Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury, Vermont

Vermont. Freedom and Unity, or so the state motto goes. Lots of forest, greenery and hills. Maple syrup galore, and New England at its finest. But what is more, it is home to one famous ice cream brand.

After seemingly endless stretches of straight road in Ontario and Quebec, and landscapes, though beautiful, but flat as a pancake, it was a welcome change of scenery that greeted us across the US-Canadian border. Rolling green hills and lots of forest as far as the eye could see. Having passed the border, I set out to program our GPS for our final destination for the day: Portland, Maine. We still had 6 hours of driving ahead of us, and had taken the advice of our friends to break up our journey with one of Vermont’s star attractions, perfect for an hour-long stop to recharge the batteries: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, VT.

Entrance to Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, Vermont

Entrance to Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont

Feeling lucky, I instructed our GPS to find Ben & Jerry as a waypoint, and lo and behold, it actually knew what I was talking about! A few hours later we rolled up to the huge parking lot just outside the small town of Waterbury. A little apprehensive about hyperactive kids on a sugar rush, we approached the factory’s visitor centre. You could hardly miss it, with cow signposts pointing the way to ice cream nirvana.

Ben & Jerry's great moments in ice cream history

Ben & Jerry’s great moments in ice cream history

On entering the visitor centre, all our senses were immediately taken hostage by all the colourful displays, excited babble and laughter, and of course, the smell of sugar and cream. Not that there were waiters running around with copious amounts of free ice cream samples as I had secretly pictured. What awaited was a huge gift shop that was painted like a pre-school playroom, and tons of informative panels on the walls, explaining the history and philosophy of Ben & Jerry’s as a company. It was all a bit over the top and overwhelming for the (European) senses, but still surprisingly pleasant.

Euophoric flavours at Ben & Jerry's Waterbury factory

Euophoric flavours at Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury factory

We decided to take the factory tour for $3 a pop which promised 30 minutes of induction into the philosophy of the company, a tour of their facilities and, finally, a free sample of their flavour of the day.

Ben & Jerry's Hall of Flavours

Ben & Jerry’s Hall of Flavours

The tour was led by an enthusiastic student from a nearby university. She had only started her job 2 days prior but had excellent knowledge of the company’s operations. Her commentary was actually hilarious although you could tell she probably did this a dozen times every day.

New stuff in the fridge at Ben & Jerry's factory in Waterbury, VT

New stuff in the fridge at Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT

The tour begins with the group being seated in Ben and Jerry’s very own little movie theatre to watch a movie on the origins of the company. Visitors are surprised to find that the company’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, started their operations in 1977 after having completed a correspondence course in ice cream making. The film goes on to explain how the ice cream parlor that started out in a renovated gas station in the town of Burlington, VT, became one of the world’s most-recognised ice cream brands, including their philosophy of “free cone day”.

Lab at Ben and Jerry's factory in Waterbury, Vermont

Lab at Ben and Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, Vermont

The tour continued with the visitors being led through the production parts of the factory, where you can look down into the factory hall where the ice cream is actually produced and packaged. More films were being shown with informative commentary on facts and figures on the production and distribution of the many flavours of ice cream.

Finally, the free sample and flavour of the day, literally.

Finally, the free sample and flavour of the day, literally.

And finally, the tour ended with the most anticipated part of anyone’s visit: a free ice cream tasting in the tasting room. Visitors were served a generous scoop of the ice cream flavour that is being produced on that day. When I read the flavour of the day on the tasting room fridge, my heart sank. “Vanilla bean ice cream with a salty caramel swirl and fudge-covered potato chip clusters.” I thought it couldn’t possibly get any more disgusting than this. Who would put potato crisps together with chocolate and ice cream? Well, Ben & Jerry would.

Top 10 flavours

Top 10 flavours

I am not sure it will make the top 10 flavours of all time, but boy was I wrong in my premature judgement. The flavour was aptly named “Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack”, and in hindsight, I think it’s ingenious. This is exactly what you want to eat when you’ve got the munchies and cannot make up your mind between sweet and salty treats. Just try this ice cream and you’d be surprised how tasty it is!

Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard

Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. Photo by jimmywayne @ Flickr

Even if a flavour doesn’t find approval in the mass market and its production is discontinued, it certainly won’t be forgotten. Ben & Jerry’s has a special place for every ice cream flavour they ever created – it’s either the hall of fame, or the flavour graveyard!

If you are ever on a road trip through New England, I’d recommend you stop at Ben & Jerry’s. It’s quite an experience, both visually and for the taste buds, and you’re guaranteed an entertaining break on your long drive through beautiful Vermont.

Would you take part in Ben & Jerry’s factory tour?

Christina Hegele

About the author: Christina Hegele runs Sandal Road, a blog on her favourite destinations. It just so happened that 95% turned out to be about New Zealand. Follow Christina and her blog on Twitter, like her blog on Facebook, and subscribe to her Youtube channel. Alternatively, subscribe to her email newsletter at the top right of this blog.

