I have to congratulate the good people at PEZ for their excellent signage. I had no intention of spending any time or money on candy, but when we spotted signs for the PEZ Visitors’ Center in Orange, Connecticut, we thought it was worth a closer look. I was driving from New Haven to New York with my mother and baby daughter (neither of which is currently a big candy connoisseur, but we all loved it), and a few minutes from following the signs off I-95, we were in front of several giant packages of PEZ candy.
For a few bucks each ($5 for adults, including $2 in store credit), we were soon immersed in all things PEZ. Invented in the 1920s in Austria, PEZ was originally intended as a smoking substitute and the first dispenser was created to look like a cigarette lighter, without the “head” now so integral to the PEZ experience. Introduced to the US market in the 1950s, the US factory has been located in Connecticut since 1974. The Visitors’ Center is a combination museum and store, with windows onto the factory floor, and filled with interactive exhibits and videos about the PEZ-making process and history.The real fun, of course, is selecting your own PEZ candy to take home. You can choose from dozens of favorite characters from Harry Potter to Winnie the Pooh, as well as visitor center exclusives, like a reproduction of the original dispensers. You can also design your own dispenser and select your favorite flavors (they now have chocolate PEZ but peppermint is a thing of the past) to fill it, provided you are partial to stickers and markers for personalizing. As a traveler, I would have liked to see more of the foreign PEZ containers to take home, but there is a large variety on display, and it just may inspire me to visit the world headquarters in Austria, or the dispenser factory in Hungary.
Get your sugar high at the PEZ Visitors’ Center and Factory in Orange, Connecticut.
[Photo credit: Meg Nesterov]