No family vacation to the Burlington or Stowe area of Vermont is complete without a stop at the Ben and Jerry Tour in Waterbury. In addition to entertaining information and ice cream samples, tour guests walk away with an appreciation for the ways the Vermont economy is unique in its pride in supporting locally sourced goods. Playgrounds, easy hiking trails, and snowshoe tours keep it a family friendly destination year round. Children 12 and younger are free.
Ben And Jerry Tour
The Ben and Jerry Tour factory in Waterbury,Vermont offers a well-orchestrated tour. This organized experience for families is a perfect excursion or road stop on the way to Burlington or Stowe, Vermont.
Tickets for those 13 and older are $4, and kids 12 and younger are free! Guests cannot purchase the tickets in advance, as they are only available on the same day, on site. (Exceptions are groups of ten or more.) There is a cap to how many tickets are sold each day, so plan to arrive by lunchtime in the summertime to assure your entrance.
Tickets are marked with a tour time. Guests can spend their time waiting by exploring a historical exhibit on Americana inside, taking photos of the area, or heading outside to the large, nearby playground.
Tours begin with the short film that’s both educational and entertaining for all ages. In addition to the clever animation and humor used, it’s also an excellent feature showcasing ways Ben and Jerry’s values and supports local community development. For adults, the film provides insight into the Vermont economy, which is known among the states as being fiercely proud of locally made and locally sourced goods.
After the movie, tour groups walk through the factory where the ice cream is being made, one flavor batch at a time. It feels very Willy Wonka, and you hope to see Oompa Loompahs.
The tour group is led to a tasting room where the kitchen offers “free” samples of the flavor of the day. That’s sort of like calling the pretzels “free” on the airplane, because you did pay for a ticket.
Like any smart attraction, crowds exit through a gift shop filled with Ben & Jerry’s items and many tie-dyed Vermont souvenirs.
Families typically linger outside and let children work off their ice cream energy at the playgrounds and explore the other attractions scattered throughout the property. Don’t miss the jumbo lid to a pint of ice cream for photo opps.
People might argue that there’s a best time of year to enjoy ice cream, but when the snow is on the ground, visitors can do something special to work off that big Chunky Monkey waffle cone they plan to eat after they devour their sample.
The Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour makes an effort to take advantage of the snow season. Arranged with Umiak Outdoor Outfitters, there’s a 45-minute snowshoe tour of the factory grounds on easy terrain including a stop to their flavor graveyard of discontinued varieties.
What’s Near the Ben & Jerry Tour
The Ben & Jerry’s Factory is very close to Stowe, Vermont, considered by locals as one of the best Vermont ski resorts. There are other well-known Vermont food purveyors including Lake Champlain Chocolates. Their gorgeously wrapped holiday chocolates always tempt me at the cash registers at Whole Foods. But they have a factory store down the road from the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, and they offer tours in their Burlington factory.
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Hotel Vermont, Burlington
To maintain a theme of the Vermont economy, head to Hotel Vermont, a unique property in United States attempting to source everything local that’s possible in downtown Burlington.
Local artisans provide every hotel amenity possible: Vermont made blankets, sheets, bathroom cups, soap dishes, coffee, bath amenities, and of course, the food served. If you are not a hipster millennial, you will certainly feel like one by the time you check out. The staff seemed very young here— but not inexperienced—and very eager to earn the accolades it has thus far by travelers and the hospitality industry.
Family Features at the Hotel Vermont
The Hotel Vermont (read my full photo review) is not specifically a family hotel but it’s undoubtedly the most sophisticated boutique hotel in the area, well situated to walk anywhere in downtown Burlington (more chocolate and ice cream!) or by the shore of Lake Champlain. It’s cheery, cozy lobby offers papers, fruit, and a place for children to mingle with other families.
One feature the children love is that each guest floor offers a pantry station with a sparkling and still water dispenser, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, fruit, and other snacks. Its onsite restaurant will delight foodie families, and for parents, the hotel has its own beer concierge who can assist adults in finding and tasting the best of locally crafted brews with cult-like followings.
Some rooms contain king platform beds which reveal a hidden trundle. This worked well when we are able to fit an additional rollaway into the room, too, for our family of four.
New Englanders know that Vermont is an outlier state with deeply rooted support for its own artisans long before it became the fashion. It is literally a treat to visit, for chocolate, ice cream, or both.