When you see the words “deal” and “ice cream” in the same email, you’re going to do more than just scan and trash it. I am, anyway. So, when I received a message in my inbox from Certifikid a few months ago about a deal for the Turkey Hill Ice Cream Experience, that finger that was grazing the delete button made a fast detour to the mouse, so I could click through and find out more.
Upon checking out the deal, I learned that the Turkey Hill Experience was a new, interactive museum created by the folks from Turkey Hill (of the ice cream brand) located in Columbia, PA. It sounded fun, and we had a free day the coming weekend, so I asked a friend if her family was interested in meeting us there, and her enthusiastic reply sealed the ice cream deal for us.
Just over four months later, Certifikid is offering a Turkey Hill Experience deal again: $6 for NEW Turkey Hill Experience Admission (2017 Update: It’s now $7). That’s actually $2 less than I paid per admission. (But seeing it reminded me that I had yet to post about our family’s visit there, hence the belated scoop on our Experience.)
We headed up there on a Sunday, the drive from DC about an hour and 45 minutes. I thought it would also be fun to visit the Lancaster Central Market, the oldest continuously operated farmers market in the U.S., while we were up that way. But when I looked up the hours the evening before, I was disappointed to learn it is closed on Sundays.
Arriving at Turkey Hill, a large brick building that was an old silk factory, the kids’ excitement was piqued by a giant cow and ice cream container next to the entrance. Once inside, we exchanged our deal vouchers for tickets and headed up a flight of stair to begin our Experience.
Those stairs take you to a landing where a couple of exhibits — large blown-up photos of the Turkey Hill founders and family — offer a history of the company. But the real Experience starts once you venture through a set of double doors. It essentially takes you through the production of ice cream with a variety of interactive installments that either explain a concept of or simulate a step in the creamery process. (It should be noted this is not a tour of an actual creamery, but a kids museum that explains what happens in one.)
It all starts with a cow milking station, where three large mechanical cows are not just on display to look at, but ready to be milked. Equipped with “udders” that can be squeezed and pulled to produce “milk” (it’s actually water), the cows all have small stools next to them where guests can perch themselves and pretend to draw milk from the fake bovines.
The tour continues with more stations that similarly explain the ice cream making process through fun, hands-on activities that appeal to kids. The Clean Up shows how milk is pasteurized through a game where you can blast away unwanted stuff. In the Mix & Match station, you can stamp cards with scents to see, or make that sniff, which flavors blend well. Mix Blending describes how all the ingredients come together to make ice cream.
Oh, and I have to mention that there are samples, digital interactives, a milk truck to climb aboard, even a couple of slides and a ball pit, where kids can play and channel some energy and excitement, along the way.
And there are even more stations. The Flavor Frenzy kept the kids busy for awhile. It included empty containers of flavoring that they pretended to pour into mixers to create ice cream blends.
There was a packaging area where, with adult help, they could create a design and name for an ice cream blend. A small room with fans blowing cold air demonstrated the freezing process. And a popular part of the tour was the on-air area where guests can make their own commercial.
The whole tour took about an hour and kept the kids engaged the entire time. We did keep them moving at a fairly moderate pace, so it could take even longer if you wanted to spend more time.
After the tour we had lunch at the cafe located on the ground floor that offers sandwiches, salads, and, of course, ice cream. It was fine, but if we had to do it again, I’d probably try to find a restaurant in town to grab a bite to eat. Or I’d plan to go on a day when we could visit the Lancaster Central Market and have lunch there instead.
So, all in all, I do recommend the Turkey Hill Experience if you’re up for the drive and a day trip. However, I would definitely try to combine it with another activity up that way, whether you visit the Market, explore Amish country, visit a museum, or tour the canning and pretzel factories in Intercourse (which isn’t too far from Blue Ball… ha ha, you gotta love the names of the towns up there).
And with my Beavis and Butt-head moment out of the way, here’s what you should know if you plan to go:
* Admission is $11.50/adults, $9.50 ages 5-17 and seniors, free for children 4 and under.
* For the last few days of December , it’s open 10am-4pm Monday – Thursday, and 10am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday. In January and February, it’ll be open daily 11am – 4pm. Beyond that, see the website for hours.
* Certifikid currently has a deal for $6 tickets.
* The Turkey Hill facility is stroller-friendly, with elevators to take you to all levels.
* Ice cream and tea samples will be available along the way, but not extraordinary amounts.
* The whole experience is a bit of a marketing ploy, but it’s a fun, educational, and tasty one.
* Definitely plan for another activity while you are in that area to make the drive worth it.
* As with most venues offering kids activities, crowds are probably smaller on weekdays, but we found it wasn’t too bad on the Sunday we visited.