UPDATE 5/24/16: Please see this important information about accessing the UConn Dairy Bar during construction for summer 2016. Summer Hours of Operation for 2016 (Memorial Day weekend – Labor Day weekend) are Monday – Sunday: 11:00am – 10:00pm (closed July 4th). You can always find the most up-to-date information on their website. Don’t forget that you can even see the ice cream being made through the giant picture windows right there in the store! The ice cream production schedule cannot be guaranteed but is generally Monday through Friday from 11:00am-2:00pm. The UConn Animal Barns are open daily from 10:00am-4:00pm. Find more info here.
This is the third summer that we have been blogging, and each year several readers have recommended that we visit their favorite ice cream spot: The UConn Dairy Bar. Well, I thought it was about time that we gave it a try!
So last Sunday, with nothing on the calendar, we decided to break up the day with a little drive out to UConn country to sample some of their homemade ice cream (and by “homemade”, I mean they actually raise the cows that make the milk that goes into the ice cream! Doesn’t get anymore “homemade” than that 🙂 ) and wander through their famous animal barns.
The drive from Glastonbury, where I live, was super easy. We got ourselves on I-84 East, took it straight up to CT-195 and then followed that all the way to Storrs.
Finding the Dairy Bar was a little bit trickier. For some reason, my iPhone GPS seemed to be playing tricks on me and kept giving me directions to a nearby frozen yogurt joint (totally unrelated).
The Dairy Bar is located on Horsebarn Hill Road Extension. That “Ext.” is important because Horsebarn Hill Road is a loop that comes out on either side of Horsebarn Hill Road Ext., but does not seem to connect to it anywhere (at least, if there’s a way to get from one to the other, we didn’t see it). So just keep your eyes peeled for the signs. There are plenty.
On a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, this place is hoppin’ and parking is a little bit of a free-for-all. There are spots right in front of the Dairy Bar. When that fills up, people seem to park along the little road leading to the parking lot. And when that’s full they park in the upper lot like we did. (Note that it is restricted to permit-holders M-F 7AM-5PM).
Don’t be deterred by the steep set of stairs out front. As you get closer you’ll see that there is also a stroller-friendly ramp 🙂
After that, it’s pretty straightforward. Check out the menu of flavors.
Order at this counter.
And pick up around the corner at this one.
There are a bunch of tables inside and a counter area too. I did spy some high chairs as well.
Out the back way (which is where you are supposed to exit when it’s busy–you know, keep the flow of traffic going in one direction), there are some outdoor picnic tables with umbrellas.
Unfortunately, there is no ramp on this side; only stairs.
But if you go back out the front and down the ramp, there’s a walkway that will get you around to that side of the building. That’s the way to go if you have a stroller.
Because I know how slowly my older son eats his ice cream, I figured we should stay inside lest he be left with a milky puddle (and me with a sobbing preschooler) after only a few bites.
For the boys we got a kids’ cup of chocolate (for Boo) and a kids’ cup of vanilla (for the little guy). I tried the strawberry cheesecake, and hubby ordered coffee, because that’s the flavor he always gets. Everywhere. For as long as I’ve known him. I guess in some ways that makes him a connoisseur. So when he said that the UConn Dairy Bar’s coffee ice cream is the best ice cream he’s ever had, well, that’s got to mean something, right? This is some seriously amazing ice cream!
Before heading out, we checked out the picture window where you can see into the area where the ice cream is made.
And we also made a pit stop at the restrooms, which are located off to your left as you enter the Dairy Bar. They look like family-style restrooms from the outside, but they aren’t. So don’t do what I did and stand there knocking and getting no response until someone finally comes out and you see that it’s a big restroom with multiple stalls. Oops. Good thing my kids aren’t old enough to be embarrassed by me yet 🙂
Next it was off to the animal barns, about which I knew very little. In fact, I knew so little, I had kind of assumed we could just finish our ice cream treat and then saunter over to see some animals. Not so much. You will need to get back in your car for part 2 of this outing. At least, unless you are up for a very, very long walk.
So remember that Horsebarn Hill Road I told you about? Good. Because now you want to find that one. That’s where you’ll find all the horses. And the cows. And the sheep. Retracing your route back out to the main road from the Dairy Bar, you can go either left or right. If you go left, you’ll come to a nicely marked intersection where you can hop onto Horsebarn Hill Road and loop around past the barns.
I would recommend that you go right, however. It’s a little trickier because the road is not marked at this end. But there are several BIG landmarks. Like these chicken coops.
And this big red barn.
Why go the tricky way when I can go the other way and just follow the street signs, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Or rather, I’ll show you.
I’m not much of a photographer, so I definitely didn’t do it justice, but that is the view you’ll get as you come up to the top of the hill. Isn’t it gorgeous? You can see everything. It just isn’t the same if you come from the other direction 🙂
As I mentioned, I knew very little about the animal barns except what I had read on UConn’s website here and here. I think I was expecting big signs directing me to the different facilities, but it wasn’t quite so touristy (I mean, what was I thinking? This is a working farm, not Disney World). Later, while researching this post, I found this helpful brochure–actually designed for children–that includes a map, interesting info about the animals, and even a few games.
