Give your kids (or yourself) an education and treat at the same time while touring the factories for Ben & Jerry’s, Jelly Belly, Cape Cod Potato Chips and more on your next family vacation.
You’ve exhausted all your bargaining chips and bribes convincing the kids to go to the art museum, the history museum, the walking tour and the fancy restaurant where they had to sit still for three hours (and not fidget!). Now reward them with a tour they’ll love: a food factory tour. Throughout the United States you can find tasty tours that no one will balk at. Here are a few of our favorites:
Location: Waterbury, Vermont
Hours: Mid-August to October, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; October to June, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; July to mid-August, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tours depart every 30 minutes.
Admission: Adults, $3; under 12, free. The $21 package includes tour, a pint of ice cream and a T-shirt.
You start your 30-minute tour with a seven-minute “moovie” and learn how Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield got started in the ice cream biz. Yes, it really was through a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making! Then check out the cows and learn how the tasty treat is made. Finally, on to the FlavoRoom for a tasting. You can’t leave without visiting the Scoop Shop, where it will be impossible not to order a scoop, sundae or shake. If you’re with a big crowd (or just have a big appetite), order the 20-scoop Vermonster Sundae. www.benjerry.com
Location: Lititz, Pennsylvania
Hours: Open Mon. to Sat., 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Admission: Adults, $3; children, $2.
Get the salt and mustard ready and head to Pennsylvania Dutch Country for a hands-on lesson in pretzel twisting at this 19th century bakery. You’ll tour the original pretzel bakery and observe bakers twisting sourdough soft pretzels by hand. Find out about the history of pretzel baking in America—this was the very first commercial pretzel bakery in the country. Finally, try your hand at twisting with your own piece of dough. If you fail miserably, pick up some to go in the gift shop for practice at home. www.juliussturgis.com
Location: Buffalo Grove (a suburb of Chicago), Illinois
Tours: Tues. to Thurs., 9 a.m. to noon. Free tours on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but no guarantee of live production.
Admission: $2. Reservations required.
The one-hour tour starts with a short video on how cacao is grown and processed into chocolate. You’ll get a brief history of the family-owned business, then check out the giant sculpted chocolate on display before walking on to view production and packaging in the 85,000-sq.-ft. factory. Perhaps most famous for their Myrtles (fresh pecans covered in chewy homemade caramel and encased in chocolate), there are plenty of other chocolate treats to taste (peanut butter cups, fudge cups, chocolate-covered graham crackers and more). You’ll be in chocolate heaven. www.longgrove.com
Location: Fairfield (near Napa Valley), California
Tours: Daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except holidays. (Note: On weekends tours are given, but there’s no live production. You watch a video showing the different steps of the process as you walk through the route.)
A 40-minute walking tour takes you into the belly (so to speak) of the Jelly Belly factory. Guides escort you through the working factory where more than 150 different sweet treats are made. How are Jelly Belly jelly beans made? Discover why it takes more than a week to make a single bean! You’ll see taffy, chocolates, wild gummy critters, and get a glimpse into the history of the company and the bean. The Goelitz brothers emigrated from Germany in 1869, and their descendants have carried on their candy-making tradition. In 1976, the company was challenged to come up with “true-to-life” flavors, and Jelly Bellies were born. Get ready to mix and match flavors. You may be familiar with regular flavors, but try out some “rookies,” such as pomegranate and dark chocolate. www.jellybelly.com
What started as a small-time operation in 1980 by one couple who loved the crunchy kettle-cooked chips they made at home has grown into a huge business, with several varieties of chips, plus popcorn. Today, more than 250,000 people a year stop by to see what all the fuss is about at the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory. Made with fresh East Coast potatoes shipped in daily from local farmers’ fields, the chips are cooked in small kettles that allow careful monitoring of flavor, texture and quality. They’re about as crunchy as it gets! www.capecodchips.com