The Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center’s Denise Skidmore has this advice to give: “No one should ever shop hungry!”
When groups visit the attraction in Hilmar, California, they can grab lunch at the café that serves up, of course, some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches as well as espresso, ice cream, and its famous cream cheese brownie and cheese pie—better than cheesecake, Skidmore says.
The gift shop is a treasure trove of cheeses: from Hilmar-made products to California Farmstead cheese and other unique cheeses from around the world. Visitors can discover local beers and wines that pair with their cheese selections and local gourmet foods like jams, crackers, and meats.
“We have farmhouse gifts and a wonderful kids section. We also offer a unique collection of items for the holidays,” Skidmore says. “We have friendly staff ready for groups. And, for the non-shopper, there are exhibits and a movie about how cheese is made.”
She says the visitor center is a unique comfort stop—as opposed to a chain location—for those traveling from the Bay Area to Yosemite, or along Highway 99 in California’s Central Valley.
“We are a value-added stop, as there is no admission cost and tours are free. Every guest loves free cheese samples, especially ‘squeakers,’ which are fresh cheese curds. We are the only place in the world (where guests can) watch employees package the ‘big cheese,’ a 640-pound block of cheese, and we also have the largest hand-painted dairy mural in the world,” Skidmore says.
And during the holidays, the company offers ready-to-purchase gift boxes and baskets in the store as well as online. Groups can book a gift-basket-making activity, too.
“We provide the basket, sizzle, cello, and bow. The guests fill the baskets, and our experts show them how to position items and wrap them up for the perfect gift. We also have beautiful holiday decorations up from Veteran’s Day through Christmas. It looks like a winter wonderland,” she says.
Top photo by Hilmar Cheese Company Visitor Center
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