Holidays Nevada Photos

Photo Essay: Christmas in the Desert

If you’re outside of Las Vegas, then you’ve probably never heard of the company now known as Ethel’s Chocolate, or of Henderson, Nevada,  the Las Vegas suburb where its factory is located. But what if I told you that Ethel’s Chocolate used to be called Ethel M. Chocolates and that the “M” was short for Mars? Yes, the very same Mars that brought you all those fancy treats, like M & M’s, or Snickers.

You see, Ethel was the mother of Forrest Mars, the fellow who went on to start one of the most successful candy companies in the world. After his retirement from the company that bore his name, he founded Ethel M. Chocolates to focus on more upscale chocolate, cuz let’s face it…nobody looks at a Snickers bar and thinks its fancy chocolate…

You can take a tour of the chocolate-making operation at Ethel’s factory, but the real draw, at least for me, is experiencing their large Botanical Cactus Garden. And while folks across the country are decorating trees with lights for the holidays, the good folks at Ethel’s are doing the same thing…with their cacti…

Cactus Garden

Sounds crazy, right? Can you imagine what it must be like to string Christmas Lights through a cactus? Well, let me tell you that the end result is like nothing else you will ever see.

Texas Prickly Pear

A walk down one of their windy paths leads to a cacophony of colors, with nearly every available plant surface covered with lights.

Cactus Garden

Their wide assortment of of desert plants include the commonly thought of cacti, like the Texas Prickly Pear.

Texas Prickly Pear

And more unusual ones, like the Century Plant.

Century Plant

There are also trees, like the Soaptree Yucca.

Soaptree Yucca

And big ol’ cacti that come to mind when you think of the Southwest.


The scenes you see walking through the garden can be just beathtaking.

Holiday Cactuses

And a solid reminder of just how beautiful nature can be…even in the desert!


A visit to Ethel M’s Botanical Cactus Garden is free and the holiday lights continue till January 2, 2011


By Aaron

Hey there! I'm Aaron and this is my travel site, where I document my adventures to all corners of the world. My love for travel started at the ripe old age of four, when a midlife crisis uprooted my family to Ecuador for five years. Since then, I've been to countries on 4 different continents. When I'm not blissfully on the road, I reside in New York City, where I become the ultimate travel junkie and spend my days dreaming up my next great adventure! Read More...

5 replies on “Photo Essay: Christmas in the Desert”

Would you believe I never did this (not even visit Ethel M). I had asked my Mom about this and she said she went several times when they were in town visiting me and I was stuck at work. I never got samples either so I guess you know where I rate! LOL

This is classic Vegas though. I used to joke that I was going to decorate the cactus in my front yard, but the HOA banned outside Christmas lights. Figures!

What a shame! It really is one of those undiscovered gemes in Vegas! See, now you have to go back and visit…

Bwahahaha. Maybe it’s for the best that you opted not to decorate your own cactus. I feel like that could be an awfully prickly situation…

Thanks Magda! It looked really cool! It gets surprisingly cold in Vegas in December. Not quite as cold as it gets here in NYC, but at night it usually gets down to about 1.6 degrees C.

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