Throughout the day on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 4,000 travelers at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Station were able to take a brief-but-sweet break in the midst of the hustle and bustle. On hand from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. was a handful of Visit Bucks County staff members, who distributed cookies, brownies, doughnuts, chocolate and more like rapid fire to passing commuters.
This free treat surprise was to celebrate the launch of VBC’s latest initiative – the Sweet Spots Trail, which features more than 30 Bucks County bakeries, ice cream parlors, cafes and candy stores. After checking in to at least five spots on the trail through a digital passport, tourists and locals alike receive a complimentary plush Bucky the deer.
The Sweet Spots Trail comes on the heels of the Wine Trail and Ale Trail, which, according to VBC president/COO Paul Bencivengo, have both had great success. When businesses are promoted as an entity, rather than individually, he said people are more inclined to visit more than one and make an enjoyable event out of it.
“When you talk about a trail, a collection of wineries or breweries, they kind of put it together a little easier in their minds,” he explained.
Earlier this year, VBC began promoting the Ice Cream Trail in order to get families involved in a passport program.
“That got such great reception that we decided to expand it to include sweet spots since we’ve got so many great independent creameries and chocolatiers and bakeries within Bucks County. We wanted to widen the scope when we were talking about something that was a little more kid-friendly,” Bencivengo said. “Bucks County is known to be a family destination and a great place to bring your kids with Sesame Place, Shady Brook Farm, the Children’s Museum, New Hope and Ivyland Railroad. We saw an opportunity to package a trail for kids to do.”
In order to participate in the Sweet Spots Trail, individuals should go to visitbuckscounty.com/sweetspotstrail. Here, they can download a digital passport.
“When you get to each location, you’re given a code to check in and check it off your list,” Bencivengo said.
Spots on the trail include Angelina’s Bake Shop and Calm Waters Coffee in Bristol, H.F. Hornberger Bakery in Bensalem, Covered Bridge Coffee Roasters in Feasterville-Trevose, and Richboro Coffee House in Richboro, in addition to a slew of locations in Newtown, Doylestown and New Hope. The goal is to have people travel through and explore the entire county.
“At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – to help raise awareness of the businesses that we have here in Bucks County,” Bencivengo sasid. “We’re really promoting the independent stores. We don’t have any national chains in the trail. It’s really promoting local businesses and creating economic impact that ultimately supports jobs.”
Once Sweet Spots Trail participants check in to at least five locations, they can electronically submit their passport to the Bucks County Visitor Center. VBC staff receives their information, and sends out a free Bucky plush.
“He’s the fun representation of Bucks County that we’ve created for kids. He’s a lovable deer that kids can be drawn to. And the plush is awesome because it’s great quality, he’s got a big Bucks County logo on the T-shirt, and we hope that once people get the plush, that he’ll sit on kids’ beds for years to come,” Bencivengo said. “It’s a little subtle reminder of their visit to Bucks County. It’s essentially a keepsake that we want people to have around. Maybe kids will always want to carry their Bucky around with them, even when they travel.”
Bencivengo’s hope is that Sweet Spots Trail redemption rates are just as high as the Ale Trail. Since its launch in May, almost 1,500 participants have stopped by at least five breweries, and submitted their digital passport to receive a free Ale Trail T-shirt.
During the Sweet Spots Trail activation at Jefferson Station, commuters not only had the chance to enjoy a local treat, but learn about the county’s jam-packed lineup of fall activities. They could also snap a photo in front of an interactive display featuring a scenic autumn view of the Delaware River. Those who posted their photos on Instagram were entered to win a getaway to New Hope.
“We do digital, we have billboards and all that kind of stuff. But when you have an opportunity to talk one-on-one with somebody and tell them about why Bucks County is a great place to come, there’s nothing like it,” Bencivengo said. “Bucks County is continuing to evolve as a travel destination because people are excited.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org