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12 things you didn’t know about visiting the Ben & Jerry’s factory

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. 

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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.

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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.)

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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. 

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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.

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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.)

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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.
If you squint, you can see lit­tle me at the bot­tom.

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