on May 11, 2006
Bet you didn’t know those cuddly, lovable old hippies Ben and Jerry sold out to a company by the name of Unilever a few years ago. That’s not to take anything away from the incredibly delicious, super-fattening, calorie-ridden ice cream these guys have churned out since the late ‘70s. No, I mention that somewhat surprising little nugget merely to demonstrate that tours of the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory yield more than just free samples.Perched on a beautiful stretch of rolling hills in Waterbury, VT, the “BJ factory” is undoubtedly the biggest draw in the area. Sure, the Grandview Winery is just down the road, but after partaking in perhaps the most pathetic tasting session ever to take place in the annals of wine-tasting history, my guess is that most people would rather lick the factory’s production floor than drink just one glass of Grandview’s turpentine.Tours of the factory are given daily every 20 minutes until 6 or 8pm, depending on the season, and cost $3 for adults, $2 for seniors (kids under 12 are free.) We waited in the kid-crazy gift and scoop shop for ours to begin; Trixie checked out the “Great Moments in Ice Cream History” collage, while I tried in vain to get Kenny Loggins going on the free jukebox. Our guide rang a big cow bell and gathered everyone around for his introduction, which ended with him saying, “First, we’ll head to the Moon Over the Cow Bell Theater for a short 7-minute moooooovie.” Dead silence. Nice try, but our group barely elicited a chuckle. Poor guy.The Unilever thing came out during the film (with a positive corporate spin of course), and from there it was on to the mezzanine level of the production floor. Two flavors were made that day: Peanut Butter Cup and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. The factory runs 16 hours a day, and pumps out about 200,000 pints when everything is running smoothly. We spent about 15 minutes or so here, with the guide explaining each step of the ice-cream-making process.The tour ends with free samples, which is of course what everyone was waiting for. As you might guess, as soon as he gave the go-ahead to grab your sample, everyone tuned out the rest of what he had to say, and pretty much filed out to the scoop shop. I tried to thank our deflated-looking guide, but he was a lost cause. Think David Brent getting fired on the day of laughter.Don’t miss the Flavor Graveyard on your way out, where there’s semi-witty tombstones for fairly ill-sounding flavors no longer made.
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