A Sweet Trip
Treat your valentine to a chocolate festivalBy Leah Chester-Davis
Valentine’s Day puts chocolate at the top of the list this month (see “North Carolina’s Love Affair with Chocolate” if you missed it), and two chocolate-themed festivals make it easy to indulge. The best part is, you can do so without the guilt: Each festival is a fundraising event that will give you an excuse to travel to the coast outside of peak summer season.
Carolina Chocolate Festival
Feb. 3–5 | Crystal Coast Civic Center
(3505 Arendell Street), Morehead City
The brainchild of the late John Green, this festival — a self-proclaimed chocolate lover’s paradise — has donated more than $430,000 to local charities and high school scholarships over the past 12 years.
Chocolate vendors galore, sweet-themed events and a chocolate spa await festival goers, along with the general sense of ease that comes with being surrounded by wall-to-wall chocolate cakes, tortes, chocolate bars and ice cream. For those with a competitive streak, there are hourly pudding eating contests and a chance to find a golden ticket, good for a grand prize trip for four to (where else?) Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The Cocoa 5k Fun Run & Walk provides an opportunity to work off any overindulgence that may occur during the festival. Pre-race sign up is available at the civic center on Friday, Feb. 3, between 4 and 6 p.m.
Know before you go
General admission: $9 for adults, $2 for children. Active duty military are free on Sunday with military ID. Tickets are available at carolinachocolatefestival.com or at the door. Additional activities, such as the spa and 5k, cost extra
Wilmington Wine & Chocolate Festival
Feb. 3–5 | Coastline Conference and Event Center
(503 Nutt Street), Wilmington
This festival has been the major fundraiser for the Volunteer Older Citizens Action League (VOCAL) since 2003, enabling it to respond to the many challenges facing seniors in the local community. It has grown in popularity over the years, moving to a bigger venue in 2016.
The event kicks off with the Grand Tasting (Friday, Feb. 3, 7–10 p.m.), a European street market-themed evening of hors d’oeuvres and entertainment that has been dubbed “the perfect date.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the street market is opened up for general admission, featuring chocolate, North Carolina wine, specialty foods and artisan vendors. Wine is available for purchase by the glass, bottle or case. A Kid’s Korner entertains younger festivalgoers with crafts and other children’s activities.
Know before you go
Grand Tasting admission: $45 online, $50 at the door. The Market Place: $15 per day online for adults, $20 at the door; Children under 5 are free, 5–11 for $10; and military and senior (60+) advance tickets are $10. Purchase online and advance tickets at wilmingtonwineandchocolatefestival.com.
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Other ways to get your chocolate fix