Exploring Connecticut: Pez, Pizza and Yale

Standing in Front of the PEZ Candy Factory Store

The PEZ candy factory in Orange, New Jersey is fun, fun! Who can resist these colorful dispensers with the candy wafers that pop out the top. In this factory/store you will find the most PEZ memorabilia in the world. Many people are familiar with PEZ dispensers that have hundreds of different heads. In my opinion, the candy wafers are boring but the dispensers are a kick. At this location you can learn the history behind PEZ by visiting interactive game stations and following the historical timeline. We started out by playing PEZ Bingo, which encouraged us to go throughout the store looking at the large collection of Pez dispensers in the cases and trying to find the right ones in a row. When you hit a bingo you can take your card back to the counter for a free dispenser.

Playing PEZ Bingo

The history of PEZ is rather interesting. It was invented by Edward Haas in Vienna, Austria in 1927 as an adult breath mint and alternative to smoking. The name comes from the word for peppermint in German – pfefferminz, taking the P from the first letter, E from the middle and Z from the last letter to form the new name. The original shape of PEZ candy was round and called “PEZ drops.” The candy quickly evolved to the familiar brick shape that is still manufactured today. The PEZ dispenser was introduced in 1949 at the Vienna Trade Fair. In 1952 operations began in New York City. The first three dimensional character head dispenser, a Halloween witch was made in 1957. Popeye became the first licensed character in 1958. There are lots of other fun facts to read about here including the one below.

Santa Claus is the best selling dispenser of all time

Hundreds of dispensers displayed in glass cases can be seen here. They are grouped by category, for example the “Favorite Characters” that are shown below. These include characters from Peanuts, Smurfs, Sesame Street, Flintstones, Garfield and the Simpsons with the dates they were first introduced.

Favorite Characters on display

There were some dispensers that surprised us including one for every U.S. president. There are also those featuring popular movie characters.

PEZ presidential collection

The store claims to have the largest dispenser in the world, 14 feet high and motorized. As you watch, the head slowly opens up and a “candy” is dispensed before it closes again. I took the photo below looking down from the second story landing.

The largest PEZ

One of the favorite exhibits is the PEZ themed motorcycle made by the people from Orange County Choppers.

PEZ Motorcycle

Although you can’t see the candy or dispensers being made here, there are large windows that look out at the production facility where the dispensers are packaged. This was just mildly interesting as the reason to come is to see all the dispensers and learn about PEZ history. People also come to stock up on their favorites and there are plenty to choose from. Our two grandsons love PEZ so we bought some for them and they were excited to find out we had visited the factory store. In the photo below, Mark poses under a sign stating, “You aren’t famous until you have had your head on a PEZ dispenser.”

After the PEZ factory we headed to nearby New Haven, a historical city known for two things I wanted to check out, pizza and Yale University. Connecticut is known for having great pizza and the most well known is found in the Old Italy neighborhood of New Haven. There are several favorite pizza restaurants here and we decided to try Frank Pepe’s, which has been in business since 1925. Their signature pizza is white clam which we ordered as well as a pizza loaded with fresh tomatoes only available in the summer. They bake their pizzas in an old fashioned brick oven and they were as delicious as I hoped, especially the clam which was very unique. There is really nothing quite as good as a well made pizza in my humble opinion.

Frank Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven
Frank Pepe’s signature white clam pizza and fresh tomatoe pizza

I always enjoy visiting colleges and universities – there is something about walking around a center of higher learning and seeing the historical buildings, wonderful architecture and vibrant student atmosphere. Perhaps some of my interest is because I spent so many years myself in college attending classes part time working toward degrees. I had hoped during our travels to visit an Ivy League College and here was my chance in New Haven. Yale was founded in 1701, making it the third oldest university in America. Harvard is the oldest and the College of William and Mary is second. We visited William and Mary while staying in Williamsburg, Virginia and it boasts the oldest remaining building on a college campus. Yale is organized into about a dozen different campuses or colleges. I wanted to walk around the Old Campus which is the principal residence of Yale College freshmen and also contains the offices for some of the academic departments.

Yale University Old Campus

In the photo above is a statue of Nathan Hale and a view on the right of the oldest surviving building from the colonial era, Connecticut Hall built in 1750. The Old Campus buildings surround a four acre courtyard and green with a main entrance gate. It is a beautiful area with many shade trees and stone paths. The statue is of Nathan Hale, a Connecticut and Revolutionary War hero who attended Yale and lived at Connecticut Hall. He was a spy during the War who at the young age of 21 was captured and executed by the British. He is remembered for his famous saying, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Yale University Old Campus

Across from the Old Campus I found this grand entrance and gate leading to another campus. I will close with this photo and hope you enjoyed a look at our exploring in the New Haven area.

2 thoughts on “Exploring Connecticut: Pez, Pizza and Yale”

  1. PEZ museum! Now you’ve seen it all! ;-). That was kind of a fun surprise as I didn’t know or had forgotten you had visited there. Emma’s parents collect PEZ, such a fun iconic thing. Touring major universities is a fun travel idea I hadn’t thought too much about, so much history. Those buildings look amazing!

    1. Thanks for the fun comment Matt! I have never been a big PEZ fan, but the visitor center was fun and I enjoyed learning the history of the candy. I didn’t know Emma’s parents were PEZ fans, we could have sent them some! Yes, I think visiting the major universities is interesting and I hated to miss seeing Yale, one of the most famous.

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