Travelers can watch pecans turn into turtles and pretzels slip on their chocolate robes during the Chocolate Factory and Museum Tour at South Bend Chocolate Company in South Bend, Ind. Every tour ends with a sample of the hometown chocolate.
Chocoholics can pick up the factory-and-museum tours at the corporate office, 3300 W. Sample St. on the south side of South Bend. The factory and store is about 2 ½ hours north of Indianapolis and two hours southeast of Chicago. The company also runs shops and chocolate cafes in Michigan, Ohio and across Indiana.
The basic factory tour, 20 minutes with a guide, is free, ending with a fresh chocolate sample just off the line.
The Inside Scoop Tour is $4 for ages 12 and older, $1 for children 2-11. This 45-minute tour starts with a film, starring the company mascot Senor Koko Bean, and goes deeper into chocolate making.
Participants then dip their own chocolate spoons and tour the Chocolate Museum, whose artifacts date back to a 1,300-year-old Mayan chocolate pot. The small space is chock-a-block with chocolate posters, containers and memorabilia from around the globe. Don’t miss the Elvis Christmas commemorative tin.
The coffee shop and store in the front of the factory reflect the season, since South Bend Chocolate follows the calendar closely through changing flavors. Some of the seasonal hits:
Valentine’s Day: The biggest candy holiday arrives with chocolate-cherry Valentine pretzels and Cupid Crunch, caramel corn with chocolate and Michigan cherries. Plus heart-shaped assortments up to three pounds.
St. Patrick’s Day: In the heart of Notre Dame country, home of the Fighting Irish, of course March 17 is a huge holiday. Irish Crunch has milk chocolate, almonds and a special South Bend mint, while the mint Great American Malted Milk Ball combines malt with mint in large green orbs. Irish Almonds nestle in a gold foil bag.
The Notre Dame specialties range from chocolate Rocknes, named for the late football coach Knute Rockne, to Domers and Nuts for ND chocolates. Plus a full range of flavors for take-home from the coffee shop: 4 Horsemen, Irish Cream, Nuts 4 ND, ND Dark and ND Light.
South Bend also honors Indiana University with its Hoosiers Chocolate and the University of Michigan with Wolverines and Nuts for Michigan.
Easter: The usual eggs and bunnies, of course, but South Bend goes big for the holiday, too—up to a three-foot-tall solid milk chocolate bunny that towers over the rest of the basket. Pretzels are dipped in white or pink chocolate, and the bird’s nests hold little stashes of jelly beans. Bunny Crunch is caramel corn with milk chocolate, almonds and amaretto.
Summer: Yes, it’s hot, but the lemon-and-orange pretzels won’t melt much, nor the Summer Crunch with caramel corn, white chocolate and lemon and orange. The same flavors repeat in summer malted milk balls. Or switch to Michigan cherries in chocolate robing, cherry cordial truffles or Cherry Blossoms, which are cherries partnered with caramel and roasted pecans before dipping.
Fall: Time for pumpkin spice coffee, Autumn Almonds, Pumpkin Crunch, pumpkin pretzels and pumpkin malted milk balls.
Halloween: It’s all fair game.
Holidays: Snowballs pop out of the bag, with caramel corn, cinnamon and white chocolate. The company ramps up for Christmas, with candy cane fudge, Christmas tree pretzels, chocolate toy soldiers and Holly and Berries—just don’t forget Santa, at 3 feet six inches and 65 pounds of solid chocolate.
When you go
For more information: South Bend Chocolate Company; Indiana.