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.


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]

Video: Call Me Maybe, Says Austria, In Style

In a parody of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” YouTube video, the Austrian Tourism Board is front and center with their rendition. The video was actually filmed in New York City as part of the Austria Dirndl Temptation campaign.

Have no clue what that means? Dirndl is a type of traditional dress worn in Austria based on the historical costume of Alpine peasants. Lederhosen are pants, either short or knee-length. Both are still quite popular today in Austria, and are worn at weddings, festivals and even in daily life in the Lake District, a resort area also called the Salzkammergut.

Since June, a group of Dirndl and Lederhosen ambassadors chosen by the Austria Tourist office have been going on outings all around NYC in traditional costume. As they interact with New Yorkers, they spread the word about Austria.

Like what you see? Follow Austria on a discovery tour of all things Dirndl-related, and if, along the way, you like them on Facebook, you’ll get the chance to win a trip for two to the heart of Dirndl-country along with your own Dirndl and Lederhosen.

The World’s Most Recommended Country To Visit

most recommended countryThe world’s most recommended country to visit is Canada, says a study measuring public perceptions of countries around the world. The ranking is a component of the best overall country reputation that also considers employment, living conditions, investment potential and more.

Beating out Australia, Sweden and Switzerland for the second year in a row for the number one spot, Canada is one of 50 nations that will directly contribute to the $2 trillion tourism industry in 2012.

The annual RepTrak study was conducted by the Reputation Institute, a consultancy that measures the trust, esteem, admiration and good feelings the public holds towards 50 countries, by polling an online panel of 36,000 people representing the G8 countries.

“Beyond maintaining its top position, Canada has also improved its score by more than three points. Normally we don’t see such a large increase in a score from a top 10 country but Canada now stands head and shoulders above the other leading countries,” said Nicolas Georges Trad, Executive Partner, Reputation Institute in a statement.

Rounding out the top ten countries with the best reputations were Norway, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands, all known for their stability, solid democracies, high GDP and strong social infrastructures.

The United States came in at number 23 but the study concluded that with a strong 5-10 point increase in the last four years, the reputation of the USA is trending towards more positive perceptions.

[Flickr photo by beaumontpete]

Austria Opens Its First Yodel Hiking Trail

austria When people think of Austria, one thing that often comes to mind is the musical style of yodeling that was developed in the Alps. The country is proud of their melodious heritage, and is helping active travelers experience it outside of the theater with their first ever Yodel Hiking Trail.

Recently opened by Castello Hotel and Restaurant owner Christian Eder, the trail sits high above Austria’s Zillertal Valley. According to BBC, it is “dedicated to the art of the yodel – the ancient form of alpine communication that is so deeply entwined with Austrian folk music.”

From the village of Königsleiten, a serene area often said to be a muse for aspiring yodellers, trekkers walk a short distance to a cable car that transports travellers to the top of Königsleitenspitze mountain. This is where the 4-mile Yodel Hiking Trail begins. Starting at 7,464 feet in elevation, the path descends at moderate intensity. Along the way, there are five stations offering yodeling lessons. Each station has something unique to offer. For example, station two is a hut shaped like a cowbell that features musical cowbells inside. On the other hand, station three has what is thought to be Austria’s largest alpine horn, the original medium of communication between mountain dwellers. Additionally, at many of the stations hikers can listen to clips of Austria’s best yodellers and try to mimic the sound.

The Yodel Hiking Trail can be completed independently or with a guide.

[Image via Shutterstock]

Chinese Architects Pose As Tourists In Attempt To Steal Plans For Austrian City

austria It’s not uncommon for different cultures to influence each other and even borrow ideas. However, China is taking this to the next level by literally transforming the industrial city of Huizhou into a replica of Hallstatt in Austria.

According to the Daily Mail, the plan, which will cost over $7 billion, was found out about when blueprints were left behind at a Hallstatt hotel. Apparently, the Chinese had been visiting the city for three years, getting the necessary information to recreate the buildings and environment – even including an artificial lake to match.

So, how do locals of Hallstatt feel about China’s plan? Most are pretty proud, actually.

Says Ingrid Janu, the owner of a souvenir store in Hallstatt, “We’re happy they find it beautiful enough to copy.”

However, there are those who are upset over the sneaky approach used by the Chinese.

“I don’t like the idea of knowing that a team was present here for years measuring, and photographing and studying us,” comments Monika Wenger, a hotel owner.

You have to admit, she does have a point.

What’s your opinion?

[Image via pipimaru]