Turkey Hill chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Those words evoke memories of my teenage years, before froyo was a “thing,” back when I could eat a giant bowl of ice cream every day and not gain an ounce, when dairy didn’t disagree with me, when family birthday parties meant homemade cake and at least three tubs of different Turkey Hill ice cream flavors. And Turkey Hill’s chocolate peanut butter was the best there could be. The lightest, creamiest chocolate. Thick swirls of cold hardened actual peanut butter that had just a bit of crunch before melting in your mouth. Yes, those were good memories.
I realized when we moved to Rhode Island that Turkey Hill must have been produced somewhere in the NJ/PA area because its ubiquitousness down there was replaced by Hood, Ben & Jerry’s, and other New England dairies up here. When I was planning our recent trip to Lancaster, I discovered that Turkey Hill was located just 30 minutes from PA Dutch Country and I knew we just had to put a visit to the Turkey Hill Experience on our itinerary. Obviously the little one is a big fan of ice cream factory tours since she made a special request to stop at Ben & Jerry’s on the way home from Montreal last summer.
But don’t get confused, the Turkey Hill Experience is not an ice cream factory tour. In fact, it is located in an old silk mill, not a dairy at all. But the building has character and the Experience offers so much more than a factory tour.
There are a couple of ways to do the Turkey Hill Experience. The standard experience covers plenty of ground including samples galore and the ability to create your own virtual flavor, packaging and commercial. For $9.95 for adults, $7.95 for juniors ages 5-17 and free for kids under 5, the Experience takes about 60-90 minutes to get to do it all. I was skeptical that it would really have that much to offer, so we tried to squeeze it in at the end of a long day in PA Dutch Country. But I was wrong and we had to zoom through to fit it into an hour visit. The other option is to add the Taste Lab for an additional $4.55 per person, which lets you bring your virtual flavor to life with a hands on experience mixing flavors and add ins to create the ideal flavor profile. If you want to do the Taste Lab, be sure to plan ahead and make a reservation because seating is limited and the last Taste Lab of the day starts at 4:15pm.
On our visit we arrived a little after 4pm and couldn’t get into the Taste Lab, but we still had plenty to do. We started out with samples…why not, that was the main reason we were there right? After swigging down some Turkey Hill Lemonade and Peach Tea, we sauntered over to the ice cream counter to take our time making our selections. I couldn’t resist and had to taste just a little. Can you guess what flavor I chose? After hanging out on the “porch” in some rocking chairs, we moseyed over into the exhibits. We skipped the play area for the little, little kids with a ball pit, slide and old fashioned truck, and went right into learning about how ice cream is made from a short film (narrated by the cows.)
We then we moved onto the main attraction. We pulled out our tickets with a unique Create Your Own (CYO) code for building your own flavor. First stop, a modern scratch and sniff — more of a press and sniff. By pressing down on a scent stamp you get an olfactory preview of the flavors you have to work with.
Next step, create your virtual flavor. Using the touch screens you enter your code and contact information, then get mixing. You can choose to start with a chocolate or vanilla base, then add fruit and other add ins to create the combination of your imagination and give your masterpiece a name. My little one named hers Mango Chocolate Delight.
After you create your flavor you move on to packaging. Using the touchscreen to select a background, choose a font, and drag and drop sticker style decorations, you don’t need to have any design skills to create a unique package for your ice cream.
Then comes the final stage, stepping through the blast freezer to film and edit your own commercial. Standing in front of a green screen, you can choose what type of commercial you want to do (my daughter picked the in the field interview…with a cow). You can follow the teleprompter or create your own script, then head over to the editing station to add music and produce your final commercial. At each stop along the way, you can have your creations emailed to you or post them on Facebook.
It was a great experience and well worth a visit if you are in Central PA visiting Lancaster, Hershey or Gettysburg — or even if you live in driving distance and feel like taking a day trip. We had only a few regrets: we didn’t get there in time for the Taste Lab, we were too full for more samples, and we ran out of time to hit the gift shop because a certain grandmother has a thing for cows.
The Turkey Hill Experience gets two thumbs up from this family! What about yours?
Thank you to the PA Dutch Country Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and Turkey Hill for sponsoring our visit. The tickets were on them but the opinions are all our own!