Disney's Animal and Magic Kingdoms offer visitors a theme-park experience with a touch of whimsy.
Before it was torn down, Skull Kingdom on International Drive offered guests frightening fun.
And there are countless structures in Central Florida that look like kingdoms, including Kissimmee's Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.
Now there's a new monarchy in town. And although it isn't driven by the clout of a major entertainment company or a best-selling book, it does have universal appeal beyond what turnstile-driven destinations can deliver.
Welcome to Chocolate Kingdom, a small interactive experience dedicated to the sweet that causes most dessert lovers to salivate with illicit caloric expectations.
Edgar Schaked, 41, opened the Kissimmee attraction last month with a goal of combining education and entertainment into one sweet stop. He says the venue is the only chocolate attraction of its kind in the world.
With chocolate practically flowing through his veins, the Orlando resident is the perfect leader for this kingdom: His father and grandfather are master chocolatiers as well.
"Chocolate is something sensual and very unique," says Schaked, whose chocolate-making roots can be traced to Argentina and one of South America's largest chocolate factories. In 1995 Schaked and his father, Baruch, opened Schakolad Chocolate Factory in Winter Park Village (now closed). Schakolad began franchising in 1999 and now has stores in eight states, including Florida. No outlets remain in the Orlando area, but the company's world headquarters — there is a store in Israel — are in Kissimmee.
The move into an attraction format to celebrate chocolate came out of the successful touring Festival of Chocolate (festivalofchocolate.com) that has stops in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando. The multifaceted events have included culinary competitions, fashion shows, chocolate sculptures, dessert wine pairings, demonstrations by award-winning pastry chefs and, of course, a few scrumptious treats tossed in for good measure.
"The festivals became a way for us to tell the whole chocolate story," says Schaked. "But the overall appeal of chocolate made us think that a permanent museum and history center would be a good fit in the Central Florida tourist corridor."
Guests enter Chocolate Kingdom and walk by a mouthwatering retail counter of chocolate candies, including artisan bars and truffles.
A well-versed guide ushers up to 20 visitors at a time through the attraction. During the tour, which lasts from 45 minutes to 1 hour, each group meets up with a whimsical prince and his dragon sidekick. There's a sweet back story about the pursuit of a perfect birthday gift for Princess Chocolina that ties the trek together.
Along the way guests check out an indoor cacao tree greenhouse, a small chocolate museum, a "Mystical River of Chocolate" and a working bean-to-the-bar showcase utilizing old-world machinery. At the end guests can opt to create a customized chocolate bar for $5 with add-ins that range from bacon to spices to nuts.
Schaked thinks he has hit on something with universal appeal for tour groups, private parties, vacationers and convention-goers.
"Chocolate Kingdom mixes fun and education and in the end you get the opportunity to eat chocolate," he says.
Where: 5720 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee (off Florida Plaza Boulevard near Fun Spot and Old Town)
When: Noon-8 p.m. daily; chocolate factory tours on the hour from 1 p.m.
How much: $15 adults, $12 for children 4-12