Roadside America: PEZ Visitors’ Center, Orange, Connecticut

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.

%Gallery-168412%

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]

Road Trip Idea: East Coast Ice Cream Trails

The bourbon trail draws crowds of whiskey swillers to Kentucky, but further north several states have introduced treks that appeal to trailblazers of all tastes (and ages). These pilgrimages center around America’s favorite dessert: ice cream. If you’re visiting or passing through one of these areas this summer, be sure to pull over at a roadside farm to enjoy a scoop or two.

Maryland Ice Cream Trail: Announced last week, the Maryland Ice Cream Trail includes seven creameries throughout the state that create frozen delights on site. To promote area dairy farms and the states official beverage, milk, Maryland’s Department of Agriculture put together an ice cream passport that can be stamped at each location. Those who collect all the stamps by Labor Day can submit it to the department to be entered in to a drawing to win – you guessed it – more ice cream.

Connecticut’s Sundae Drives: In Connecticut, map out your own tasty trail with the help of the Sundae Drives brochure, which has more than 60 picks for ice cream. From soft serve to sorbet, this is one state that will satisfy your frozen cravings (and they’ve got beer ice cream and soy ice cream, too).

New Hampshire’s Ice Cream Trail: Finally, New Hampshire has an Ice Cream Trail featuring 32 creameries. Pick a classic like mint chip churned up at Bishop’s Homemade, or try something a little more adventurous like ginger ice cream or Dinosaur Crunch (vanilla ice cream dyed blue and served with chocolate and brownie chunks) at Arnie’s Place.

[Photo by TheCulinaryGeek, Flickr]

Woman Involved in Hit-and-Run Escapes So Ice Cream Won't Melt

Gawker’s Worst 50 States

I’ve been following Gawker’s newest series, The Worst 50 States. I’ve been enjoying following this series. In an effort to pin down not only the best states in the US of A, but, more importantly, the worst states, Gawker compiled a Gawker-invented rating system in order to rank our fair fifty. Granted, this rating system consists solely of the viewpoints of those on staff for Gawker, so the viewpoints are just about as biased as you would deem Gawker (Which might be not at all according to you!), but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Yes, they’re focusing on the bad more than the good, those damn pessimists, but all in all, fact or fiction, the commentary on the 50 states is makes me laugh. And, I’ll just throw this in there, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and much of every summary they make rings true to me. They’re not done wrapping up the states yet, but check out their analysis of most of the states here.

If you’re inflamed, saddened, or curling over with laughter after reading what’s so bad about your home state, come back here and tell us in the comments how Gawker made you feel.

Study Ranks States By Individual Freedom

The 5 ugliest states in the country

ugliest statesThey say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. San Francisco Examiner writer and occasional Gadling contributor Bob Ecker doesn’t behold much, at least for a few unlucky states. Ecker previously named the prettiest US states including coastal California, exotic Hawaii, diverse New York, historic Virginia, and verdant Washington. He’s now determined the unfortunate ugliest states, measured by landscape, not people:

  • Connecticut: the Constitution State is called a “suburban hell”
  • Delaware: small and boring
  • Kansas: land-locked and a “throwback,” in a bad way
  • Nevada: outside of Las Vegas, it’s a “desolate and forbidding wasteland” (what about Lake Tahoe, Bob?)
  • Oklahoma: another flat, hot, and boring state (don’t tell Lonely Planet’s Robert Reid, an OK native)

Obviously the article is tongue in cheek — there are beautiful corners in every great state in this country — but Ecker’s skewering provides a good starting point for thinking about vacation destinations. Do these places deserve to be called ugly? What do you think the ugliest states are?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Gage Skidmore

Connecticut Beer Trail holds second official “Bikes and Beers” tour in Granby July 31st

connecticut beerFar be it from the People to not abide by the Constitution. On July 31st, Granby is holding its second “Bikes & Beers” tour along the Connecticut Beer Trail (it’s the Constitution State, FYI. Yeah, I didn’t know, either).

Connecticut seems obsessed with food and drink-themed pathways: there’s the new Hot Dog Trail, the Ice cream and Sundae Drive (cute), and the Wine Trail. Why the fixation? Who cares? It’s a cool idea, especially when partnered with pedaling.

Bikes & Beers is a collaboration with Connecticut’s Pedal Power bike shops. Riders will get to enjoy beautiful views along the 17.2-mile loop, as well as some cold ones at the Cambridge House Brew Pub, an award-winning producer of craft beer. It’s just one of 10 craft breweries featured on the Beer Trail, a social media organization dedicated to promoting local breweries, the craft beer community, and related tourism (how cool is that?) statewide.

Better look out, West Coast and Colorado–Connecticut’s craft brewers are gaining on you.

The Connecticut Beer Trail and Pedal Power are planning future rides; click here or go to Pedal Power’s site for updates.

[Photo credit: Flickr user roboppy]


The Right Way to Pour and Taste a Beer