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  30 comments for “Ben & Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury, Vermont

  1. 15 August, 2011 at 19:24

    That looks fun! Some of their names crack me up.

    • Christina
      15 August, 2011 at 22:29

      Haha, I know, I love the Oh Pear. I think I would have loved that flavour.

  2. 15 August, 2011 at 19:49

    YUM! That looks so awesome!

    • Christina
      15 August, 2011 at 22:30

      Thank Kelly! It was delicious. The whole free sample trick totally worked on me because I headed straight to the ice cream shop next to the gift shop after the tour had finished.

  3. 15 August, 2011 at 22:53

    Love Ben & Jerry’s! This would be one interesting and delicious factory tour. Yum

    • Christina
      17 August, 2011 at 08:52

      Absolutely yummy. Staff actually get free tubs of ice cream every day. Need to make friends with more employees there…

      • 19 October, 2011 at 01:15

        Really? How are the waistlines of the staff? Do they all die of a heart-attacks by 30? :p
        My favorite graveyard (discontinued) flavor was Monkey Wrench.
        This is the most useful and inspiring travel post I’ve ever seen! BRAVO! :)

  4. Lauren
    16 August, 2011 at 00:04

    Yum! We were just talking about your visit to the factory on Saturday, I’d love to go there, looks like so much fun! Although, I might need samples of more than one flavour :)

    • Christina
      16 August, 2011 at 13:13

      That was my only criticism really. More free samples. :D

  5. 16 August, 2011 at 02:03

    That looks like a really fun & tasty tour! I toured the Jelly Belly factory, but the ice cream looks better.

    • Christina
      16 August, 2011 at 13:14

      A Jelly Belly tour! Wow, would love to read about that.

  6. 16 August, 2011 at 03:38

    Wow, that is a very interesting flavor combination. Sometimes mixing salty and sweet turns out to be delicious!

    • Christina
      17 August, 2011 at 08:43

      I know, I was surprised how good it was!

  7. 16 August, 2011 at 14:06

    Late night snack sounds like a dream come true. Since it has potato chips, I think it is a lunch snack as well.

    • Christina
      17 August, 2011 at 08:44

      I agree, Caanan, but I think I could never have it for breakfast. I’d feel guilty all day.

  8. 16 August, 2011 at 14:43

    Argh, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this when I was traveling through New England and needed ideas! I love Ben & Jerry’s… I’ve tried the Jimmy Fallon flavor and actually think it sounds better in theory than it does in reality. Oh well.

    • Christina
      17 August, 2011 at 08:46

      Well now you know what you can do on your next New England trip! I understand the flavour thing. To be honest, Cherry Garcia, their number one flavour, wasn’t anything to write home about in my opinion.

  9. 16 August, 2011 at 17:22

    Ben and Jerry’s has the best sense of humor. And we loved this tour… particularly the huge sample they gave us at the end! But it was also really interesting to see how they make the ice cream.

    • Christina
      17 August, 2011 at 08:48

      The tour was perhaps the least boring factory tour ever, full of colourful things, puns and witty jokes, and of course with very bubbly staff happy to answer any question.

  10. 16 August, 2011 at 20:27

    My wife is a Ben and Jerry’s addict (yet still skinny..it’s not fair) and this is at the absolute top of her to do list. Thanks for the tour.
    Oh, and I’ve tried that Late Night Snack…it belongs in the flavor graveyard.

    • Christina
      17 August, 2011 at 08:51

      I’m glad you enjoyed the tour! :D Not a fan of Late Night Snack? I understand. It’s really strange. But how on earth did Oh Pear end up on the flavour graveyard, and vanilla, of all flavours, in the top 10?

  11. 17 August, 2011 at 12:59

    It’s a crime that Oh Pear is gone – a CRIME I tell you!

    • Christina
      19 August, 2011 at 09:02

      I hear ya. I haven’t actually tried it. I don’t think I knew Ben & Jerry’s back in 1997. But I feel like the world has lost a great flavour.

  12. 18 August, 2011 at 10:58

    I would definitely go and visit them if I was in the area. I love Ben & Jerry’s ice! They always have so many great flavors to try.

    • Christina
      19 August, 2011 at 09:05

      They do have fab flavours. I just wish the supermarkets carried a broader range. They always have the same old phish food or cookie dough. We need access to more adventurous flavours!

  13. 19 August, 2011 at 16:56

    YUM! I would love to visit here – huge fan of B&Js

  14. 21 August, 2011 at 20:03

    I’d have a hard time controlling myself in such an environment :P

  15. 3 October, 2011 at 10:39

    I had no idea that such a tour was possible, but I’d definitely do it. The flavor of the day does sound like it leaves something to be desired though. I’ll trust you that it didn’t taste horrible.

  16. 3 January, 2012 at 01:03

    OMG. Been there and its quite something. Sure beats the Hershey Chocolate factory / amusement park.

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