America's 10 Best Ice Cream Factory Tours

Graeter's Ice Cream, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Courtesy of Graeter's
By Carrie Havranek

Americans love ice cream -- and what's not to love? Just in time for hot summer days, we've rounded up these top spots for ice cream factory tours and refreshing treats (provided you can eat it faster than it melts).

See how ice cream is made by joining one of these factory tours, or visit a working farm, ice cream museum, or ice cream parlor to learn about the process -- and get a taste.

Photo Caption: Making Graeter's Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio.
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Waiting for a tour inside Ben & Jerry's, Waterford, Vermont. Photo by Ben & Jerry's
Where: Waterbury, Vermont

The Details: Whether it's Chunky Monkey or Chubby Hubby, true ice cream lovers can rattle off the whimsical names of their favorite pints of Ben and Jerry's, named for founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. But did you know that the 30-year-old company pledges to buy milk from farmers who do not use growth hormones on their cows? This company has been progressive, non-partisan, and humane since the get-go.

Highlights: Watch a short movie about the early days, get a look at the production room, and then it's off to the Flavoroom to taste the flavor of the day. Watch the cows in the pasture as you enjoy an ice cream-themed picnic; kids will enjoy the playground. After everyone has had their fill, wander through the flavor graveyard, where the dearly departed flavors are laid to rest.

Tour Schedule: The 30-minute-long tours run every half hour. Tickets are available daily on a first-come, first-served basis.

Admission: $3 adults; $2 seniors; kids 12 and under are free. A $21 package includes a tour, a coupon for a pint, and a factory tour T-shirt.

Reservations: Highly recommended for groups of 10 or more.

Favorite Flavors: Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Vanilla

New/Seasonal Flavors: Clusterfluff (peanut butter ice cream with caramel cluster pieces, marshmallow and peanut buttery swirls); Late Night Snack (vanilla bean ice cream with fudge-covered potato chip clusters and a salty caramel swirl.)

More Info: tel. 866/BJ-Tours; www.benandjerrys.com

Photo Caption: Waiting for a tour inside Ben & Jerry's in Waterbury, Vermont.
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Oreo ice cream at Goody's Chocolate and Ice Cream in Bend, Oregon. Photo by Courtesy of Visit Bend
Where: Bend, Oregon

The Details: Beloved for its huge scoops of homemade ice cream and its chocolate operation, Goody's is a central Oregon institution.

Highlights: You can visit this ice cream and chocolate museum to find out the story behind this company, which started in 1984. A 15-minute tour of the company's factory will show how ice cream, sorbet, ice cream bars, and chocolates are made -- and of course you can sample the goods. Admission includes six spoonfuls.

Tour Info: 10am-5pm daily; the store is open from 10am-9pm daily

Favorite Flavors: Marionberry; Oreo Cookie ice cream (cookies are sprinkled by hand into each batch, which means the cookies stay crisp)

New/Seasonal flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Key Lime Pie, Coconut, Blueberry

Admission: $2; kids 3 and under are free

More Info: tel. 541/358-7085; http://goodyschocolates.com

Photo Caption: Oreo ice cream at Goody's Chocolate and Ice Cream in Bend, Oregon.
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Graeter's Ice Cream, Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Courtesy of Graeter's
Where: Columbus, Ohio

The Details: Founded in 1894, Graeter's is an Ohio favorite. The company is known for its unique French pot process that makes only two gallons of ice cream at a time, ensuring a super creamy result.

Highlights: The 20-minute tours at the Columbus facility (Graeter's is headquartered in Cincinnati) offer a glimpse of the process -- and a sample.

