It’s a bucket list travel stop for many. The Vermont based world headquarters of one of the country’s most notable brand names attracts thousands of visitors each week. But is the Ben & Jerry’s tour really worth it?
Well, it sort of depends on what you’re looking for.
Ben & Jerry met one another during gym class back in grade school. They were the slowest kids on the track and began chatting while everyone else sped ahead of them while running laps. Longtime friends, they began their first ice cream business in 1978 out of a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont.
Arguably one of the most popular brands of ice cream in the world, Ben & Jerry’s attracts visitors from around the globe to their world headquarters and factory tour.
I decided to give the experience a whirl and purchased a ticket for a tour on a weekday in August. The website said I had purchased the last ticket for the tour though I discovered later that they sold additional tickets on site. The actual cost was less than $10.00 for the 30 minute tour – which seemed pretty reasonable considering the demand is obviously high.
Once you arrive, you’ll find a large ice cream stand where you can purchase all of the favorite Ben & Jerry’s favorites. A small cup sets you back about six bucks. Inside there’s a gift shop with swag, magnets, and postcards. You’ll find some fun murals and backdrops made for Instagram photos to brag about your tour.
There’s even a graveyard of flavors that were discontinued. You’ll have to walk a bit up a hill to find it but it’s fairly entertaining. Each tombstone notes a different flavor.
The tour begins in the lobby and there are at least a couple of dozen people along with you. You’ll then make your way up to a small movie theater to watch a short film about the company. If you are aligned with Ben & Jerry’s world views – you’ll enjoy the film. If you come from a different perspective, you’ll feel like the video is more about social propaganda than the story of ice cream and its factory. Some of the graphics are humorous and it’s neat to see early photos from their archives.
Next part is the “factory tour”. This is where a lot of guests seem to be let down. I admit, I thought this part was pretty underwhelming. The group will head to a hallway with windows looking into the factory floor where ice cream is being put into cartons and moved on conveyer belts. The tour guide will ask you not to take any photographs. (As though someone is going to steal trade secrets from the hallway). At least you were gifted with a small sample of cookie dough ice cream before you entered.
The guide then tells you the step by step process of producing the ice cream, down to the packaging and shipping. You’re actually supposed to watch a video monitor that describes each step along the way. If this were a legit factory tour, you’d be able to watch each process on the floor as it’s happening. They also note that there’s a second factory nearby that produces far more product each day.
Now it’s time for the third part of the “tour” – a few minutes of Q&A and the sampling of some ice cream. And just like that, the factory tour comes to an end and you’re ushered back out into the gift shop.
So is the Ben & Jerry’s tour really worth it? The short answer is “probably not”. Ben & Jerry don’t even actually own the company anymore for starters. They cashed out years ago. You don’t really see anything interesting if you’re inclined to enjoy factory tours. This really isn’t one.
However, if you really love the ice cream and are coming to Vermont anyway, it’s a fun experience that doesn’t really cost much. Just don’t be like me and buy ice cream when you arrive and find yourself too stuffed to enjoy the “free” samples provided on the tour.
Want to learn more about the Ben & Jerry’s Tour? You can visit their website: benjerry.com