If you read last week’s blog (12 things they don’t tell you about running the London Marathon), you were probably thinking that it was my friends, family, and sheer determination that got me over the finish line.
In reality, it was ice cream.
After putting in so much work to tick off a bucket list item that was never actually on my bucket list, I was treated to ticking off something that was: visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Vermont.
Since first learning about the Ben & Jerry’s factory tour (some 10 years ago), it flew straight to the top of my travel to-do list, waiting for the perfect excuse.
Now, I had 42 of them.
So, in the style of last week’s blog, here’s 12 things you didn’t know about visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
1. It’s out in the sticks
For a global brand with big chunks and even bigger flavours, the HQ factory is very humble.
Tucked away in a quaint town called Waterbury, it’s surrounded by fields, farms, and orchards. In fact, we stopped off at a maple syrup farm en-route — you know, just in case we didn’t reach our annual sugar quota later on.
2. You smell it before you see it
You know that sickly, sweet smell that hits you when you walk past an ice cream parlour or waffle shop? That’s the smell that hits you when approaching the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
As you climb the stairway to heaven, the sugary smell of ice cream and waffle cones tempts you to the entrance and convinces you that 10 am is a perfectly acceptable time for your first ice cream of the day.
At least we had the excuse that it was 3 pm back home.
3. You get a humongous welcoming
In case there was any doubt about the job satisfaction derived from working at Ben & Jerry’s, I can confirm that these are some of the happiest employees in the world.
Being an English girl travelling with a Scotsman, it’s safe to say that 9 times out of 10 he gets the warm welcome and I get the grunt. Not here.
Not only were the staff super nice and friendly, but I also got an extra special welcome (even if it was four months late.)
4. No cameras are allowed
When picking my career choice as a teenager, I didn’t know that Häagen-Dazs spy was an option, but apparently it is. No photos are allowed inside the factory, but being one of the best days of my life, I remember it all.
You watch a short video about how Ben and Jerry turned a $5 ice cream correspondence course into a multi-million dollar business, before entering the ice cream museum, learning about what goes into the perfect pint, and seeing your favourite ice cream come hot (or cold) off of the production line.
Finally, you get a free scoop of the good stuff — either a brand new flavour or one they’re trying out.
5. There’s a gift shop
At the start of a two-week road trip, with a very limited baggage allowance, I obviously couldn’t go crazy in the gift shop. And, I obviously did.
T‑shirts, ice cream bowls, ice cream scoops, stickers, postcards — you name it, I bought it. I even bought extra syrup, because clearly maple syrup for breakfast and ice cream for brunch hadn’t quite hit the sweet spot.
6. You’ll get emotional
While crossing the VLM finish line was definitely up there on my top emotional events, it was nothing compared to the Ben & Jerry’s flavour graveyard.
A quaint cemetery dedicated to flavours that hit the shelves but didn’t quite hit the tastebuds.
Flavours such as Cool Britania, Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Schweddy Balls. Gone, but never forgotten.
7. You’ll get jealous
To say visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory is a wave of emotions would be an understatement. We’ve had excitement, euphoria, awe, sadness, and now jealousy.
You’re taught about all the different flavours and limited editions across the world, and how Tesco is seriously lacking in choice. And let’s not even go there with the staff benefits.
8. The Vermonster is huge
When I first told my family about my pending trip to the ice cream mecca, my youngest brother asked if I’d be having the Vermonster. Not one to be out-challenged by a sibling, I, of course, responded with “definitely.”
And I, of course, did not know what a Vermonster was.
Twenty scoops of ice cream, 4 bananas, 3 cookies, 1 brownie, hot fudge x2, hot caramel x2, 10 spoonfuls of nuts, and 4 different sprinkle toppings, all topped off with whipped cream.
Needless to say, we went for the mini-Vermonster.
9. The Mini Vermonster is still huge
Being one-fifth of the size, and promised to be “just perfect for two”, the mini-Vermonster sounded ideal.
Let me tell you this: nothing is mini about the mini-Vermonster. Not only did I eat back everything I burned in the marathon, but I also ate back all of my training too.
10. You need to look hard for the original scoop shop
A trip to the Ben & Jerry’s factory isn’t complete without a stop at the original scoop shop.
Ben and Jerry opened their first ice cream shop in an abandoned gasoline station in downtown Burlington — 27 miles away.
Unfortunately, that scoop shop has since melted away, but there is a plaque in its place (you just need to look very hard.)
11. All this for $4
Flights, accommodation, hotel, parking, insurance, and mini-Vermonster costs aside, this lifetime experience cost just four bucks. That’s less that’s a scoop of the nectar.
12. And the biggest thing to know about visiting Ben & Jerry’s
No matter how sick the mini-Vermonster made you feel at brunch, you’ll still order an ice cream for dessert — you’re on holiday after all.If you squint, you can see little me at the bottom.