Tour Info: 9am-3pm Tuesdays-Fridays

Favorite Flavors: Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip

New/Seasonal Flavors: Peach, Strawberry Chocolate Chip

Admission:
Free; call to schedule a tour or fill out an online form

More Info: tel. 614/442-7611 ext. 272; www.graeters.com

Photo Caption: Filling up at Graeter's Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio.
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Boulder Ice Cream Company in Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Courtesy of Boulder Ice Cream Company
Where: Boulder, Colorado

The Details: Available in nine states stretching from California to Missouri and as far south as Texas, Boulder Ice Cream is made from milk that has not been treated with growth hormones; the cows are within a 40-mile radius of its Boulder headquarters. The company, which operates using 100% wind power, is in the process of converting its entire line of 150 ice cream flavors to be organic.

Highlights: Get a look at how the ice cream is made, and receive a free two-ounce sample cup. The company is located five minutes from downtown Boulder.

Tour Schedule: By appointment only; 10am-1pm Wednesdays-Saturdays

Favorite Flavors: Mexican Chocolate, Island Coconut, Famous Sweet Cream, Espresso Chocolate Chip, Green Tea, Island Coconut

New/Seasonal Flavors: Peanut Butter Cup, Birthday Cake (cake batter-flavored ice cream with colored sugar as sprinkles)

Admission: Free; reservations are required

More Info: tel. 303/720-1105; www.bouldericecream.com

Photo Caption: Packaging pints at Boulder Ice Cream Company in Boulder, Colorado.
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Penn State University Berkey Creamery, State College, PA Photo by Steve Williams
Where: Penn State University

The Details: Home to the largest instructional program in ice cream making, Penn State's program has taught many famous commercial ice cream makers, including Ben and Jerry. The Creamery makes about 100 ice cream flavors, 10 frozen yogurt flavors, and six sherbet flavors.

Highlights:
There's no tour, but you can see elements of production via the viewing lobby in the Creamery's store; the Creamery website offers a virtual tour here.

Favorite Flavors: Vanilla, Death by Chocolate, Peachy Paterno (peach ice cream with peach slices, named for football head coach Joe Paterno), LionS'more (vanilla ice cream with graham cracker, chocolate pieces, and marshmallow swirl)

Seasonal Flavors: Watermelon sorbet, Coconut Chip ice cream, Black Raspberry frozen yogurt

Hours: The viewing lobby is open from 7:30am-4:30pm daily

More Info:
tel. 814/865-9513; http://creamery.psu.edu/tour

Photo Caption: The assembly line at Penn State University Berkey Creamery in State College, Pennsylvania.
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Turkey Hill Experience, Lancaster PA. Photo by Courtesy of Turkey Hill
Where: Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

The Details: This museum and creamery, which opened in June 2011, is housed in a former silk mill in Columbia, a borough in Lancaster County.

Highlights: The creamery is free and open to the public; the interactive tour explains the history of Turkey Hill ice cream, iced tea, and the company's dairy operations. Nine interactive exhibits allow guests to milk a mechanical cow, design a ice cream flavor, and more.

Tour Info: Self-guided tours are available every day (10am-9pm through Labor Day)

Favorite Flavors: Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Mint Chip, Butter Pecan

New/Seasonal Flavors: Muddy Sneakers (white chocolate ice cream with caramel, chocolate and peanut butter candies in swirls of caramel); Lancaster County whoopie pie (chocolate ice cream with whoopie pie pieces and a creamy filling swirl)

Admission: $11.50 adults; $9.50 seniors and children (ages 5-17)

More Info: tel. 888/9TOURTH; www.turkeyhillexperience.com

Photo Caption: Inside the Turkey Hill Experience in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
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Velvet Ice Cream in Utica, Ohio. Photo by Courtesy of Velvet Ice Cream
Where: Utica, Ohio

The Details: Many of the recipes at the family-run Velvet Ice Cream company date back to 1914.

Highlights: Watch one of 50 flavors in production and order a sundae at its old-fashioned ice cream parlor. The grounds encompass more than 20 acres and include a visitors' center, a petting zoo, a children's playground, a nature trail, a catch-and-release pond, and grounds for picnics.

