Archive for November 29th, 2012

We were a bit disappointed that our visit to the Neon Boneyard didn’t work out, but our spirits were quickly lifted once we arrived at the Ethel M Chocolate Factory.

According to Wikipedia, “Ethel M is owned by Mars Incorporated and was named after the mother of Forrest Mars, Sr. Forrest E. Mars, Sr. created Ethel M Chocolates in 1978, which opened in 1980, as a project to cure the boredom he experienced after retiring. According to researcher J.G. Brenner, “Forrest established the venture in Nevada because it is one of the few states that allowed the sale of liqueur-filled cordials.” So that explains why there’s a chocolate factory in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Upon entering the facility, visitors begin a self-guided tour. There are two or three rooms that all look a lot like this. Seriously, all I know about making chocolate came from watching Willy Wonka 800 times. The original, not that crappy Johnny Depp remake. Anyway, Ethel M does not employ Oompa Loompas and the first five minutes of the tour looked like this:

Not only were there no Oompa Loompas, but there weren’t any people or chocolate either. Then you enter the next room and WHOA MOMMA IT LOOKS LIKE CHOCOLATE HEAVEN.

Right up front there’s a girl with a tray of chocolates, offering you free samples. Well, I don’t mind if I dooooooooooo. So after a few of those it was off to the glass counter, where you can mix and match tasty chocolate morsels. I ended up with half a dozen mini chocolate “kegs” with different liqueurs inside — Irish creme, whiskey, bourbon, and a few others. Susan picked out a few others to round the batch up to an even dozen. Then we picked up a few chocolate bars for the kids.

The Ethel M factory is also known for its large cactus garden. I can’t even pretend that it was interesting. A sign notes that there are 300 different kinds of cacti in their collection — all of which belong to the “green and prickly” family, I noted. The entire garden was adorned with “over half a million” Christmas lights, which I’m sure is much more impressive to see at night.

There’s an episode of Storage Wars where Barry, one of the show’s regulars, buys a sign and takes it to the Neon Boneyard in Vegas to get it appraised. The sign turned out to be worthless, but the Boneyard itself looked amazing. It showed up on our radar, so we decided to stop by and check out this awesome collection of vintage and historic Las Vegas signs.

Upon entering the Neon Boneyard, we learned two things — one, the tour is $18 per person, and two, the tour sells out weeks in advance. (Every link on the entire Internet says that the tour costs $15. I swear on all that is holy that we were told $18. Maybe it’s $15 if you make reservations?) Then when Susan asked if she could use the bathroom they told us no. They also told us that there was a possibility of getting us in on a tour in three hours.

Based on what I have seen online, the Neon Boneyard is a really cool place to visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. Instead, I snapped this picture by sticking my phone through the shielded gate and snapping random pictures.

The tour is highly rated and if we had known there would be such a wait, we would have made reservations. But we didn’t, so instead we saved $80 and ended up going on the Rick’s Restoration tour (which was free) and the Ethel M Chocolate tour (which was free). Maybe next time, Neon Boneyard!