Grave of "This is Nuts."
Grave of "This is Nuts," designated a National Historic Landmark by some federal chubby guys.

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour and Flavor Graveyard

Field review by the editors.

Waterbury, Vermont

Ice cream, the munchies, hippies. Where else could a place like Ben & Jerry's be except in Vermont?

The Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory is one of the few tourist attractions in Vermont that stays open after 5 pm, and for that we are grateful. It is chunk-packed with visitors when we arrive at 6:30 and it has much to offer: a tour, a gift shop stacked high with everything from tie-dye t-shirts to moose-turd chocolate patties, the "Flavor Graveyard" (more about that in a minute), even satellite attractions set up in tents along the sidewalk: one offering temporary tattoos, another extolling the virtues of composting. A giant Chocolate Chip Cookie ice cream flavor lid on its side, with Ben & Jerry head holes, beckons as a disturbing photo op. You be the counter-culture entrepreneur!

Factory.

The tour begins with a video in the "Cow Over The Moon Theater," which tells the story of Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield: how they met in 7th grade gym class, took a $5 dollar correspondence course about ice-cream making, renovated an old gas station in Burlington for their first store and, most importantly, sold stock to Vermonters in 1984 to pay for their factory. Eventually one in every 100 Vermont families owned shares, ensuring that the ice cream factory would remain a popular vacation stop for decades to come.

Samples.

The tour itself is brief, giving visitors an elevated view of the factory floor and ending with a "taste test" of samples from whatever ice cream flavors the plant produced that day. Along the way they are bombarded with an odd mix of Ben & Jerry's manufacturing statistics and hippie propaganda:

The plant churns out 110 pints a minute, 190,000 pints a day; all of the milk and cream comes from Vermont family farm cows with no rBGH growth hormones; the Spiral Hardener conveyor chills every pint for two hours at -40 degrees (-70 with the wind chill); the ice cream is packed in unbleached paperboard containers to spare the environment from "nasty toxic dioxins;" and each Ben & Jerry's employee gets three pints of free ice cream a day.

Three pints a day? Older tour members swiftly calculate how such a perk might have changed their own pitiful lives; kids are ready to cut grade school and run away to the Spiral Hardener. But those crazy thoughts pass by the time every one reaches the Tasting Room -- free samples are dispensed in little paper dispensers. The crowd is satiated. After all, how much ice cream can one person eat?

Flavor Graveyard.

The most playfully gruesome aspect of the factory is its Flavor Graveyard, on a hill in back of the plant, beyond the bulk milk tanks.

The Graveyard exists because of Ben & Jerry's never-ending experimentation with odd ice cream flavors; some are just too odd for their own good. Each year eight to twelve -- those with the lowest sales -- are "killed" and become candidates for this fatland Boot Hill. The company has eliminated over 200 flavors, but the Graveyard hosts 27 graves so far, perhaps enough to get the point across.

It is a tranquil place,surrounded by a plastic white picket fence, and people walk among the fake tombstone placards in quiet reverence. Some look for some past favorite flavor that faltered in the mass market.

Grave of Devil's Food Chocolate.

Over here is interred Peanut Butter & Jelly (1998-1999). Over there lies Miz Jelena's Sweet Potato Pie (1992-1993). We can only hazard poor guesses about what went awry for Bovinity Divinity(1998-2001). And way over yonder is Coffee! Coffee! Buzz Buzz Buzz (1996-1999), a casualty that, in hindsight, should have been ample warning preceding the dot.com meltdown. The gravestones feature illustrated lids for each fallen flavor, a scoop and cone ascending on little angel wings.

Why is an ice cream company so popular in a state as frigid as Vermont?

Sure, it keeps 40,000 Vermont dairy cows employed, but Vermonters don't just support the industry of ice cream. They LOVE ice cream. Does the product make them reassuringly cold? Does it have any correlation to the astonishing number of pregnant women that one sees up here?

Another marker that should be added adjacent to Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard: a mass burial pit, to remember B&J shareowners. The company was scooped up by a giant corporation and is no longer publicly traded.

Also see: Ben & Jerry's First Store plaque

Ben & Jerry's Factory Tour and Flavor Graveyard

Address:
Rte 100, Waterbury, VT
Directions:
I-89 exit 10, north on Hwy 100 about 1 mile.
Hours:
Daily, 9 am - 9 pm summer, 10 am - 6 pm otherwise. (Call to verify)
Phone:
802-882-1240
Admission:
Adults $3, Kids 12 and under free.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

More Quirky Attractions in Vermont

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Vermont.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

July 29, 2014

My Sights

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Vermont Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, Louisiana (Jul 28-Aug 3, 2014)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, Waterbury, Vermont

Nightly rates found:

Book Online Now