Skip the heart-shaped box this Valentine’s Day and instead take the family on an adventure. From exploring old fashioned chocolate-making techniques to an all-you-can-eat chocolate buffet, here’s five fun, delicious ways to go cocoa-loco.
1. Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop
Taste the sweeter side of the Revolution! The Old North Church is Boston’s oldest surviving church building and one of the Freedom Trail’s most visited historical sites, known for “One if by land, and two if by sea,” and the midnight ride of Paul Revere. The celebrated site in Beantown’s North End is also home to the 1713 Clough House, one of Boston’s oldest surviving brick residences which houses Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop.
Captain Jackson’s opened in 2013 as a living history educational and retail space. Visitors can touch, taste, smell, and experience 18th-century chocolate as it was enjoyed by some of Boston’s most famous Revolutionary-era patriots. Captain Jackson’s explores the history of chocolate, including how it was produced and consumed during the American colonial period, and its connections to Boston and the Old North Church. Daily demonstrations illustrate how chocolate was made and enjoyed by colonial Bostonians. The space is named for Captain Newark Jackson, an Old North congregant who owned and operated a chocolate shop in the North End in the 1740s.
Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop is at the Old North Church & Historic Site, 193 Salem St., Boston. Daily hours are: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. February 16 thru March 31; and 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. April 1 thru December 31.
2. Taza Chocolate Factory Tours
Taza Chocolate makes stone ground, minimally processed chocolates at their Somerville factory. Their process of grinding cacao beans with hand-carved granite millstones results in bold flavor and unique gritty texture.
Taza offers an “Intro to Stone Ground Chocolate,” a 45-minute talk and chocolate tasting tour at their factory seven days a week. Visitors learn about the growth and harvesting of cacao and can view Taza’s chocolate grinding and depositing rooms. Chocolate Guides are on hand to answer questions and sample lots of stone ground chocolate with guests. The cost is $8 per person and online reservations are required. Tours are recommended for ages 10+.
Families with children under 10 years old can visit for Taza Cacao Scout Bingo or Chocolate Story Time, offered most Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. Young guests will play a special game of Bingo to learn about all the elements that help make chocolate, try some samples, and get a chocolate bar to take home. Cacao Scouts Bingo is $6 per person; story time is free. Space is limited so it’s recommended to reserve spots in advance. Check the website for specifics and times.
Taza Chocolate Factory is at 156 Windsor St., Somerville. Store hours are Monday thru Friday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Weekends 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Check the website for tour dates and times.
3. Hebert Candy Mansion
The Tudor Style mansion on Route 20 in Shrewsbury might look like a big, old house, but inside, it’s a chocolate-lover’s dream come true. Affectionately known as the Candy Mansion, it became the first roadside retail confectionary operation in the United States and is still home to all Hebert Candies operations today.
The mansion evokes a sense of nostalgia. Visitors sample chocolates, peruse treats, or take a peek through the window to the Geneva room, where fresh chocolates are made daily. The Candy Mansion is Hebert’s sole retail outlet, and also its production facility, where 50,000 bars are made per day.
One of the most popular attractions for little ones at the Candy Mansion is Hebert’s “Candy Camp” where children can create their own chocolate crafts. It ends with a trip though the famous Sundae Bar, where kids can top their choice of ice cream flavor with over 30 delicious toppings. Candy Camps last about an hour and are for ages 5+.
The Hebert Candy Mansion is at 547 Hartford Turnpike (Route 20), Shrewsbury. Hours are Tuesday thru Saturday 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., and Sunday 12- 5 p.m. For details on Candy Camps visit the website.
4. Harvard Square Chocolate Tour
Off The Beaten Path Food Tours, a Somerville company that offers several different foodie tours highlighting local hidden gems, has a 90-minute bean-to-bar chocolate adventure through Cambridge’s historic Harvard Square. Tour-goers hear interesting stories about the Square, learn fun facts about chocolate, and sample the best and most interesting chocolatey treats around.
Each tour includes 4-6 stops with plenty of treats. Guests learn how to taste chocolate, sample ice cream, chocolate tea, cacao juice and roasted cacao beans. With less than a mile walking, it’s definitely kid-friendly, particularly the 2 p.m. afternoon tour. Offered on Fridays and Saturdays, $35 per person.
The Chocolate Tour meets in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Details on dates and times and to book are on the website.
5. Saturday Chocolate Bar at The Langham, Boston
The iconic Saturday Chocolate Bar at The Langham, Boston is a Willy Wonka-esque experience of all things chocolate. This extravagant all-you-can-eat all-dessert brunch delights sweet lovers of all ages.
Since its conception in 1988, the Chocolate Bar has grown from a small dessert display to the more than 100 plus desserts that it offers today, including nostalgic treats and classic indulgences. Impressive chocolate sculptures, interactive culinary stations and a Donut Wall are all part of the buffet. There’s also an ice cream cold stone to create custom-mixed frozen treats, chocolate fountains with fresh fruit, pretzels, and marshmallows for dipping, a warm cookies and cold milk display, plus a Kids Station featuring simpler takes on baked goods such as cookies, brownies, blondies and Rice Krispies treats. Classic cocktails and live music set the tone for a truly decadent experience.
The Saturday Chocolate Bar at The Langham, Boston, 250 Franklin St., Boston, is offered every Saturday until March 23 with four seatings each Saturday – 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Online reservations are encouraged. Adults $45, kids 5-12 $35, and children under 5 free.