Want to keep cool on a hot day? Head to the Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia. You’ll be able to spend a couple of hours learning the story behind ice tea and ice cream–and even step inside a cooler.


I love the lights at the entrance – they look like old milk cans!



In fact, the whole experience is as interactive as you’d like. And fun. You can create your own flavor of ice cream, design the package and even star in the commercial. I designed a concoction called Chocolate Dreams! Kids (or adults) can milk a cow, pose in an old delivery truck,

and learn about cows. A lot about cows! Did you know they have 32 teeth? Or that dairy cows produce over 7 gallons of milk each day? That’s 112 glasses!

A vendor at the 1905 Worlds Fair in St. Louis dumped some ice into tea because it wouldn’t sell on a hot day. And that is how Ice Tea was born. Now Americans consume it daily. At the Turkey Hill Experience, there’s a kiosk where you can match your personality to one of their teas…my “quirky” one paired with the Cherry Pomegranate.

I learned all sorts of things – that coconut is actually a nut and not a fruit, that the delivery business was started in 1931 in Columbia at the height of the Great Depression. And I learned that the third generation owners care as much about the local area as their predecessors.

In fact, here are some of the most impressive things I learned today:

– The experience is housed in an old Silk Factory building that was vacant for 25 years, so they have reused an existing building and preserved farmland rather than building a brand-new structure.

– Turkey Hill Dairy donates about 20% of their profits to charity.

– 25% of their power will be produced by their own wind turbines this year.

– They are so committed to quality that when they try a new flavor of ice cream, they cut the entire box in half to see if the ingredients are mixed properly.

If you get hungry or thirsty during your visit, no problem; there are 150 flavors of ice cream and 20 flavors of ice tea. Downstairs in the café, you’ll be able to sample many of them. They also had gelatos that were wonderful. My favorite was the almond fig. Yum.

Not familiar with Turkey Hill yet? Chances are you will be as they now produce the nation’s No. 1 refrigerated ice tea (be sure to try the Sweet Blackberry Tea (diet) – it’s my favorite!). Their ice cream ranks No. 4 nationwide. You’ll be seeing more of them at sporting events as they produce special flavors for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Yankees, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Turkey Hill – a cool experience indeed!

Put this on your list the next time you visit The Artist’s Inn.

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