Ben and Jerrys
if you're in Waterbury, you can't possibly miss the tour of Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory. The tour starts with a humorous video highlighting the history of the company, and then you take a short walking tour of the facilities to watch the magic happen. The tour itself lasts about 30 minutes, and ends with a couple of free samples of whatever ice cream they happened to be producing that week. You start and end in the gift shop (of course.)
Tours can be very popular, and you get in on a first come, first served basis. We went right when it opened, and believe me, there's nothing wrong with a little ice cream to start the day. The cost is $2-$3, depending on your age. Highly recommended.
Cold Hollow Cider Mill
A working apple cider press a few miles north of town. Unfortunately, it wasn't operating the day we were there. Like many of the farms around the area, this shop has tons of local food products (cheese, cider, honey, and maple syrup). You also purchase several types of baked goods. A fun place to look around and see all the food there is to buy!
Ben and Jerry's factory tour
This is an ice cream factory tour from a company whose leaders are socially-aware, ecologically-keyed, all-around-nice-guys. They have foundations to help the poor, organizations looking into global warming, rules that are aimed at improving the dietary quality of their product and a pile of other projects all centered on making the best ice cream in the best way to make a better world.
The tour talks about and shows how ice cream is made and then hammers home how this company does it better and makes a better community to live in. There's a 10 minute video on how it all got started. Then a walk to overlook the factory operations room and a spiel on what each person in the factory is doing and how that impacts on the product and the environment. Following the 10 minute spiel, you get the samples to taste (and grade).
There is a graveyard (small plot with little headstones) where all their flavors that did not work well are buried.
Of course, they have a gift shop where you can order ice cream or momentos of your visit.
Great place to visit on a hot day.
- Road Trip
Dakin Farm (Burlington)
South of Burlington, about a half hour or so from Waterbury, you can visit Dakin Farm. You'll probably notice a pattern here, but this had many wonderful food items from the region to sample and purchase. There are plenty of cheeses, jams, and syrups with the little testing spoons and dishes. It's a wonder you'll ever need to eat out after visting these stores. Again, it's worth the trip for a half hour or so of sampling food and shopping. They also have a large syrup jug for photo opportunities.
Green Mountain Coffee
The visitor center at the AMTRAK station has some nice, distinctively 19th century architecture.
Inside the building is both the train station (fully operational) and the Coffee Store. There are pamphlets and displays on how coffee is made and distributed and a gift shop and a coffee counter where you can get a hot cup of their rich, dark brew.
At most, this is a 20-minute stop (not including the gift buying and coffee drinking).
The interior of the building has been mostly modernized but the exterior is worth a few pictures.
- Road Trip
We All Scream for Ben and Jerry's
A tour of the factory only a must if you have children. In my opinion, the best part of the tour was the video that gave the history of Ben and Jerry's. The actual tour was only about fifteen minutes in length, it was difficult to understand what the guides were saying because they spoke rather quickly. The manufacturing floor is visible through a glass window with each part of the manufacturing process numbered. Some of the numbered areas were out of sight. At the end of the tour we were given samples of a new flavor of ice cream that was/has been developed by the company. Creme Brulee.... i found it to be way too sweet.
- Family Travel
Cabot Creamery Annex
Basically, this is a cheese shop a few miles north of Waterbury. If you can't make it out to the farm itself, this is the next best bet, since you can sample many of the cheese and other Vermont products from the area. There's also a Vermont Teddy Bear outlet in this shopping area, although if the outlet prices are this bad, I shudder to think what the regular prices are!
This is worth a few minutes just to fill up on the delicious samples.
Lake Champlain Chocolates (Burlington)
On the hour, during the middle of the day, you can get a "tour" of this chocolate producer. The tour consists of going to the back of the store and watching the candy making process through a set of large glass windows. This is not a complaint, as they have several benches to sit on, and it's neat to see all the action going on. At the end of the presentation, they give you a few samples of the candy they produce, and isn't what life is really all about? About a 30-45 minute stop, and the chocolate is fabulous.
ECHO is a lake aquarium that's just off of Lake Champlain. Be warned that this aquarium only features life found in the Lake, so it's rather small and limited in what it has to offer. We were a little disappointed in what we got for the price we paid ($9 per adult), as we really only spent about an hour before we had seen everything. Those with children may find it a bit more worthwhile.
The Capitol (Montpelier)
We arrived too late in the day, but did take a walk along the grounds of the capitol building. It's a nice looking structure, and there are plenty of dining options within walking distance. Whether or not you want to go see it depends on your taste for capitol buildings - this is an easy one to get to, and is in a quaint little town.
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