Did you collect PEZ dispensers when you were a kid? They’re quite an iconic childhood and pop culture item, even in France, and I did keep a few dispensers around, mainly of Snoopy and Star Wars characters. While I think of PEZ as pretty American, the candy actually originates from Austria and only arrived in the USA in 1952. Initially, the candy was minty and was marketed as an alternative to smoking. Quickly, the candy was rebranded for children and became fruitier. The very first dispensers available in the United States were a full-body Santa, a robot, and a space gun. Since then, the character-themed dispensers really took off and a few years ago, PEZ opened a factory and visitor center in Orange, Connecticut. Since that’s just a quick drive from where my friend and college roommate Elena lives, we thought we would check it out…
The PEZ visitor center is part museum, part factory, part store, and all PEZ 😉 It’s a brightly colored space that can be explored in less than one hour.
The museum part contains the largest, most comprehensive collection of PEZ memorabilia on public display in the world as well as the largest PEZ dispenser in the world. There’s all sorts of different dispensers, from Will & Kate to KISS, US presidents, and all sorts of Disney characters.
All PEZ sold in the United States are made in America, so visitors can also check out the production area (the factory goes through 100,000 pounds of sugar a week!!!) and packaging facility.
The most fun really is all the PEZ trivia and all the different dispensers. Also, just being silly in the visitor center!!
If you go: the PEZ visitor center is located at 35 Prindle Hill Road in Orange, CT (a quick drive from New Haven). It’s open on Monday-Saturday from 10AM-6PM and noon-5PM on Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for children and that includes is a PEZ lanyard and a $2 credit for the store (which is about the cost of an average dispenser. ..)