It’s cheap, it’s fun, it’s educational, it tastes good; you’re welcome to tour the factory of Vermont’s friendliest ice cream makers.
We’re not the only family who loves Ben & Jerry’s, the all-natural ice cream with wildly imaginative mixings that are constantly evolving to meet the times. But our appreciation for this clever dessert provider grew immeasurably after we toured their factory in the scenic dairy farm country of Vermont’s Green Mountains.
From the folks who brought my generation nostalgic flavors such as Cherry Garcia (vanilla whipped with nuts and cherries in honor of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia) and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (first among many imitators), comes the very new “Hubby Hubby” (Peanut Butter Cookie Dough with fudge and pretzels), a renamed Chubby Hubby in honor of Vermont’s same sex marriage law.
So, this is your kids’ chance to go behind the scenes, see how ice cream is made and meet the cows who made it possible. And… everyone who takes the tour of Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury, Vermont factory gets a free sample.
It’s a fun half-day expedition and the guided factory tour, given several times daily, takes about half an hour. On Saturday and Sunday the complex is open, but because there is no ice cream production, the weekend tours use a fun video to explain the process. I really think the weekday visit is more informative.
How is Ice Cream Made?
On any tour, first comes a short film introducing founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who turned a five-dollar correspondence course on ice cream making into a very successful, socially conscious business now owned by Unilever.
Following a guide, we walked along a glassed-in mezzanine and looked down on shiny steel vats churning away. Tubs of mixings like M&Ms and cookie dough blobs are standing by, as a guide explains how ice cream is produced.
The last stop is the Flavoroom, where the day’s selected sample is distributed to an eager crowd composed mostly of families. (On certain days, you’ll see lots of seniors who arrive with guided bus tours. They love ice cream too!)
Ben & Jerry’s Fun Stuff To Do
The friendly relaxed vibe makes this a great learning opportunity for any age: the youngest of toddlers and surliest of teens will appreciate what this company stands for and the commitment they’ve made to producing a quality product. Inside, there’s a gift shop with an amazing array of B&J logos as well as cow-themed items.
Outside the factory, there’s an Ice Cream stand selling all the flavors plus other refreshments, a playground, cows in the pasture, a picnic area, and a coloring station. Kids can color in a postcard and write home about their visit, then join the adults for a nostalgic tour to honor the departed victims, felled by poor mixing, poor marketing or the bad economy, in the Flavor Graveyard. Each dearly beloved but departed ice cream flavor has its own tombstone and epitaph.
If you like peaceful country roads, begin an extended road trip in the region. There’s another sort-of factory tour in the Waterbury area at the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, where you can watch cider being pressed. In summer there are nearby public lakes and in fall, blue roads that slow to a crawl with leaf-peakers.
Many families dream of ice cream, even in cold snowy weather. In winter, the Ben & Jerry’s tour attracts snowsports fans heading to the three peaks at Stowe (a top notch mountain resort with a funky chic town and gourmet eateries) or Okemo (a resort known for its superior kids ski and snowboard schools).
Ben & Jerry’s Factory (866/BJ-TOURS or 802/882-1240 x2300) is located at 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury, Vermont just off Interstate 89. Admission costs $4 for adults and $3 seniors and kids 12 and under are free.
Founded more than three decades ago, they continue to operate based on their three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community. How can you not buy a scoop after your tour from the company that says, “Our focus is on children and families, the environment and sustainable agriculture on family farms.”
Go Stowe is the area’s official tourist office and they have lots of information about local hotels and B&B if anyone in the family needs to recuperate from brain freeze!
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