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The Turkey Hill Experience

Destination: Lancaster, PA

All the ice cream you can eat? All the iced tea and lemonade you can drink? What kind of fantasy is this?

It’s called the Turkey Hill Experience.

Though far more known on the East Coast, the name “Turkey Hill” has gradually become known as a national brand. Thanks to the Turkey Hill Experience, more and more people are learning about it.

The Experience is exactly that—an interactive, walk through place that is part education, part marketing, and pure fun. They make no bones about the fact that it is blatantly about the Turkey Hill brand, which is completely acceptable as they put unlimited ice cream samples in your view.

It helps that they have created a theme that runs through the rooms, moving you from one interactive experience to another as you first create your own virtual ice cream flavor, then develop the packaging, and finally create a commercial to sell it. The whole thing is then available for you to download from your own email address with the code provided on your ticket.

Along the way, you can walk inside a giant tea bottle to learn the history of tea. Or step into the over-sized ice cream container to see a video about how ice cream is made. You can even walk into a model blast freezer or sit in one of their original delivery trucks.

Turkey Hill Dairy began in 1931. As the brand grew, people wanted to know about its history and how it creates its products. Turkey Hill was not able to accommodate tours in its plant, so it opened the Experience to give people a sense of how it works. Additionally, the Experience is more explanatory and interactive than a plant tour. It’s become a tourism destination, as well as a place for locals to take their children and grandchildren for a few hours of fun. Now hundreds of people each day go through the renovated factory building, part of an urban renewal for the town of Columbia, PA. The Turkey Hill Experience features 26,000 square feet of interactive exhibits located in the restored former Ashley & Bailey Silk Mill.

“It’s magical,” says one of their attendants. And it’s true—they’ve done a great job of making the Experience feel like a fantasy with a lot of education added in. You can learn why cows chew their cud and how a cow’s digestive system works. You can learn the various breeds of dairy cattle, and what they eat. Did you know that cows have 32 teeth and eat a hundred pounds of food a day? There are “fun facts,” like a listing of “Famous Cows of the World,” plus displays about nutrition and milk safety. You’ll even learn why the dairy began including iced tea in its product line.

The real fun comes in creating your own flavor, with the ability to choose virtual ingredients such as sea salt, guacamole, or even ketchup. The truly adventurous may add in a dose of pickle chips, cheese curls, or chocolate covered grasshoppers. Sure, you can stick to vanilla—still the Dairy’s most popular selling flavor—but this is your chance to make cake icing ice cream. You’ve gotta give it a try!

When you find yourself in Lancaster County, PA, take a little time to check out the usual tourism attractions, then head to Columbia and fill up on a little bit of new knowledge.

And all the ice cream you care to eat.