UPDATE 1/12/16: This post was written in 2013, and while it should still give you a great overview of the outing experience, it is possible that it may also contain some outdated information. Please be sure to visit the PEZ Visitor Center’s website before you go, especially to confirm specifics like hours & pricing.
Before I start this post, let me warn you that if you don’t like sugar, you are probably not going to like this outing 🙂 That’s because today I am going to tell you all about the sweetest spot in our state: The PEZ Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut.
Despite my insatiable sweet tooth, I had no idea that there was a PEZ manufacturing factory–let alone a PEZ museum–located in Connecticut. I first heard about it when I read this post from our friend and fellow blogger Jodie Sadowsky from Love Them Madly. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that I wasn’t even sure if this outing would be age-appropriate for Boo, but I didn’t care– I had to see this place! Luckily, The PEZ Visitor Center turned out to be a sweet treat for candy lovers of all ages 🙂
In case you’re feeling as stunned as I was to have never heard of this place, it only recently opened in December of 2011 (the Visitor Center, that is; the factory has been around since the 70’s). So that’s a pretty good excuse 🙂
It’s very conveniently located just off I-95 (exit 41) in Orange, CT, and there’s plenty of signage to help you navigate right there. There’s also plenty of parking.
We also noticed some cheerful picnic tables outside. The Visitor Center doesn’t serve any actual food (unless you count PEZ and vending machine snacks), but they do encourage people to bring their own picnic. There’s also a loft dining area inside (more on that later).
We decided to visit on CT Open House Day, when tons of destinations across the state were offering free or reduced admission, so we didn’t pay a dime to enter. (Normally, the entrance fee for adults is $5/person–kids under 3 are FREE, kids 3-12 are $4/each–but that includes a $2 credit to the PEZ store inside. And if you think you are going to bring your little one in here and get out without buying some PEZ paraphernalia, well, I’ve got some lovely oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you!)
Not only is this place teeming with the sugary stuff, but it’s chock full of eye candy too. You’ll realize that the moment you walk in and see this above your head:
There are things to look at from floor to ceiling–literally!
The inside is clean, bright, cheerful, and just generally the way I would imagine it would be if you were magically transported into a Candy Land game (and by that I mean the board game, in case I’m showing my age here).
To the left there’s a wall devoted to the surprisingly fascinating history of PEZ candy, which dates back to 1920’s Austria.
In addition to recounting the history of PEZ candy, this display simultaneously offers a peek at pop culture decade by decade. And with lots of sliding doors, spinning wheels, and buttons to push, it was even fun for Boo to explore.
Okay, fess up. Who else recognizes these classic toys from my youth?
Exploring the PEZ Visitor Center is pretty much a self-guided tour, so we moved on to the next bit of visual stimulation: cases and cases of PEZ dispensers, from the historical to the modern. There are tons, and, at the risk of letting my inner geek show, they were really, really cool.
This display was particularly popular with my almost 3-year-old auto fanatic:
Next it was time to test our mettle at the PEZ Trivia Game. Warning: your little one may or may not be able to participate in this activity, but you will find it absurdly addictive.
Basically, you pick a level, and then you are asked to identify the character of the PEZ dispenser on the screen. Good thing Boo’s Nana was visiting that day and could keep an eye on him while hubby and I played more times than I care to admit 🙂
At the end of the game, you can print a (free) certificate showing how many you got right (pick it up at the checkout counter up front). Just so he didn’t feel left out, we decided to print the certificate for Boo. He did get one or two right on his own 🙂
If you visit during the week, you can actually see the PEZ-making in action through this giant picture window.
However, we were able to see them operate a vintage PEZ machine–a treat I suspect was planned especially for Open House Day, but I could be wrong.
At some point, Nana disappeared and reappeared with a shiny new Thomas the Train PEZ dispenser for Boo. It took him a few tries to figure out how to get the candies out, but once he got it, he was one happy camper.
We headed over to the first floor sitting area to let Boo have a little PEZ break. There are some vending machines over here if you’re looking for a different kind of snack.
While hubby, Nana, and Boo hung out over here, I went in search of the restrooms. Of course, I ended up in the loft dining area instead (turns out the restrooms are just inside the front door). There are lots of tables up here, plus more vending machines and some additional display items to look at.
Just a word of caution to those who might be using a stroller. There are a lot of stairs to get up here, and I can’t readily remember if I saw an elevator. However, I did see a woman lugging her (empty) stroller up the stairs, so that tells me that if there is an elevator, its location is not well-marked.
As I mentioned before, visitors are encouraged to bring their lunch and hang out in one of the designated eating areas (outside, first floor, loft). The PEZ Visitor Center even hosts birthday parties.
Back downstairs, I caught up with my crew as they prepared to make a video postcard to send to Boo’s Papa–you know, just to rub it in that Nana was there with us and he was not 🙂 This is actually a really fun part of the experience. It’s totally free, and you can record a video message and email a link to the video right to your desired recipient.
Next came the part that I had been anxiously awaiting: filling up a mix & match bucket of PEZ. I couldn’t wait to see (and later sample) all the different flavors. And at $5/bucket, that was not a bad deal either. We could fill up Boo’s Thomas dispenser dozens of times with that stash. (Well, we could have anyway, if I hadn’t taken to eating them straight out of the bucket once we got home. Yikes.).
As you can see, Boo was a little heavy-handed with the cherry flavor there. Good thing we both liked that one!
There was also this table where you could personalize your own PEZ dispenser.
Finally, we checked out the gift shop with everything from t-shirts to postcards. And rows and rows of PEZ dispensers, of course.
Then of course, I had to grill one of the nice and unsuspecting staff members about how things work on a “normal” day. Turns out in addition to the $2 store credit with every paid admission, you also get a colorful PEZ lanyard to take home. I persuaded said unsuspecting staff member to model it for me. What a sport!
And we were on our way, having spent a very sweet hour and a half or so checking out the PEZ Visitor Center.
35 Prindle Hill Rd, Orange, CT 06477
Get directions here:
Hours & Admission:
Monday – Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday: 12:00 – 5:00pm
*Hours are seasonal and are subject to change at any time. Check this page for the most up-to-date information.
- Children under 3 FREE
- Children 3-12 and Seniors (60+) $4/each
- Regular Admission $5/person
- Group (10 or more) $4/person
- Please call or email to schedule groups
*Admission price does NOT include the 10% admissions tax required by the state of CT
With each paid admission you will receive a $2.00 credit on your receipt good toward any merchandise purchase valid on the same day visit.
Check this page for the most up-to-date admission information.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- Plenty of FREE convenient parking.
- Picnic tables outside and two indoor seating areas (first floor at the back or the upstairs loft) if you would like to bring your own meal/snacks.
- Vending machines with snacks and drinks available (and of course PEZ!)
- The Visitor Center is not huge, but you could maneuver a stroller around inside if absolutely necessary (you may not be able to get up to the loft eating area, though; I don’t recall seeing an elevator).
- This is a real, working PEZ factory, so you can see the action if you visit Monday through Friday during business hours.
- Restroom with changing station located near the entrance.
- Every paid admission includes a $2 credit toward PEZ merchandise (found on your receipt) for same day use and a colorful PEZ lanyard.
- Have your child’s next birthday celebration at the PEZ Visitor Center! Call (203-298-0201) or email (email@example.com) for more information.
- Combine this fun stop for the kids with your next trip to Ikea in nearby New Haven.
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- Bright Horizons Early Education and Preschool – Visit their newly renovated center in Glastonbury. Now enrolling infants, toddlers, preschoolers and pre-k children for their fall programs.
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