The Blue Bell ice cream factory is exactly two hours from the Salvation Army store on Louis Henna Drive in Round Rock. I know that, because I was standing in the Salvation Army parking lot when I decided to take my boys on a spur of the moment trip. After a quick stop at Sonic for slushes, we were on our way!
I enjoyed the drive out to Brenham. It was at the height of Blue Bonnet season, so there was no shortage of fields full of beautiful wildflowers to look at as we drove by. We went on a weekday, and there was no traffic to speak of. The drive was downright pleasant, excepting the, “are we there yet???!!!” I got from Aiden every ten minutes or so.
Let’s get down to the good stuff: the factory! I called ahead and found out that tours are offered at 10am, 11am, 1pm, 130pm, 2pm and 230pm. They are not offered on the weekends, and they’re closed on most holidays. Tour admission is $3 for adults, $2 for children 6-14 and senior citizens over the age of 55 (do we really still consider 55 to be a “senior citizen”?) We arrived shortly before 1pm, and that tour was already sold out, so we milled about the lobby and waited for the 130pm tour. The lobby has restrooms (definitely take your little ones to the restroom prior to the tour, as there are no restrooms on the way), drinking fountains and more Blue Bell ice cream paper hats than you can shake a stick at.
When it was our turn, a young and witty tour guide ushered us into a small theater where we viewed a short movie on the history of Blue Bell ice cream. My boys, ages 4 and 5, were sufficiently entertained enough to stay in their seats, so that was nice. Once the movie was over, we were escorted into the factory for the rest of our adventure. Each part of the tour seemed well thought-out, in that each room we got to see had windows on both sides (think a wide hallway with windows on either side), so no one was unable to see. We got to see them actually making ice cream (duh, I know, but some tours I’ve been on don’t really show you the exciting bits-this tour does). Our tour guide pointed out the different types of ice cream they were making during our tour; we saw a woman stirring and subsequently pouring a large bowl of cherries into a vat of churning vanilla ice cream. I was positively salivating. We were shown the entry to the flash freezer, the temperature of which is -40* Fahrenheit. With the wind chill factor, our tour guide said it’s -140*. Yikes! He said he had been in there once and never wanted to go in there again!
A few things I learned about Blue Bell that I thought were really neat: they bake their own goodies that are mixed into the ice cream, as well as the wafers for their ice cream sandwiches. The factory is waste-free, in that they do not throw away any food items that they can’t use. Local farmers pick up the excess food and feed it to their hogs. I am sure the hogs are grateful.
At the end of the tour, everyone gets a scoop of any flavor or ice cream they want, and there is a nice little gift shop (of course, right?) with all manner of Blue Bell souvenirs. In the outdoor courtyard of the building, there are a few commemorative statues and the original Blue Bell delivery truck is on display. The boys and I spent about twenty minutes hanging out and enjoying the sights.
All in all, I highly recommend this tour! The boys and I were both engaged and entertained the whole time. To entice you to visit during the Summer months, there is an aquatic park just down the block from the Blue Bell factory. Summer hours begin May 29th and it costs a mere $3 to get in (children 3 and younger are free). The water park part of the center is open M-F from 11am-8pm (they also have weekend hours, but I don’t imagine you’re going to go all the way out there just for a water park).