Let your little ones live out their Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory fantasies by visiting a nearby store, farm or other foodie workshop that lets them get a behind-the-scenes peek at how some of their favorite edibles—ice cream, chocolate, cheese and more—are made. From formal tours to impromptu demonstrations, these fun culinary experiences give kids the real flavor of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and maybe a free sample, too.
WORTH THE DRIVE
Just say cheese, please. Veldhuizen Family Farm in Dublin, about two hours southwest of Dallas, offers guided tours on Saturdays at 10:30am, where kiddos (and adults) witness the process of crafting the raw, unpasteurized artisan cheeses (the farm produces 15 varieties) and make a trip to the aging cave. Look forward to a sampling of fromage and a meet and greet with baby calves at the end of the tour. And next month, don’t miss Family Farm Day on May 4 from 10am–4pm for hayrides, a petting corral, demos on making cheese at home, farming workshops and more.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 10am–5:30pm; Saturday, 10am–4pm
Where: 3364 County Road 299, Dublin; 254/968-3098
Pro tip: Don’t follow the GPS. The website gives you an accurate map to follow.
Dublin Bottling Works
While in Dublin, visit Dublin Bottling Works, the oldest soda bottling facility in Texas. Though the bottling line is now out of commission, kiddos see the process from start to finish in still-life. Kids walk alongside the conveyor belt to see bottles mounted to the racks portraying every step — from washing the glass bottles to filling them with soda. After the 45-minute tour, join the rush to Old Doc Soda Shop across the street for free samples. Tours run every 45 minutes daily (when the facility is open) from 10:15am–4:15pm.
Cost: Adults, $5; kids, $4
Hours: Thursday–Saturday, 10am–5pm; Sunday, 1–5pm
Where: 221 S. Patrick St., Dublin; 888/398-1024
Brazos Valley Cheese
Set aside some time on one of your shopping trips to Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco to visit Brazos Valley Cheese shop on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday between noon and 2pm. That’s when the cheese-making magic happens. Kids watch through a large picture window (it’s over 8 feet wide) as 10 different types of cheeses—such as Gouda, white Cheddar and Van Sormon—are made. The cheesemakers inside the shop gladly answer questions and offer samples. After the demonstration, set kids loose to explore the 510-acre farm, which also boasts a mini market with other local edibles and a gift shop with handmade crafts.
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 10am–6pm
Where: 206 Halbert Lane, Waco; 254/829-0600
Sweet Shop USA
Chocolatiers at Sweet Shop USA, the largest family-owned handmade chocolate manufacturer in the country, begin making chocolates by hand at 5am. So there’s definitely plenty to see during one of the 45-minute (or an hour, depending on the tour size) private tours that start at 9:30am Tuesday through Thursday, such as bubbling vats of chocolate and caramel, confectioners hand-splashing truffles with icing and perhaps dippers elbow deep in chocolate sauce. The 80,000 square-foot factory, a two-hour drive northeast of Dallas, has been in business for over 40 years and makes sweets for Neiman Marcus, Central Market and Whole Foods. At the end of the tour, each guest receives lots of samples. Call to schedule a tour.
Cost: $20 per person, minimum of 2 people per group.
Hours: Tuesday–Thursday, 9:30am
Where: 1316 Industrial Road, Mount Pleasant; 903/575-5505
Braum’s Family Farm
Blue Bell isn’t offering tours of their factory in Brenham anymore (#sadface), but three-and-a-half hours north of Dallas, just outside Oklahoma City, Braum’s Family Farm gives families a peek at ice-cream making entertainment and more. During twice-daily guided tours (at 9am or 11am), kiddos ogle the vacuum-seal process that makes milk sweeter and thicker, watch barrels churn the cream into one of the 120 flavors of ice cream or frozen yogurt, plus see how Braum’s cones, cookies and muffins are made too. Finish with a sample of vanilla ice cream or a chocolate-dipped ice cream bar. Call ahead; tours fill up quickly.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 9am or 11am.
Where: 491 County Road 2880, Tuttle, Oklahoma; 405/228-4604
RIGHT AT HOME
Take the kids to Mozzarella Company around 10–11:30am (a perfect after-school activity) to discover what goes into their favorite pizza ingredient. A clear curtain allows kiddos to see into the kitchen as cheesemakers chop, heat and stretch the mozzarella (in that order) before it’s sealed and ready for consumption. Ask for free samples (the shop makes more than just mozzarella), and purchase your favorites to elevate your next cheese board. There are also hands-on cheesemaking, wine and cheese pairing, beer and cheese, and cider and cheese pairing classes.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm; Saturday, 9am–3pm
Where: 2944 Elm St., Dallas; 214/741-4072
Full City Rooster Coffee Roasting Studio
Visit Full City Rooster Coffee Roasting Studio on Saturday from 10am–2pm to see the organic, bird-friendly, certified-as-fair-trade beans toasted in the Loring roaster, a machine that reduces energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions significantly. The tour guide loads the raw greenish-khaki-colored coffee beans into the machine, manipulates them using an instrument called a trier, then dumps them when they reach their rich, brown color—all while talking visitors through the process and answering questions. Here, Mom gets to sample the cup of Joe while kids sip hot chocolate (though they can try the coffee, too).
