For those who don’t know, I’m on a mission to make this the best summer ever… And that means a lot of exploring and a lot of food, which is pretty much how I ended up at the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.
The Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, Vermont is the original production facility and one of the two regional producers of their famous ice cream. There’s a lot of history and many little tributes here and there referencing the modest beginnings of this well-known and much adored company.
The tour itself was simple, cheap, and sweet. Clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, 10 of which is spent sitting on a bench watching a movie about the history of the company, the tour is long enough to learn a little something, but not so long that you’re bored. At only $4 a person and kids under 12 for free, it was quite a steal. Bonus: you get free ice cream at the end of the tour! Nom nom nom…The grounds feature some gorgeous wildflower gardens and a pretty big, but dated, playground. I was really loving the flavor graveyard area, where mock tombstones are set up for some of Ben and Jerry’s retired flavors. It
was very Haunted Mansion-esque as each tombstone had a punny little blurb as to why the flavor was ultimately retired… Which was usually extreme unpopularity. I love you Ben and Jerry, but sweet potato pie ice cream? That should have never been a thing. Oh, and shout-out to the joker who put bouquets of flowers on the tombstones of the flavors they missed the most. Always remember.
To be fair, there was some cool stuff to look at. We got to have an overhead view of the production and packaging floor (no pictures allowed… Phooey). We could see everything from the vats where the ice cream was made to the station where sprinkles and chunks and cookie bits were added (the flavor being made during our visit was vanilla… No chunks or sprinkles today).
The last stop on our little tour were the labs where they test new flavors. We watched as a technician was trying to perfect two ice creams that were being sent to Texas for regular folks like you and me to taste test. One was a buckeye cookie blend which looked pretty decent, the other was a future member of the flavor graveyard called barbecue peach. Vanilla ice cream with chunks of peaches in a barbecue sauce swirl? I’ll look for your tombstone next to the sweet potato pie ice cream.
Thankfully, we got our samples of Spectacular Speculoos, a blend dark caramel & vanilla ice creams with speculoos cookies (basically those brown stick cookies you get on airlines sometimes) and a speculoos cookie butter swirl.
It was about at that point that members of our tour group broke out into the most insanely random questions I think I’ve ever heard. What’s the most popular flavor? It was Cherry Garcia for half of forever, but now it’s Half Baked. Has the place ever been robbed by bandits? Turns out the tour guide didn’t think so. Had any of the trucks been robbed by bandits? Not that the tour guide knew of. Do they use security in the factory to prevent bandits from breaking in? Apparently, they do.
I was starting to suspect we were on a tour with the ice cream equivalent of the Hamburglar.
Then, like that, the tour was over and we were dumped into the gift shop… Another very Disney-like touch. But there was really a lot of great stuff to see and buy, from the t-shirts to those fake spilled ice cream pints. Oh, and ice cream. Lots of ice cream! The attached scoop shop boasts 50-75 flavors, from the ordinary to stuff you can’t find anywhere else… So, pretty much an ice cream lovers heaven on earth. My husband declared their coconut layer bar ice cream to be the best ever made, and I have to admit, that was pretty yummy.
What if you’re a non-dairy eater such as myself? For us, there’s about a dozen sorbets you can choose from, including the margarita sorbet which is pretty incredible.
Overall, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour or two. With so much to see and do in the Waterbury, Vermont area (no, that wasn’t a joke), this makes a perfect little side stop on a road trip, or it can be part of a larger foodie tour. Stops at the Cabot Cheese Factory and the nearby cider mill are fun enough, and both locations also loaded with free samples… And you guys know how I feel about free food.
Value – Excellent. Can’t beat $4 for adults and kids under 12 free.
Entertainment – Mild. This is learning dressed
up in a pint of ice cream, which is neat to see for a few minutes but not a whole day event. You’ll be done in less than 3 hours… And that’s a generous overestimate.
Good For – Budget travelers, day trippers, families, foodies, or people looking for quaint New England experiences and/or free ice cream.
Things To Consider – Tickets are first come, first serve, but usually easily available (as long as no bus tours come through). Tour groups are you and about 40 of your new closest friends. No pictures on the tour and on weekends, the production facility is not in use.
Would I Visit Again? – This isn’t on my list of “to visit frequently” destinations. It’s fun for what it is and we had a blast, even our 5 year old, but we don’t need to go again for awhile as this tour doesn’t really change all that much.
*Disclosure notice: I was not paid or reimbursed, nor is this a sponsored post. All opinions and most of the ice cream consumed was my own*