PEZ candy dispensers have been an iconic part of childhood since the 1930s, but did you know there’s a PEZ Visitor’s Center museum dedicated to their history and cultural relevance? Not too far from New Haven, Connecticut, inside the PEZ factory, you can see hundreds of different PEZ dispensers and watch the famous candy being made.
Which child doesn’t remember PEZ dispensers and the secret thrill of seeing those colorful, square sugar tablets pop out when you tip the character’s head back? I still love PEZ candy and am delighted to see the new dispensers during the holiday season.
During my nearly two-year-long road trip, I spent a few weeks in the area, and when I saw the PEZ Visitor’s Center was open for tours, I had to stop.
THE PEZ VISITOR’S CENTER
The PEZ Visitor’s Center is inside the factory, making and distributing billions of PEZ each year. It’s also the largest, most comprehensive collection of PEZ memorabilia on display in the world. Because it’s also a factory in an industrial complex off the freeway, but you’ll find it easily from the three giant 50-foot PEZ candy packs affixed to the side of the building. Right away, you’ll know you’re in for some fun.
Inside the front doors is a bench made of PEZ candy and stanchions made to look like PEZ dispensers. On the wall are hundreds of PEZ in a glass case. If you go no further, you’ll still have fun!
You can buy a ticket to the museum at the window for $5. Your ticket includes $2 off anything in the store – and let’s face it – you can’t leave without buying a PEZ dispenser. You get a PEZ lanyard to keep too. Along with your ticket, you receive a small golf pencil and a postcard piece size of paper. On it are questions you can only answer by reading the displays and examining the many cases of PEZ dispensers. If you answer them, you’ll win the game of the month and get a prize when you turn in your card.
PEZ ON DISPLAY
Immediately inside the 4,000 square feet PEZ Visitor’s Center museum, you’ll come face to face … er face to foot (?) with the world’s biggest PEZ dispenser, a 14-foot-tall PEZ boy wearing a blue baseball cap. Push the button, his head tips back, and PEZ the size of a golf cart pops out of his mouth. Watch my Instagram video to see him in action.
Glass display cases lining the walls are filled with hundreds of old PEZ dispensers featuring ET, Bratz Dollz, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Flintstones, Santa Claus, Toy Story, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and more. Anything or anyone that was ever popular or culturally significant became a PEZ dispenser. Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone and Uncle Sam have all been on PEZ dispensers too. You know you’re relevant if you’re on PEZ dispenser; until then, meh.
It’s fun and nostalgic to take a trip down PEZ memory lane. Plus, I like the candy. You’re in luck if you’re into trivia and good at pop culture. Each case displays several fun facts.
Fun Fact: PEZ was a peppermint candy created in 1927 in Vienna, Austria, as an alternative to smoking. The original cases did not have heads but held the same number of tablets as today – 12!
PEZ CANDY PRODUCTION
The museum is also a working factory, and along the back wall are glass windows so you can see the people hard at work making PEZ candy. You probably could guess this – but it’s mostly sugar!
Between this factory and another in Austria, they make and distribute almost 70 million dispensers and 5 billion candies annually to more than 80 countries worldwide.
Fun Fact: The name PEZ comes from the German word for peppermint, “PfeffErminZ.”
While you know the dispensers change all the time, do you know the candy changes too? Well, the flavors do. You might find cherry, strawberry, orange, raspberry, vanilla cupcake, banana, lemon, cola, sour blue raspberry, sour watermelon, sour green apple, chocolate or candy corn flavors today. In the past, they’ve had flavors like licorice, flowers, and chlorophyll!?!
UPSTAIRS AT THE PEZ VISITOR’S CENTER
On the second floor, there are more displays. Did you know they used to sell paper clothes for PEZ dispensers? Or the Orange County Choppers created a PEZ motorcycle? They did, and it’s on display too.
The historical timeline of PEZ candy could be the historical timeline of the world. There are political themes (a donkey and an elephant). In 1956, the first innovative PEZ dispenser was the “space gun.” Due to its popularity, PEZ added the first character head to the top of a dispenser the following year – the Halloween Witch. The next cultural icon – Popeye – was the first licensed character in 1958.
Pop Quiz 1: What is the best-selling PEZ dispenser of all time? (answer at the end of post)
The PEZ Boy dispenser – designed as a detective with disguises to become a policeman, knight, sheik, and doctor also came with comic inserts – are you old enough to remember that?
In 2005, PEZ released the first PEZ limited edition set – Star Wars. It was wildly popular, and they continue to release sets. While there, I bought “The Office” set with Jim, Pam, Dwight and Michael to give as a gift.
Now, there are dozens of collectors clubs and groups for people to buy, sell, exchange and showcase their PEZ collections! Doesn’t that sound like a fun and popular pastime?
Pop Quiz 2: Do you know what 1980s movie this quote is from: “If I could only have one food to eat for the rest of my life? That’s easy, PEZ. Cherry flavor PEZ. No question about it.” (answer at the end of post)
Today, people consume billions of PEZ candies yearly in the U.S.A., half of those by yours truly. Who can blame me? It’s not just candy; it’s fun, nostalgia, and good ol’ American sugar and culture. How do you drive by that without stopping?
Find the PEZ Visitor’s Center at 35 Prindle Hill Road Orange, CT 06477.
Pop Quiz Answers
1: Santa Claus
2: Stand by Me