While I know some of you might agree with me that ice cream is always in season, for many people a sign of summer is the opening of seasonal ice cream parlors. Someday, I hope to have a state by state directory of top ice cream spots (of course, personally vetted), but until I have the time, I thought a list of some places where you can tour ice cream being made would suffice:
Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, Vermont: Arguably the mecca for ice cream lovers. The thirty minute tour is the perfect amount of time to check out how they make their 75 varieties, 55 of which are available in pint size. You’ll get aerial shots of the production floor from a glassed in mezzanine and watch a short film on the history of the company. The nominal cost of the tour includes samples, but if a sample isn’t enough, check out the full service Scoop Shop, which also offers sundaes, milkshakes, and ice cream cakes. Make sure you leave time to walk to the “Flavor Graveyard” located up the hill behind the plant.
Turkey Hill Farm Ice Cream Experience in Columbia, Pennsylvania: So, technically, there is no formal tour, nor is there actually ice cream being made in a factory on site; however, the promise of all you can sample ice cream, lemonade, and iced tea was enough to make us stop as we traveled through the looong state of Pennsylvania. There are interactive exhibits that explain how ice cream is made, an opportunity to star in your own commercial, the chance to “milk” mechanical cows and climb around in replica trucks, and a taste lab, where you can make your own ice cream (careful, extra fee for this activity). This is a great place to let kids burn off some energy as there is plenty of space to move.
Goody’s Factory in Bend, Oregon: Known for their chocolates, they crossed over to the ice cream sector with success. You can take a free, self guided tour (free chocolate included!) or a quick 15 minute tour of the factory will show you the kitchen where they make sorbet, ice cream bars, and tons of different types of chocolates, in addition to their ice cream. You’ll also receive SIX different samples, included in the nominal cost of the tour. Plan ahead, though, as guided tours need to be scheduled two weeks and are only available on weekdays.
Ye Olde Mill at Velvet Ice Cream in Utica, Ohio: Receive a little history lesson with your ice cream on this free, 30 minute tour, which will take you through the seven steps they follow to make their ice cream. The tour ends with a three ounce sample of ice cream. Children will also enjoy exploring the interactive exhibits in their museum, checking out the petting zoo (weather permitting!) and playing at the playground. Tours only offered weekdays from 11am-3pm, but feel free to come early or stay late and check out the large gift shop and restaurant.
Be Careful: While fact checking some information, I found out that many popular ice cream companies no longer offer tours of their factories, including:
Blue Bell Creameries in Texas
Blue Bunny Ice Cream
Boulder Organic Ice Cream in Colorado (no consistent times for tours, must check availability based on production schedule)
Graeter’s Ice Cream in Ohio