The new Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia, Pennsylvania is a place where you and your family can spend a day learning about how ice cream is made and trying free samples of both ice cream and Turkey Hill iced tea drinks.
Open since June, this facility is a cross between a factory tour and a children’s museum. For interested foodies there is plenty of information about the process of making Turkey Hill ice cream and the products that go into it. For rambunctious kids looking for fun, there is a ball pit, slides and plenty of interactive experiences.
Tickets to the Turkey Hill Experience are $11.50 for adults and $9.50 for kids ages 5 and up. Children aged 4 and under are free. The self guided tour of the facility took our group of two moms and 4 kids ages five to ten about two hours. There is no timed entry or exit from the facility.
Upon entry to the second floor the first thing our kids raced to do was to “milk” the mechanical cows. Three life size cows are set up among the “pasture” of Lancaster County, PA with milking buckets and stools for young farmers to get to work. Instructions nearby help out first timers but the “cows” were very cooperative and had a seemingly endless supply of milk on hand.
Next up was the Turkey Hill Iced Tea room. Here large screen computers are set up for you to take a “Tea Personality” quiz to see which Turkey Hill beverage is best suited for your lifestyle. You can then sample that tea and others. For kids they had samples of lemonade, limeade and fruit punch to try.
Once you hit the ice cream area everyone is given a Turkey Hill factory hat to wear. Here you can watch a brief movie about the process of making ice cream, engage in interactive games, try free samples (with no signed limit) and get in line for “Create Your Own.” This line was LONG and a little misleading. What you are creating is your own ice cream “concept” though this was not clearly stated.
Our group waited for close to an hour in line for a chance to create our virtual flavor. Many people in line around us thought that the line was to create an ice cream flavor that you would actually get a chance to eat…not so. This is the backbone experience here at Turkey Hill, and while my kids did have fun creating the flavor on the touch screen computers, they didn’t think the waiting was so fun. Once you make your flavor though, you can create packaging for it at another station and then star in your own TV commercial about your flavor which was a hit for the older kids in our group.
Since our crew included two adults we were able to switch off between waiting in the line and supervising the kids in all of the other fun activities to do around the room. There is the ball pit, the two slides which represent when ingredients are swirled into the ice cream, and the smelling station where you can stamp the scents of different flavor combinations onto a card. You can also hit the free sample station while waiting in line with four flavors to choose from.
Moving past this area to the mixing and packaging section was another favorite spot for our group. Here large tubs labeled with ice cream flavor mix-ins such as coffee, blueberries etc. are stacked on shelving. Nearby is a virtual mixing station with a screen that looks like ice cream base rushing by. Seemingly by magic, when the kids pretend to dump the flavoring in, the base changes color according to the ingredient.
This was fascinating to my 5 and 6 year olds! For the older kids you can race a virtual timer to fill ice cream cartons of various sizes and to get the correct proportions of ingredients in batches of ice cream. One final hit was the freezer area where kids and adults can step inside the “cold room” to feel the temperature that the ice cream needs to be stored at to keep solid.
If all of this fun has left you hungry for more ice cream or lunch, the Turkey Hill Experience has a creamery and cafe downstairs. Here kids’ meals like grilled cheese, hot dogs and quesadillas are available for $3.95 including a side and a Turkey Hill beverage. Soups, salads and sandwiches are sold for $4 to $9. There is also a gift shop if you want to take home a souvenir other than the belly ache from eating too much ice cream!
The Turkey Hill Experience is open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Doors open at 10am and remain open to 9pm in summer, 8pm year round on weekends and 7pm on weekdays after Labor Day. Free parking is available on site.
Find a good day for a road trip and drive the 107 miles from Washington DC for some ice cream creating, tasting and fun!