Have you ever seen Christmas lights on a cactus?? That was the question posed to me the first winter living in the desert. I will say that it does take a little getting used to. I’m from Minnesota. We get snow everywhere and come Christmas time, its lights on the house, on the tree and maybe even on the car.
In the desert, its Christmas lights on the cactus and the best place to see that would be the Ethel M’s Cactus Garden Holiday Lights display.
This little gem of a tourist spot is east of the strip (you do need your own transportation) and offers free self-guided tours of the chocolate factory, complete with gift shops at both ends. Although not much is made here anymore, they still sell the name brand chocolates here. As part of the water reclamation process for making his chocolates, Forrest Mars Sr had created a cactus garden next to the factory where you can wander around and see over 300 different plants that are native to the deserts of the southwest.
Come holiday time, they carefully cover the plants with over 600,000 lights and decorations and turn them on at dusk. It’s a fun thing to see and experience. And It’s Free!
Lights: November 11th – January 1st. On Nightly, 5pm to 10pm, Admission is Free
Factory & Chocolate Shoppe: Open daily 8:30am till 10pm
Visits from Santa Claus: Friday – Sunday till Christmas 5pm to 9pm
Performances by Local Choirs: Friday – Sunday 6pm to 8pm
Special Holiday Hours for Factory & Retail Shop:
- Thanksgiving 4pm to 10pm
- Christmas Eve: 8:30am to 8pm
- Christmas Day: Closed
- New Years Eve: 8:30am to 6pm
Please Note: it is popular and it will be busy. Be sure to park in one of Ethel M’s Parking lots. They do warn about other tenants in the area towing cars from other lots!
Ethel M’s Chocolates?
They are a famous brand of high-end chocolates around here. Forrest Mars Sr. The man who brought us the M&M chocolates and so much more, needed something to do after his retirement. So he created a chocolate company here in the desert and named it after his mother, Ethel. Why did he locate it here? Because Nevada is one of the few states that allowed the sale of liqueur-filled cordials. Yes, alcohol laced chocolate candies! Isn’t life wonderful??
Forrest E. Mars, Sr. created Ethel M Chocolates in 1978 and lived on the second floor of the factory. I have it on good authority (former safety inspector) that he had a mirrored floor so he could look down and watch the workers. It’s not that he wanted to catch people stealing or eating the candies, he didn’t really care about that. He wanted to make sure you were giving him 8 hours work for 8 hours pay. The family is known to be ruthless with their employees.
In 1988, he again retired. Mars died at age 95 in Miami, Florida, having amassed a fortune of $4 billion. He was ranked as 30th in Forbes magazine’s list of richest Americans (Forrest, Jr. and John were 29th and 31st, respectively). He left the business jointly to his three children.
(Forest Mars Sr Bio: Wikipedia)
Photos: Debbie D Anthony
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