Feed their minds and tummies
These food-themed destinations are sure to satisfy kids’ cravings for fun
Kids and food can be a touchy subject. Literally. My toddler nephew Henry believes smushed bananas and yogurt should double as hair gel. More often than not with kids, mealtime devolves into a don’t-throw-that, eat-this, no-dessert-for-you struggle of wills.
Food-themed destinations give kids permission to have fun with what they eat, to learn where it all comes from, to see dessert in a different way, to appreciate freshness, to celebrate the bounty of the ocean and the land. A trip to a food factory or a farm won’t make your child a better eater, but it might give him a new appreciation for what appears on his plate.
YARMOUTH CLAM FESTIVAL YARMOUTH, MAINE
Think your toddler has what it takes to win a 50-foot dash? Then enter the Diaper Derby and find out. During the race, parents do all they can to coax crawling toddlers across the finish line. “There’s always one or two that take off for the finish line,’’ said Carolyn Schuster, managing director of the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce and festival co-organizer. “They go, go, go and they get within 10 inches and they stop. It’s so much fun to watch.’’ Same goes for the Maine State Clam Shucking Contest. The events are all part of the packed, fun-for-all-ages schedule that also includes a parade, road races, and firefighters’ muster competition. And, of course, you can get clams every way imaginable. 162 Main St., 207-846-3984, www.clamfestival.com; July 16-18; check website for daily events, free. VAN OTIS CHOCOLATE FACTORY MANCHESTER, N.H.
For kids who can’t get enough of chocolate-covered treats, tours offer a chance to see factory operations, sample Swiss fudge, and create Van Krispie pops. At the end of the tour, children dip Rice Krispies bars on sticks into chocolate, then decorate the coated pops with candy. “They’re always laughing,’’ said Sara French, business development manager. “Everyone wants their own special candy to make their Van Krispie pop unique.’’ All the action takes place in a factory perfumed by chocolate. Maybe it’s just the aromatherapy parents need as their kids delight in candy-making. Recommended for children 8 and older and groups of 12 to 25 people. 341 Elm St., 603-627-1611 ext. 10 for tours, www.vanotischocolates.com; check website for tour availability, $5 a person includes candy-making and samples.
JOHNSON & WALES UNIVERSITY COOKING CLASSSES PROVIDENCE
In the age of the celebrity chef, aspiring culinary wunderkinds can enroll in cooking classes this fall. The three-hour Saturday sessions let kids ages 8 to 12 follow in the footsteps of university alumnus Emeril Lagasse. “We try to make it fun for them with foods they recognize and are used to eating,’’ said Erik Goellner, chef and instructor. “If there is that culinary interest, we show them how to kick it up a little bit.’’ To kick it up, a class might teach how to make mac and cheese with a couple of different cheeses. For dessert, there is instruction in cookie-making and baking. Small class sizes (15-16 kids) and multiple chefs allow for individual attention. Registration for fall classes begins in August. Next summer, look for weeklong cooking camps for kids. 333 Shipyard St., 401-598-2336, www.jwu.edu/chefschoice; check website for class offerings, $80 a class.
BELKIN FAMILY LOOKOUT FARM SOUTH NATICK
D espite being one of the oldest working farms in the country, this one offers no shortage of entertainment for children. Families can ride a train through the orchards, pick fruit, wander through the burlap maze, and visit the petting zoo. Children ages 3 to 10 can take a pony or camel ride. “Everything that we have here is an attraction to some kid,’’ said John Burns, farm manager, who reports his 3-year-old granddaughter loves the animals, Moon Bounce, and hay pyramid. “I’ve seen families staying five, six, seven hours at a time.’’ Blueberry picking season is around the corner. 89 Pleasant St. South, 508-653-0653, www.lookoutfarm.com; open weekends until Aug. 9, open daily Aug. 9-early November, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., $8 per person admission includes everything except pony/camel rides and hay rides; adults $14, children $12 for weekend admission starting Sept. 4. SHELBURNE FARMS SHELBURNE, VT.
O n a working farm, there are always cows to milk, eggs to collect, gardens to tend, pigs to water. Here children are active participants in farm life through the daily Children’s Farmyard program. The scrapbook moment comes when kids are taught how to milk cows. With one downward-facing thumb serving as a pretend cow teat, the children learn proper technique. Then, they sit beside the cow with an instructor and put the practice to use. “Usually, all the kids take turns and then the adults,’’ said Sally Lincoln, agriculture educator. Children’s Farmyard is designed to show kids where their food comes from and establish a connection to agriculture. 1611 Harbor Road, 802-985-8686, www.shelburnefarms.org; general admission May 8-Oct. 17, daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m., adults $8, seniors $6, 3-17 $5, under 3 free.
SHADY GLEN MANCHESTER, CONN.
If a summer road trip takes you through Connecticut, make time to stop here. The famous cheeseburgers arrive at tables with crowns of crispy cheese — four corners of yellow goodness curling upward. “No one else has our cheese,’’ said cook Tom Mendillo, who like all cooks here wears a bowtie to work. The homemade ice cream comes in a variety of flavors, including peanut butter, chocolate chip, and the seasonal peach melba. Waitresses in 1950s-style uniforms deliver cones upside down in silver dishes and sundaes in tall, old-fashioned glasses. All of the dishes come with a side of nostalgia for adults. Meanwhile, the menu, old style delivery, and decor complete with a mural depicting elves and fairies offer something new for kids. 840 East Middle Turnpike, 860-649-4245, no reservations, Mon.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Friday-Sat. 7-11, Sunday 10:30-10:30, cheeseburger $5.40, single-scoop ice cream cone $2.50.
BEN & JERRY’S ICE CREAM FACTORY BURLINGTON, VT.
Mix a heaping helping of ice cream know-how, a dash of whimsy, and a splash of Vermont pride and you get this factory. The 30-minute tour is short enough to keep kids’ attention and long enough to provide an education in how the company started and how raw ingredients become a classic flavor like Cherry Garcia or a newcomer like Boston Cream Pie. After watching the factory floor in action, visitors receive a free sample of the ice cream being produced that day. The onsite Scoop Shop offers kids a cone-full of their favorite flavors. Outside, the Flavor Graveyard playfully pays homage to flavors no longer in production. 1281 Waterbury-Stowe Road, 802-882-1240 or 866-BJ-TOURS, www.benjerry.com; July-mid-August 9 a.m.-9 p.m., mid-August-late October 9-7, late October-June 10-6, adults $3, seniors $2, 12 and under free.
CAPE POND ICE GLOUCESTER
W here would the food industry be without ice? Not in an appetizing place. Fifty-minute tours show the vital part played by ice. “Nowadays, people take ice for granted and that’s part of the theme of our tour, how much things have changed,’’ said owner Scott Memhard. “We like to tie in the history of our industry and our company, the fishing industry, the whole ‘Perfect Storm’ story, and people’s lives today.’’ Tours take visitors through the plant, where they see 300-pound blocks of ice, walk into the icehouse freezer, marvel at an ice sculpture exhibit, and watch boats pull into the harbor and load up with ice. With icehouse freezer kept at 28 degrees, warm clothing and practical shoes recommended. 104 Commercial St., 978-283-0174, www.capepondice.com; tours Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., and 2 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m., adults $10, seniors and children under 12 $8, under 7 free.
Shira Springer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.