REVIEW | The Turkey Hill Experience – Columbia, PA

 

June 6th marked the 3rd anniversary of the grand opening of The Turkey Hill Experience. What started out as the hulking ruins of the former Ashley & Bailey silk mill building has been transformed into what is now one of Lancaster County’s most popular attractions. In 2013 alone, 100,000 visitors made their way through the impressive 26,000 sq ft space.

So what exactly is the “experience”, and is it worth your time and money to see it?

The interior is broken down into four different areas. Upon entering, on the ground floor you’ll find the ticket counter, gift shop and cafe. Up the stairs, extending over the top of the gift shop is the “museum ” section highlighting local history of the area with signage and various exhibits including two lifelike Holstein dairy cows perched mid-air. These three areas are accessible without buying a ticket. If you want to get an idea of what the interior of the building looks like it’s worth it to take a minute and explore these spaces. At the spot where you have to have a ticket to continue you can get a good look into the heart of the attraction. Getting a peek inside might help you to decide if you want to pay admission and get the full “experience”.

The main space has an open layout that is divided into sections, each dedicated to a different aspect of the production and marketing of the Turkey Hill product line. The space is high and full of light coming in from the large factory windows. There is a wide variety of colors and textures used in the building materials, making it an especially stimulating sensory environment for kids. Many of the individual stations or stops have an interactive aspect that requires some basic grasp of using a computer and should be engaging for older kids and tweens (unless of course they’ve already progressed to the “everything is boring” phase) But smaller ones too will find much to touch and play in and around. This is a key strength of the experience – it will appeal to a fairly large spread of ages.

Of course one of the best features is the all you can eat ice cream. I recommend pacing yourself. During my visit they had 16 varieties available at the bar and several more in the all-natural freezer across from the bar. Seeing as how your allowed to roam freely around 26,000 square foot floor plan with ice cream in hand, it makes sense to grab one and spend some time exploring, then come back and try more flavors as your visit progresses. There were also 15 different flavors of iced teas and lemonades including 4 organic varieties with which to wash your ice cream down , as well as water.

Want to see more pictures from inside The Turkey Hill Experience? Click here.

If you’ll be seeing the experience with an older family member or someone who cannot stand for long periods there are large, comfortable wooden rocking chairs throughout the space including some on the deck beneath the faux barn facade the looks out over the central area. Behind the barn you’ll find a history section featuring fact-filled signage, a vintage milk truck and two cows that can be “milked”. There is also a small theater where you can watch a short film about Turkey Hill.

The overall experience was worth the admission price when the ice cream and tea was factored in. The various displays and interactive exhibits are numerous to describe individually without turning this review into a multi-page affair; and besides it’s more fun to discover them for yourself. Suffice it to say that you’ll find it is easy to spend 2-3 hours of fun and educational time inside the walls of the old silk mill with your family. Another interesting highlight was the advertising area, where you can star in a commercial for the company. Kids of all ages should enjoy this section, with the resulting video clip sent to your email for later viewing. There is also a wall of live video feeds piped in from the nearby production facility where the ice cream manufactured.

The problems I encountered with the experience where ones that I imagine are not always present and did not effect the overall experience enough to warrant serious grumblings on my part. All the same I feel they should be touched on.

The attraction gets one shipment of all natural ice cream per day and when we arrived around 4 o’clock the freezer was picked clean. I had to remove one of the baskets in the freezer and grab a couple stray containers from the bottom that had fallen down over the course of the day. One way to avoid this problem – as well as the worst of the crowds – would be to get their early. Better yet they could increase the size of the shipment so that people who prefer the all-natural flavor will be assured a steady supply. This problem is mitigated by the fact that the main ice cream bar is stocked so as to have a plentiful variety available at any time of day.

Two other observations also had to do with supplies: The paper hats were all gone. This didn’t upset me as much as it did my kids who would’ve enjoyed wearing them. Again an easy fix for the Turkey Hill people. As well, some of the scents  dispersed at the one of the stations had run low and were therefore not working.

The last negative I encountered:the fast freezing section of the production line, where you are supposed to be shut into a cooler and then “frozen” by a wall of high powered fans, was not working. I assumed that some type of mechanical failure had occurred and although you could still pass through the room, I was disappointed because I’m sure that it would’ve been one of the most exciting parts of the experience. As with any attraction that depends on mechanical operations to supply the fun, there will inevitably be equipment failures. This I understand. But I was a bit puzzled as to why the entire time I was there I didn’t see anyone working on fixing it.

Again, it is important for me to note that in the big picture, none of these issues would classify as a deal breaker. All of the staff I interacted with were helpful, friendly and informed. If your looking for a place to spend an afternoon with kids that will stimulate their minds as well as entertain them, I can recommend The Turkey Hill Experience.

There is also a reservation only section of the space dedicated to the ‘Taste Lab’, where, for an additional $4.50, you can create you own custom ice cream flavor. See the website for details.

Like to avoid large crowds during your visit? The staff informed me that weekends are busy year round and that during the regular season, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the slowest days. Peak season, the busiest period overall, runs from mid-June to mid-September.

turkeyhillexperience.com

301 Linden Street
Columbia, PA 17512
(888) 986-8784

Adult (ages 18-61): $9.95
Junior (ages 5-17): $7.95
Senior (ages 62+): $8.95
Children (ages 4 and under): FREE

*Prices listed above are for the Experience only. See the website for Experience/Taste Lab combo ticket prices.

 

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