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Frugal Find Friday: Free (& Cheap) Tours

   Posted On: May 24, 2013  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

This week Peach and I traveled to Vermont to celebrate my passage into “mid-twenties.”  Traveling is one of my few “splurge” areas, but I’m always seeking ways to keep some dollars in my wallet. With Peach’s love of a good beer and my self-imposed-title of ice cream aficionado, we found two perfect (frugal) activities in Vermont. Tours!

Tour One: Magic Hat Brewery

This tour is 100 percent free. Not free with purchase of x, y and z. Not free with paid parking. Not free, but buy a glass to get samples. Totally, completely, we-give-you-beer-at-no-cost-free. In fact, I never even saw a tip jar nor a catchy slogan encouraging slipping a few bucks to tour guides.

Located in Burlington, the Magic Hat Brewery is certainly the most unique brewery I’ve ever visited. I’m pretty certain Tim Burton moonlighted as their interior decorator.


(Just in case you got lost…)

The main room houses a gift shop and bar. The friendliest bartenders I’ve ever encountered hand you a large shooter glass and a stamp card for four free samples. You get to pick any of their seasonal or always-on-tap brews to taste test before the tour.

Optimized-magic hat bar

Optimized-beer samples(Signs mentioned the beer was free, but the shot glasses were not. Apparently, they had a five-finger-discount problem.)

Tours last between 30 minutes to an hour and include a story about the history of Magic Hat Brewery, a video on the company’s Madri Gras festival/outreach program and finishes in the bottling factory. Your standard brewery experience, except free of charge and delightfully upbeat.

Tour Two: Ben & Jerry’s Factory

Milk is my favorite beverage, so naturally ice cream is my favorite dessert. I’m not ashamed to say, a trip to Vermont’s Finest played a large role in my decision to visit this particular state.

Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour costs $4 for adults ($20 if you want to get a shirt, which saves you four bucks).

Optimized-B&J tickets

(If at any point you thought I spent $20 for a tshirt, you need to read more of my posts…)

The tour opens with a 6 minute video about the creation of Ben & Jerry’s. For those who don’t know the story, Ben & Jerry spent $5 on a correspondence course from Penn State to learn the craft of ice cream making. That has to be the best $5 investment in business history. Well, then they spent $12,000 on their first store, which didn’t turn a profit.

After the video, the group is led into the production room to see the process of ice cream getting made. Let’s gloss over this section and get to the good part. Room three offers a delicious, not yet on the market, taste test. Ladies and Gents, Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t skimp on the sample size either!

Optimized-ice cream sample

(A delicious fudge concoction. I deemed this worth $4.)

During the summer months, Ben & Jerry’s erect a graveyard to their “retired” flavors. I’m pretty certain economic crunch should be resurrected.

Optimized-economic crunch

(I cackled like an evil genius when I saw this tombstone.)

As an aside: I do note the irony that I spent almost as much on a tour of the factory as Ben & Jerry spent launching their business. That’s capitalism for you!

If you’re planning a trip to (or through) Vermont, do yourself a favor and spend $4 total for two great tours.

If you have a tip for Frugal Find Friday please tweet or email me!

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11 responses to “Frugal Find Friday: Free (& Cheap) Tours

  1. I was in Burlington last summer and went to the Ben & Jerry’s factory…didn’t go on the tour because the machine wasn’t working or there was a long wait…I forget. It was still fun. Wish I had known about the Magic Hat Brewery. Vermont is great…lots of free and affordable outdoorsy things to do like hiking and biking. Also went to a hot air balloon festival in Burlington.

  2. Now I really want to go to the Ben and Jerry’s factory! That sounds like an awesome trip. You gotta love a corporation with a sense of humor. I especially like Americone Dream, haha.

  3. Magic Hat is by far my favorite beer. The original #9 though, not the seasonal crap. And I’d like to consider myself an ice cream aficionado as well. The one splurge item when we’re grocery shopping is Ben and Jerry’s. It’s almost never on sale, but always delicious so it’s a fair trade I guess.

  4. I would say that for us, a trip halfway across the country to visit Ben and Jerry’s would be well worth the gas money. When my 2nd oldest was in 1st grade, her co-op teacher did a geography class, and when Vermont came around, of course they had Ben and Jerry’s. To this day, 3 years later, she knows full well where Vermont is and that Ben and Jerry’s ice cream is made there, and she’s not had any of it since that day in class. 🙂 Yummalicious!

  5. Great tips! I love going on cheap tours when travelling. Sometimes it can be hard to find inexpensive tours – seems like there are a ton that cost an arm and a leg – so nice job finding these in Vermont!

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