Fortunately, there are lots of signs telling you where you can’t go.
Other than that, visitors are pretty much welcome to wander in, out, and around from the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (You can find more details on where visitors can go here.)
We kind of followed the crowd and headed over to the parking lot right beside the Polo Arena. There is a sign indicating that this parking lot is restricted to paid permit holders (most parking areas around here seem to be restricted), but it was a Sunday. Plus we figured, if everyone else was doing it, we could too 🙂
We headed across the street and up to see the horses out in the corral.
Look at this little baby guy! So cute.
Now, I grew up riding and just generally being around horses, so my inclination is to walk right up to these gentle giants and give them a good pat on the neck. Don’t do it. There are signs everywhere asking visitors not to touch or feed the animals–for their safety and for yours.
Not much going on inside at this moment.
But out the back we found tons and tons of sheep!
And a few more horses.
Just FYI, looks like some of the fences are electrified (there is a wire fence just inside the wooden one, so the kiddos should be fine so long as they don’t try to reach through).
Oh, and in case you forget to heed the no-touch warning or the kiddos just pick up something that looks (or smells) suspicious, there is a hand sanitizer dispenser back in the barn just inside the back door.
After, we decided to drive back the way we came and take another look at the cows. Because all of this land back here is open pasture, and the animals roam freely, you never know what will be hanging out near the fence on any given day. The cows were all way out in the fields today. But a nice man that we were chatting with there said that sometimes they hang out closer to the road–and then visitors can get a good look.
We did see a few up in corrals near another barn, and we were able to drive around and get a better look. Boo looooooves cows.
Actually, if we had gotten our act together like I had originally planned (never happens), we could have seen the cows being milked, which happens every day from 1-4 at the Kellogg Dairy Center.
By the time we finished
wandering around without a clue our self-guided tour, the little guy was ready for a nice vehicle-induced nap. We’ll have to catch the milking next time.
Actually, I’m just happy that we made it there after lunch but before dinner, so no kiddie mealtimes were compromised by the ice cream binge. That’s pretty much all the planning I can handle these days 🙂
Have you been to the UConn Dairy Bar and animal barns? Tell us your favorite part of this outing, or share some helpful tips of your own. (Pretty please; we love tips!)
ph. (860) 486-2634
Follow them on Facebook!
- Summer Hours (2014): Open every day from 11:00am – 10:00pm (closed July 4th & Labor Day)
- Click here for complete schedule.
- The barns are open every day including weekends and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
- Dairy Bar: Prices vary by menu item (the approximate cost for two kiddie cups, one single scoop, and one large waffle cone was $13). You can see the menu (no prices) here.
- Animal Barns: FREE
- Stroller Friendly: YES and KIND-OF. The Dairy Bar is pretty stroller-friendly. There is a ramp to the entrance and a decent amount of room inside to maneuver. The animal barns are less stroller-friendly. I would recommend a wearable baby carrier for an infant.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: I guess so; I didn’t see any signs to the contrary.
- Restrooms: YES. There are public restrooms located in the Dairy Bar and also in the Kellog Dairy Center (where the cows are milked).
- Baby Changing Station: NO.
- Parking: There is a lot in front of the Dairy Bar for public parking. Things are a little trickier for the Animal Barns. If it’s a weekend, you are probably OK. During the week, make sure you consult the parking info page or call to find out details.
- Food for Sale: YES. Ice cream is one of the four food groups isn’t it? 🙂
- Outside Food Allowed: I think so. I don’t get the impression that the Dairy Bar would be unhappy if you brought in a snack. If you’re concerned, or you’re really planning a picnic feast, there are always the outdoor picnic tables. As for the animal barns, eww. Don’t eat there, ok?
- Cash Required: NO. The Dairy Bar accepts major credit cards.
- Dress Code: I wore flip flops, which wasn’t terrible, but you might want to opt for slightly sturdier footwear if you’re going to be romping around in the barns. I’ll be wearing better walking shoes next time.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES.
Tips and Things to Bring:
- UConn has a great website with lots of info that might be helpful as you plan your visit. Here are a few pages you might want to consult:
- Don’t forget to check out this brochure with a map of the animal barns.
- Every day visitors can view the UConn dairy cows being milked at 1:00 p.m.(from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.) and fed at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the Kellogg Dairy Center.
- If you’re interested in seeing the ice cream being made, you can call the Dairy Bar at 860-486-1021 for their ice cream production schedule.
- Also available for purchase at the Dairy Bar are fresh eggs, as well as containers of their ice cream and other treats.
- 4D Vision Gym – A vision training center located in Cromwell, CT where Dr. Juanita Collier, MS, OD and her staff show members how to utilize Vision Therapy to correct visual issues and make learning and playing easier and more fun.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT this private pre-school, elementary and middle school serves families from over 20 communities.
Are you interested in becoming an Out and About Mom sponsor? Click here for more info.
Want to keep up with things to do with kids in Connecticut?
Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we dish up more Momsense for getting out and about with your little ones. Don’t have time to check back in? Let us send you an automatic notification of new posts straight to your email inbox by signing up here. Also, you can like us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest posts and get some extra tidbits we share only through those sites.