Travel and food go together like Abbott and Costello: they play off of each other, adding to the experience. Each individually might be amazing, but as a duo, they are a mighty force!

So when it comes to bringing these two passions of mine together, nothing does it better than visiting food factories. See your favorite foods get made (or harvested in some cases), try samples, and end up in a cafe featuring the best products. Count me in!!!

I have been lucky to have had the chance to visit sites like this all over the world, from the Mauna Loa macadamia nut plantation on the Big Island of Hawaii to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA, to the Budweiser factory in St. Louis. But two food factory experiences stand out above the others.

Vermont is known for a few things: cheddar cheese, maple syrup, and Ben and Jerry’s. Just off interstate 89 in the tiny nothing town of Waterbury, VT is the home of this iconic ice cream chain. The factory is a wonderland of ice cream memorabilia, including a graveyard of “retired” flavors.

The tour is remarkably well done, and takes you in a small group through the various steps of ice cream making. Watching the conveyor belts speed pints of your favorite flavors down to their shipping plants, smelling the wonderful odor of sweet cream and chocolate (they were making Milk and Cookies while we were there), one will end hungry. The final stop of the tour is the tasting room, where a sign will tell you what you will be trying. With excitement, we hurried to the sign, to find:

Fortunately, this was a joke, and we were given a few options of “normal” flavors! If you happen to be in Vermont, this is a shrine worth visiting.

On the other side of the country, midway down the Oregon coast, lies a small coastal town of Tilamook, home to the west-coast renowned (if not world-renowned) Tilamook cheese factory. For those of you who know me, you know that there are few things in the world I love more than cheese. So it didn’t take a ton of convincing for me to tour this Shangri-La of curds. Sadly, I didn’t look so excited. 😉

The tour itself was amazing, and included tastings of curds in various forms: soft, hard, and fully cheesified. Some were plain, others seasoned. All were cheese, and all were loved!

For me, though, the cafe was the best part. At many food factories, the cafe is just a tourist trap with things like Jelly Belly shaped pizza, not my style. Here, the grilled cheese came with not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of Tilamook cheese, with about 10 different choices to appeal to even the snobbiest cheese snob. They also have freshly made ice cream, made with the same milk as their cheese, and combined with local ingredients. All was superb, so much so that I spoke only using the word “cheese” for the remainder of the day. Not my most popular move, but fun!

How about you? What are your favorite food factory tours? Please share in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Fun Food Factories!

  1. Hey Jonathan, great post! I can’t say I’ve ever taken a food factory tour, but I’ll have to agree with you that travel and food go hand and hand. There is so much culture in food, I believe in order to know a place or person better you must share their traditional food! Feel free to follow my blog, I constantly am sharing food and travel stories 🙂

  2. I’ve been to the Budweiser factory in St. Louis. which is pretty cool (because free beer). But I would love to go to the Ben and Jerry’s tour. They have such interesting flavors and I would love to see how they are made. Great Post!

  3. I fully agree with you: that travel and food go hand and hand :-). There is something so great about catching up with everybody over a delicious meal… but the surprising way your eating habits reveal truths about your personality.

  4. Celestial seasonings tea your in boulder, CO. I liked it so much that I went twice, on two different trips.

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