Tour Info: Hourly from 11am-3pm weekdays through Oct. 31

Favorite Flavors: Velvet's number-one flavor is Buckeye Classic -- a peanut butter ice cream with a thick fudge swirl and mini-Buckeye candies (peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate)

New/Seasonal flavors: Honey Caramel (honey ice cream with honey-infused caramel swirls)

Admission: Free; reservations are required for groups larger than 14

More Info: tel. 800/589-5000; www.velveticecream.com

Photo Caption: Velvet Ice Cream in Utica, Ohio.
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Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham, Texas. Photo by Courtesy of Blue Bell Creameries
Where: Brenham, Texas; tours are also given at the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Sylacauga, Alabama, locations.

The Details: The company started in 1907 as a butter-making operation and began making ice cream in 1911. Situated 70 miles northwest of Houston, Blue Bell has devoted fans -- its ice cream is the third best-selling brand in the U.S. but is only available in 20 states.

Highlights: On the 45-minute guided tour, you'll see how this hand-cranked ice cream is made, watch a short video, and then receive a very generous scoop.

Tour Schedule: Summer tours run every 30 minutes (9am-3pm Mondays-Fridays)

Favorite Flavors: Homemade Vanilla, Krazy Kookie Dough, Cotton Candy, Cookies 'n Cream

New Flavors: Coconut Fudge, Dessert Trio (vanilla ice cream with a rich chocolate swirl and pieces of pecan brownie, chocolate chip cookies, and chocolate cake)

Admission:
$5 adults; $3 senior citizens and children (ages 6-14)

Reservations: Visitors are accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis but you can reserve online for its Brenham location. Sorry, no group reservations are accepted from June through August.

More Info: tel. 800/327-8135; www.bluebell.com

Photo Caption: Blue Bell Creamery in Brenham, Texas.
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Homeland Creamery in Julian, North Carolina. Photo by Courtesy of Homeland Creamery
Where: Julian, North Carolina

The Details: Visit this sixth-generation family farm, which dates back to the 1930s. The pasture-raised cows are not given any hormones, which results in rich flavors and creamy textures for its ice cream. The farm also produces and sells milk (whole, skim, butter, and chocolate).

Highlights:
The tour starts with a 20-minute hayride to see the farm, where you'll view bottle-fed baby calves and learn how milk is produced. At the end of the tour, you receive a free six-ounce cup of ice cream. Want more? Buy a pint, a half-gallon or 2½-gallon dipping tub right on the premises.

Tour Info: 10am Mondays-Fridays (March-November); Creamery store open 9am-9pm Mondays-Saturdays, 1pm-6pm Sundays

Favorite Flavors:
Butter Pecan, Chocolate

Seasonal Flavors: Blueberry, Cake Batter (a creamy vanilla-based ice cream that tastes like pound cake)

Admission:
$6 per person ages 2 and up; reservations are required

More Info: tel. 336/617-5618; www.homelandcreamery.com

Photo Caption: Homeland Creamery in Julian, North Carolina.
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Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor and Museum in Le Mar, Iowa. Photo by Courtesy Wells Enterprises
Where: Le Mars, Iowa

The Details:
Started in 1913, Blue Bunny is a Midwestern favorite and the largest family-owned ice cream manufacturer in the U.S. (available nationwide).

Highlights: You can't tour the facility, but you can visit the brand-new museum and ice cream parlor in downtown Le Mars -- declared the "ice cream capital of the world." In addition to a salvaged marble ice cream bar and a grand staircase, the space is home to historical photos and interactive kiosks. Outdoor seating is also available.

Admission: Free; 9am-10pm Mondays-Saturdays; noon-10pm Sundays

Favorite Flavors: Bunny Tracks (vanilla ice cream with a peanut butter caramel swirl, chocolate-covered peanuts, and peanut butter-filled chocolate bunnies)

More Info: tel. 712/546-4522; www.wellsenterprisesinc.com

Photo Caption: Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor and Museum in Le Mars, Iowa.
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