This weekend Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden lured us to Coral Gables with chocolate – their 9th Annual Chocolate Festival to be exact. Despite the overcast skies, the Garden came alive with live music, international eats, educational programming, and more chocolate than the eye could see. The two-day festival gave Miami families the perfect excuse to enjoy the beautiful grounds, indulge in chocolate delicacies, and learn about the cacao plant. During our visit, we did all these and more. Check out our five favorite moments from this year’s event:
1. Sampling a hot chocolate recipe from the 1750s. American Heritage, an authentic historic line of products from leading food manufacturer Mars, had a tent where we learned how hot chocolate was made from scratch in the 1750s and had the opportunity to sample the recipe. The demonstration included actual recreations of the ingredients and kitchen tools used back then, like the spices and chunk of sugar (wrapped in blue paper) shown below. Did you know that in the 1700s that amount of sugar would last one family approximately 6 months?
2. Learning about the history of cacao. “The Living History of Cacao and Chocolate” tent, which held presentations every hour on the chronology of cacao from ancient seed to modern candy bar, was the most notable addition to this year’s program. Our timing was off so we missed most of the speakers, but the friendly volunteers at the tent gave us a delicious consolation prize: a banana chocolate smoothie sample!
3. Exploring the greenhouse. We headed to the greenhouse with the mission of finding and witnessing Fairchild’s cacao tree first-hand. However, the lush vegetation and water features kept us in there for a good hour as we explored the many natural wonders the greenhouse had to offer.
4. Discovering the Wings of the Tropics exhibition. As we concluded our stroll in the greenhouse, we spotted the conservatory that houses Fairchild’s colorful butterflies and we knew we had to go inside. The exhibition was well-worth the detour – the butterflies were awe-inspiring despite the limited sunshine. Did you know that butterflies are more active on sunny days? They rely on the sun to raise their body temperatures so they can fly.
5. Enjoying the festival ambiance. Once we had our fill of chocolate, we grabbed a roasted corn on the cob and sat down on the grass to enjoy the harmonious sounds of Solar Dogs, a Coconut Grove-based string band that was our favorite part of last year’s chocolate festival. Sitting there, watching families spending time together, couples dancing, and savoring our delicious corn, we were in absolute festival bliss. Fairchild, you really know how to make us happy!