients to create high-quality artisan chocolates. Our favorite bites were the inventive Cappuccino Cardamom Truffle (cardamom infused white chocolate ganache, milk chocolate ganache, robust espresso) and the classically rich Dark Chocolate Truffle (dark chocolate ganache, dark cocoa).
Nestled in the majestic redwood forests of Northern California, Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate is a must stop destination. Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate starts with raw cacao to carefully create hand-crafted chocolate, especially chocolate bars, in-house. They offer tastings which really allow you to taste the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences in their chocolate bars. Our favorite Dick Taylor Chocolate Bars include Madagascar (72% Madagascar, Sambirano), Black Fig (dark California black mission figs, 72% Madagascar chocolate), Fleur De Sel (74% Dominican chocolate, hand harvested French sea salt), and Maple Coconut(Shredded coconut caramelized with maple syrup, sea salt, 72% Belize chocolate).
We were living in Charlottesville, VA when Tim Gearhart first opened Gearhart’s Fine Chocolates and from our first taste of his Raspberry Zin, we were hooked. Using only the best ingredients, Gearhart’s infuses their chocolates with unrivaled passion, care and attention to detail. We can easily recommend every one of Gearhart’s Signature Chocolates, but if we had to pick favorites, they would be Criolla (73.5% Venezuelan single bean chocolate ganache, cacoa nibs, dipped in dark chocolate), Maya (bittersweet chocolate ganache, cinnamon, Ancho chili, orange, dusted with cocoa), Raspberry Zin (Semi-sweet chocolate ganache, raspberry-zinfandel conserves, dipped in dark chocolate), and Taj (Bittersweet chocolate ganache, candied ginger, cardamon, rose, dipped in dark chocolate).
When visiting San Francisco with your family, Ghirardelli Square is a fun stop if you love chocolate. While there are many talented chocolatiers in the San Francisco Bay area that are also worth a visit, a trip to the home of such an iconic brand always has special appeal. You can see the original Chocolate Manufactory, shop one of the most comprehensive collections of Ghirardelli products anywhere, watch a Ghirardelli chocolatier make some custom creations, and did we mention awesome free samples? Ghirardelli Square is also convenient to other great San Francisco family destinations including the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and Fisherman’s Wharf.
If chocolate had a capital, it would be Hershey, PA where the air is filled with the smell of chocolate and the street lights are Hershey Kisses. The epicenter of Hershey, PA is Hershey’s Chocolate World. While you can’t tour the actual Hershey factory, you can go on the free Hershey’s Chocolate Tour ride to see the animatronic transformation from bean to bar. Hershey’s Chocolate World also has several other fun attractions including the ability create your own candy bar and the 4D chocolate mystery. Also, if you ever wanted to purchase a 5lb Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, you can find it, and so much more, at Hershey’s Chocolate World store.
Three and a half hours north of Quebec City lies the undiscovered picturesque hamlet of L’Anse-Saint-Jean in the heart of the Quebec’s Saguenay region. KAO Chocolat opened in a small house in 2014 and offers a mix of handmade artisan chocolates, chocolate bark, and figurines using only the finest ingredients. Their flavors vary throughout the year drawing inspiration from seasonal fruit, fresh garden herbs and wild plants of the boreal forest. At the time we visited their shop shortly after they opened in 2014, our favorite taste was an incomparable lavender truffle.
Kilwin’s Chocolate Kitchen in Petoskey, MI is the home of the national Kilwin’s chain and features more than 75 different handmade products along with delicious ice cream. At Kilwin’s Chocolate Kitchen, you can walk through their factory kitchen where they make some of the confections for their stores throughout the country. The tour and several of the exhibits are highly interactive and give you a hands on understanding of the time and care that goes into creating high quality candies at scale. Our favorites include their Kilwin’s Fudge Topping, Sea Salt Caramel Topping, and Caramel candies.
We first discovered La Chatelaine Chocolat while visiting one of our favorite dinosaur museums in the U.S., the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT. In the gift shop, we were excited to try one of their dark chocolate dinosaur eggs with milk chocolate dinosaurs inside. La Chatelaine Chocolat is a classic French chocolatier with a Montana twist offering a stunning array of chocolates and special treats like chocolate covered homemade marshmallows. If you miss La Chataelaine Chocolat at one of their two locations, you can also find them at the delectable Tuesday evening Bogert Farmer’s Market in Bozeman.
Nestled in an unassuming shop in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. is SPAGnVOLA chocolatier. While this shop offers an array of artisan truffles and bonbons, the star of the show is their chocolate. SPAGnVOLA chocolate begins with cacao beans harvested from their very own farm in the Dominican Republic. In the basement of their shop, SPAGnVOLA offers tours that walk you through (and taste you through) the careful small batch transformation of their cacao beans into their dark rich chocolate.
Did we miss one of your favorite chocolate destinations? Leave a reply and let everyone know!