Friday, April 16, 2010

Glorious Food Galleries

In my travels around the United States, I've been able to visit some pretty remarkable exhibit halls, museums, and establishments, all honoring – food!

Earlier this year, I took a trip to Orrville, Ohio, home of Smucker's, to visit the J.M. Smucker Company Store and Café. The first thing I did upon entering was treat myself to an authentic peanut butter and jelly sandwich prepared on thick, homemade wheat bread. Delicious! The café also offered a plethora of ice cream sundaes showcasing Smucker's many toppings: Magic Shell, hot fudge, strawberry, butterscotch, walnuts in syrup, and sugar free varieties, not to mention an assortment of Folgers coffees and Pillsbury baked goods.

Once I was full, I made my way into the store, pausing to take a picture with the ever so cute Pillsbury Doughboy. Lining the store walls, shoppers can find everything from unique Dickinson's fruit spread flavors to hard-to-find Hungry Jack instant potato mixes and pancake and syrup themed gift baskets to Crisco tee shirts. In the back of the store, visitors can discover the history of the family-owned company, as well as behold the store's most amazing showpiece – a chandelier made completely out of jelly jars.

Smucker's, though, is not the only product-centered shrine to which I have journeyed. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to venture to the "Sweetest Place on Earth" and check out Hershey's Chocolate World. For me, the attraction usually starts with a ride on the chocolate tour, where guests can learn how cocoa beans are transformed into your favorite Hershey's treats. The ride ends with a tasty free sample. Usually, my getaway includes lunch at Chocolate World's food court and a Reese's Pieces cookie or KitKat cupcake. Before I leave, I always stop by the marketplace to find souvenirs in the form of Hershey's Kisses earrings or a bag of freshly made Jolly Ranchers to take on the road.

Finally, while visiting Atlanta years ago, friends and I enjoyed spending the day at the World of Coca-Cola. In addition to trying dozens of different soda taste sensations popular around the globe, I was entertained by the pop culture gallery, and stunned by the size of the massive store where I could purchase Coke paraphernalia. Since visiting in 1998, the World of Coca-Cola opened a new location at Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta on May 24, 2007. The 60,000 square foot complex boasts a fully functioning bottling line, a multi-sensory 4-D movie, and more than 1,200 never before seen artifacts from around the globe.

Recently, I learned about two fun institutions presenting tributes to food products. The first is the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minn. The free museum features 16,500 square feet of artifacts and history dedicated to the Hormel Foods product. The interactive museum highlights vintage ads and offers tourists a chance to answer trivia, can SPAM, and buy collectible memorabilia. The other is the Kool-Aid exhibit at the Hastings Museum in Hastings, Neb., the birthplace of the soft drink. Every summer, the museum hosts "Kool Aid Days" with old-fashioned games and activities for kids and an appearance by Kool-Aid man for children of all ages. Both locales are on my list of places to visit.

What wacky and wild food museums have you visited? Leave a message and share your links, photos, and stories.


  1. With Hershey on the route between Penn State and home, I used to stop every chance I got! No matter how hard you try it is impossible to make Hershey Hot Chocolate the way they do at their Cafe.

    My favorite food museum I visited was by far The Guinness Factory in Dublin, Ireland. The building itself was amazing, the old advertisements were hilarious (It used to be advertised as a medicine), and you received a free pint of freshly brewed Guinness at the end. Although I refuse to have another Guinness because I think that pint was the best it can get; and that's probably not what they were hoping for!)

  2. What a fun post. One of the highlights of my food PR days was visiting the McIlhenny Company on Avery Island in Louisiana. We learned how they make tabasco sauce, a sinus clearing experience, and also experienced the wonderful culture of the Cajun people. (

    Of course, as an Oregonian, the Tillamook Cheese Factory is always a fun visit too. And, one gets to relax on the Oregon Coast at the time. (

  3. Thanks for sharing your experiences and suggestions, ladies! I'll need to add these to my list. :)