IT'S THE WEEKEND: Family fun - A heavenly experience for chocolate lovers

South Wales Argus: (5506266) CLEVERAztecs: Discover the origins of chocolate in the Aztec Jungle. (5506266) CLEVERAztecs: Discover the origins of chocolate in the Aztec Jungle.

SINCE opening almost a quarter of a century ago, Cadbury World has become a place of pilgrimage for chocoholics far and wide. ANDY RUTHERFORD looks at what is on offer there, for Easter and beyond.

AROUND half a million people every year head for Bournville, in Birmingham, to indulge their love of all things chocolate.

For those of us with a fondness for this particular type of confection, it is a chance to get up close to the stuff in all its sticky glory - to discover the secrets behind the process that produces the bars we consume in vast quantities, off the shelves of shops across the land.

Cadbury World then, is something approaching a chocolate lovers' paradise - but it also has a story to tell, one that begins more than 1,000 years ago, and continues to the present day.

Cadbury World first opened its doors in 1990 and among the 500,000 or so visitors per year are more than 100,000 schoolchildren.

For as well as being a family day out, Cadbury World has been developed as perhaps the ultimate experience in learning through fun. This also extends to schools, with educational material available for Key Stages One-Five.

Cadbury World is comprised of a series of zones which seek to tell the story of chocolate through a mixture of history and sensory experience, offering everything from learning how the stuff is made, to playing in chocolate 'rain'.

Beginning with Aztec Jungle - which tells the story of the Mayans' and Aztecs' love of cocoa - it proceeds to Journey To Europe and introduces visitors to Hernan Cortez, who brought cocoa across the Atlantic and is thus to we chocolate lovers is probably the most important man in the history of the world ever.

Other zones tell the story of Cadbury as a business, with the making of chocolate and the ideas behind the manufacture and packaging processes that give us the products that as a society we consume in vast quantities every day.

There is also a zone called Cadabra, which is particularly good for the younger visitors, before you get the chance to watch some of the Cadbury chocolatiers demonstrating their skills before getting a chance to sample some liquid chocolate.

This weekend being Easter, there is the chance to see these experts putting the finishing touches to some incredible Easter.

There is also a zone where older visitors can get all sentimental about the chocolate adverts that drew them to the stuff in the first place, and Purple Planet, where visitors of all ages can get interactive.

There is also a shop, and if you are not too laden down, the Bournville Experience, which explains how Richard and George Cadbury founded the village of Bournville as a unique experiment in forward-thinking business development.

There is then a three-storey African Adventure play area, for those youngsters who want to let off steam.

Cadbury World hosts a variety of seasonal activities and children’s entertainers, currently focusing on Easter-themed family entertainment, including until Easter Monday April 21, an Easter Eggstravaganza.

Next month there will be a pirate weekend (May 3-5), a World Cup Warm-Up (May 10-11), the Sooty Show (May 17-18), and half term family entertainment (May 24-June 1).

Cadbury World is a couple of hours by road, and its website - details below - has detailed directions.

The average visit normally lasts around three hours, and there are places to eat and drink on the way round.

The attraction has a range of different opening hours, longer during school holidays and on Saturdays (9am-4.30pm, or 9.30am-4pm), and on weekdays and Sundays predominantly 10am-3pm or 10am-4pm. But it is best to check the opening times for the day of your visit.

There are also a range of admission prices, with adults costing £15.95, children (four-15) £11.70, and senior citizens and students (with a valid NUS card) £12. There are also family ticket offers, and a range of deals, including Purple Thursday afternoons, when visitors can pick up a special two-for-one ticket.

Cadbury World also offers special discounted entry rates for groups of 15 or more, and discounts are available for online bookings.

Details - and much more information than is available here - can be had at www.cadburyworld.co.uk

There is also a ticket line on 0844 880 7667, with lines open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and Saturday-Sunday 9am-2pm. Pre-booking is strongly advised, especially during holiday periods.

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