HENDERSON (KTNV) — The holiday season is upon us, and nothing says it more locally than the Cactus Garden lights at the Ethel M Chocolates Factory.
This year marks the 28th annual Holiday Cactus Garden at the chocolate factory, which is always on our holiday list.
"This is our 28th annual Holiday Cactus Garden, and we are so excited to be able to be open to the public again this year," said Lisa Vannerson, marketing and public relations manager with the Ethel M Chocolate Factory. "We sit on a three-acre botanical cactus garden that is decorated with more than one million holiday lights that transform the garden into a magical experience."
Visitors can stroll through the 3-acre cactus garden that features cacti, floral displays, and trees that all can thrive in Nevada's desert climate.
"Some of the trees that we have are mesquite trees, and they have been here for several years as we are celebrating our 40th anniversary right now. And if you are not from the Southwest, it's just a fun experience to learn about the different cacti," Vannerson said.
And during the holiday season, more than a million lights are added to the garden to help bring it to life.
"There is always something fun to find in the garden: There's lights, reindeer, elves, llamas, and it's just fun to walk around and see something new this year," Vannerson said.
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The skilled gardeners start their holiday cheer in August to get ready for the holiday cactus garden.
"The guys who bring the lights to the garden start their work in August, and it takes several months to get everything decorated, and they go through gloves, but at the end, it is a magical experience. And you can bring your family out and make new memories," Vannerson said.
This year, visitors will have to make a reservation to help with crowds amid the pandemic while also making a $5 donation for groups of six.
"There are a few changes this year, and we think they are for the better. First, you have to make a reservation. It will help with crowd flow and traffic. We are also open until Jan. 2, 2022, and we are asking for a $5 donation that goes to Help of Southern Nevada and Three Square Food Bank," Vannerson said.
Something else new this year is a lawn area in the garden. Visitors can get hot chocolate and, of course, some chocolate sweets straight from the factory.
"New this year is we have added turf where there is a food truck where you can grab a snack and take a break along with visiting Santa. And the hot chocolate is flowing along with having chocolate-dipped items. We dip all of your favorite snacks into dark or milk chocolate, and we sell those inside the store or from the food truck," Vannerson said.
And with all the beauty outside, make sure not to forget to take a look inside during your visit.
You can get a first-hand look at the workings of the Ethel M Chocolate Factory while getting a free treat and getting to take home some sweet treats of your own.
"When you walk in, you are always greeted with a sample. So, make sure you stop in and get a free sample, see our self-guided tour where you can see where the chocolates are made," Vannerson said. "And then at the end, you can get all of our holiday chocolate boxes along with peppermint bark and even options to build your box of chocolates."
The chocolate factory is an easy trip to make down Sunset Road, and it has called Henderson home since 1981.
So, make sure to make your reservation, and Vannerson says to keep your weeknights open as an option to visit as well.
"The weeknights would be the best time to visit as there are certain days that have already been booked, but we still have plenty of Friday and Saturday nights available along with those weeknights. And with the beautiful weather we are having, pick a night and come out to visit," Vannerson said.