Cost: $45 per group of four
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 7am–4pm
Where: 1810 S. Akard St., Dallas; 214/247-6394
iCream Café uses liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze custom-made ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, hot pudding, shakes and malts. Kids first choose the base liquid—regular, light, nonfat, almond, coconut, soy or lactose-free milk. Next, the flavor combination is added (there are more than two dozen options). Finally, the concoction is injected with liquid nitrogen and mixed with fresh fruit, peanut butter (which stays creamy), candy and more—all while kiddos watch in amazement.
Cost: Prices from $4.25
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, noon–9pm; Friday–Saturday, noon–10pm
Where: 9250 Dallas Parkway, #150, Frisco; 214/618-2343
Ciao! by Civello’s
At Ciao! by Civello’s, a shop synonymous with fresh Italian noodles and ravioli in Dallas, they sell their handmade creations wholesale to the public and area restaurants, too. They also give interested kiddos a glance behind the curtain from 10am–1pm. See how the pasta dough gets flattened and cut into squares before being stuffed with beef and spinach, shrimp and green onions or other tasty combinations.
Hours: Monday–Friday, 10am–6pm; Saturday, 10am–4pm
Where: 1318 N. Peak St., Dallas; 214/827-2989
Mariano’s Hacienda Dallas
There’s almost always a wait at Mariano’s Hacienda Dallas. Before being seated or getting your food, entertain the kids with a visit to the tortilla station at the front of the Tex-Mex restaurant, where fresh tortillas are made throughout the day. Kids stand mesmerized as the ball of dough flattens, spins and cooks in the chute system to become the base for their cheese quesadilla later. Ask nicely, and the tortilla makers might give the kiddos a piping hot and delicious sample before dinner.
Hours: Sunday–Thursday, 11am–10pm; Friday–Saturday, 11am–11pm
Where: 6300 Skillman St. J, Dallas; 214/691-3888
Pro tip: Other La Hacienda restaurants have this feature. Find a location near you here.
Schakolad Chocolate Factory
Watch candy makers hand-dip truffles, make fudge and mold chocolate into teddy bear-, rose- or swan-shaped confections throughout the day at Schakolad Chocolate Factory. Ask for a sample of one of the milk or dark chocolate creations.
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 10am–8pm; Friday–Saturday, 10am–10pm; Sun, noon–6pm
Where: 106 E. Fourth St., Fort Worth; 817/870-2400
Orchid City Fusion Cafe
Orchid City Fusion Cafe turns cream into ice cream (almost magically) right before your eyes. First, the base, made with cream, milk and pure cane sugar, gets poured onto a frozen plate (set at -24 degrees) with a mix in such as cookies or fresh fruit. Next, using metal spatulas, the artists behind the counter flatten then scrape the now-frozen custard into rolls (they literally look like frozen fruit rollups) and finish it with favorite toppings, such as chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Cost: From $6
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 11am–9pm; Sunday, noon–9pm
Where: 2135 Southeast Parkway, Suite 101, Arlington; 817/468-3777
ON THE FARM
Call to book a tour (for groups of 25 or more), or join the monthly family farm tour (call for the schedule) to let kiddos collect eggs, meet the lambs and chickens and harvest seasonal veggies. Before leaving, let little ones explore the 300-acre, natural pesticide- and herbicide-free, organic family-owned farm just outside of Celina.
Cost: $7 per child; adults and children under 2 are free
Hours: Monday–Friday, 8am–6pm
Where: 8436 County Road 134, Celina; 214/707-8029
Circle N Family Dairy
Got milk? Teach kiddos where it comes from with a dairy tour (for at least 10 people) at Circle N Family Dairy to learn what cows eat, how they are fed and the difference between raw and pasteurized milk. Kids can even play farm hand and milk Holly, the resident fake life-size cow with udders; bottle feed baby calves and take home a goody bag of coloring books and pencils. At the end of the tour, choose a sample of regular, chocolate or strawberry milk. Call ahead to schedule a tour.
Cost: $7 per person; kids under 2, free
Hours: Daily, 8am–5pm
Where: 2074 County Road 446, Gainesville; 940/372-0343
Originally published in DallasChild, CollinChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild in April 2017.