Known to many as the Tillamook Cheese Factory and always an important stop on a visit to the Oregon Coast, the Tillamook Creamery is now providing a new and very classy visitor experience in Tillamook, Oregon.
It had to happen. The number of visitors who came to see cheese being made, savor an ice cream and take home souvenirs and Tillamook cheese kept growing. More than 1.3 million people now visit each year, sometimes as many as 10,000 a day. And if you’ve ever stood in the ice cream line there, you understand why a new facility had to be built.
What You Will Experience at the Tillamook Creamery
While ice cream and cheese continue to be the main draw, a new visitor center in Tillamook, Oregon—larger and beautifully designed—welcomes travelers to this popular tourist destination.
The new Tillamook Creamery was built in the same location as the former visitor center but it’s more than 50 percent larger at approximately 42,700 square feet. The center tells the story of the 109-year history of this farmer-owned co-op in beautifully illustrated exhibits. Children will enjoy the life-size cow exhibit and the hands-on learning experience.
A self-guided Tillamook factory tour overlooking the immaculate cheese factory will give all visitors insight into the cheese-making process.
You will build up an appetite just watching all of that Tillamook cheese on the factory floor below.
A small theater shows videos about how Tillamook products are made. And, of course, there are cheese samples. The interior of the building is expansive, with wide staircases and high windows so that visitors no longer feel crowded.
Dining at the Tillamook Creamery
The dining area, with long wooden tables, has also been expanded. There’s an outdoor covered patio with seating. The food is excellent for a coastal tourist destination. I sampled their charcuterie board.
The new menu, created in partnership with Portland Chef Sarah Schafer of Irving Street Kitchen showcases Tillamook Creamery products through traditional comfort food as well as stepped-up cuisine like the Oregon Bay Shrimp Salad. Get to know Tillamook cheese by trying a Tillamook Maker’s Reserve Flight, featuring three fine aged cheddars paired with Three Little Figs spread. The creamery restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner items. You order at the counter but servers deliver your freshly made meal to you.
Not to worry, there are some gooey old favorites too. At my table, people were diving into the Tempura Battered Cheese Curds—fresh Tillamook cheddar curds with Sriracha ranch dipping sauce.
You’ll also find Pacific Northwest wine, cider, and beer to down with your cheesy favorites. A new coffee and yogurt bar offers you the opportunity to buy coffee and espresso drinks and customize your Tillamook yogurt with a variety of toppings.
Tillamook Ice Cream
And after your charcuterie plate or Tillamook cheeseburger, you’ll obviously want some of that famous Tillamook ice cream. An expanded ice cream counter, available for indoor and seasonal outdoor service, serves up every Tillamook ice cream flavor plus specialty ice cream sundaes, shakes, and floats.
It’s this ice cream that makes kids ask, “Are we there yet?” Most everyone I know considers a visit to the Tillamook Creamery more of a pilgrimage than just another stop on the Oregon coast.
Shopping for Tillamook Products and Merch
At the market, you can buy bricks of Tillamook cheese, smaller packages of specialty cheeses and a wide variety of Tillamook products. Want ideas on how to use those products? Well, they sell cookbooks, too.
Pick up some Pacific Northwest wine to go with your cheese and a t-shirt or two. The branded apparel is a step above the cutesy graphic shirts of yesterday. There are stickers, postcards, and tons of cow and cheese related souvenirs. And, there are non-cheese related gourmet specialty foods.
When You Go to the Tillamook Creamery
As you drive into Tillamook you’ll see pastures with cows that are the ones that produce the milk being trucked into the creamery building. The Tillamook Creamery Association is made up of nearly 90 farming families, primarily based in Tillamook County.
Don’t be surprised if you catch a whiff of “Dairy Air,” as that’s part of the Tillamook experience. You can have a real farm to factory to table experience in Tillamook and I highly recommend it.
The Tillamook Creamery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer months through Labor Day and then 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. after Labor Day through mid-June. There is no charge to visit. It's just off Highway 101 in Tillamook.
Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with a tour and meal for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.