Why this boardwalk delicacy is better in the mountains. Also, what’s up with fudge.
A common question from folks walking Elkhorn Avenue (the main drag downtown) is “what’s up with all the taffy?” Well, first off, there are just two shops specializing in this chewy delight (though there are many more candy stores)--but we totally get that that’s probably close to 200% more taffy shops than line the streets in most people’s hometowns. Unless you live in Atlantic City or Cape Cod or another East Coast resort town where the stuff was born.
Even on the coast, though, the sugary goodness doesn’t have saltwater in it. Legend has it that in 1883, an enterprising candy shop owner in Atlantic City, New Jersey was making the best of a recently flooded storefront, dubbing his taffy supply as “Saltwater Taffy.” It was a hit, and thought he didn’t change the recipe (which contains both salt and water, just not actual seawater), the name stuck--as did the treat’s association with touristy beach towns.
Soon enough, the phenomena spread west through landlocked states and beyond (you can get taffy at just about any grocery store these days), and it’s become a staple in many vacation towns. The first in Estes was The Taffy Shop, opened in 1935, and it still operates in the same building today. Purple Mountain Taffy Company is on the same block and strives to “honor the pioneer spirit” of the West’s first settlers by making candy “unlike any found anywhere else”. I think that’s true of all taffy in Estes.
On a family vacation to Cape Cod a few years ago, my wife and I rented bikes and proceed to pedal nearly 50 miles to Provincetown and back from the beach we had a house on. We fueled our ride with a few pounds of saltwater taffy (and a stop for lobster rolls), and I’ll be the first to say without hesitation that the taffy found in Estes is better. In fact, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Soft and chewy with vibrant flavors.
So, indulge in that old-school vacation treat. It’s easy to earn it around here with all these trails and mountain tops.
Now for that other vacation treat—fudge—its history is less illustrious. It’s believed to be another American invention, one that was a failed attempt at making caramels. The batch was “fudged.” Anyway, if fudge is more your jam, that’s all over the place in various candy shops as well.
Burn some calories on a good hike, then have at it.
And if you’re somewhere far off or want to relive some sweet memories, let us introduce you to the taffy cam. You can zen out on that taffy pulling and have fun watching foot traffic too. Send us a screenshot on Facebook or Twitter if you see something extra special.