6/27/19

Best FREE Family-Friendly Factory Tours

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with the Hershey’s chocolate factory in Oakdale, CA. We passed by it when we drove to our cabin, and my parents were happy to stop and take the tour any time it was open. That was the problem. Tours were only during business hours on weekdays and never on holidays. When did we go to our cabin? When school was out... weekends and holidays. We toured successfully about 8 times over the years before Hershey left Oakdale. Each time was incredible. I loved smelling the chocolate scent that permeated everything, watching the machines make row after row of perfectly aligned Kisses, seeing the rolls of foil transform into wrappers, and eating the samples. I thought it was magical getting to watch how something I loved was made.

I still love factory tours as much as I did when I was a kid. Steve and Trevor love them too. Visiting them is a priority for us when we travel. The only thing better than an awesome factory tour? A FREE awesome factory tour. Below are seven of our favorites.



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Jelly Belly Candy Company (Fairfield, California)


There is so much to love about the Jelly Belly factory tour! The smell alone is reason to go. We live less than five miles away, so I can't even begin to count the number of times we've been there. Twenty? Probably more. They have special events at all of the holidays. When Trevor was younger, we always went to their annual Munchkin Masquerade, which is tons of fun.


No matter when you go, the tour is great. It's self-paced, with hands-on activities and challenges along the way. You get to watch all the stages of production. There are generous samples at the end of the tour, as well as at the Sample Bar in the retail shop. Don’t skip the cafe! Their jelly-belly shaped pizza and burgers are delicious, as is everything else on the menu. The retail shop has lots of great stuff for sale, but my favorite are the Belly Flops. These discount Jelly Bellies are a bit misshapen, but just as delicious as the others.


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Bob's Red Mill (Milwaukie, Oregon)


The tour at Bob's Red Mill was a highlight for me during our visit to Portland. The free guided tour was educational, interesting, and surprisingly hands-on. We loved working together as a group to identify beans (no bean experts among us, apparently!) and touching all of the exotic grains. Trevor got to grind wheat, which was really cool. We followed up our tour with lunch at their amazing restaurant at Bob's Red Mill Store- I'd eat there all the time if I were local.



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Snyder's of Hanover (Hanover, Pennsylvania)


We really enjoyed the tour at Snyder's of Hanover. The guided walking tour takes you to see the raw materials warehouse, the warehouse for finished product, the packing room, and the oven room, where the scent of baking pretzels is incredible. I was surprised to learn how many different products are under the Snyder's umbrella; they make a lot more than pretzels! We tried to stump our guide with all sorts of questions, but she was a walking encyclopedia who knew pretty much everything about Snyder's and their products.


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Utz Potato Chips (Hanover, Pennsylvania)


While you are in Hanover, don't miss the Potato Chip Trip at Utz. This self-guided tour lets you walk along an observation gallery and see the entire chip-making process from beginning to end. It was so cool seeing potatoes go in one end and packaged chips come out the other. We'd never tried Utz products before; after getting free samples, we're hooked!


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Celestial Seasonings (Boulder, Colorado)


I don't like regular tea, but I am a big fan of certain herbal teas by Celestial Seasonings. My favorite is Cinnamon Apple Spice - yum! The tour at Celestial Seasonings starts with serve-yourself samples of dozens of different teas. This is a great way to try new flavors without committing to buying a whole box. We each discovered some flavors we liked that we might not ordinarily have even tried.

After a video, then the tour goes right into the manufacturing facility. It is so interesting seeing all the raw ingredients and how they are transformed into products that are ready to ship. My favorite part of the tour is the Mint Room. Because mint is so strong, they have to keep it segregated in its own locked room so that it doesn't impart flavors into other types of tea. Entering the Mint Room is indescribable. Mint explodes at your senses in the very best of ways. It's like aromatherapy times a thousand. 


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Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort, Kentucky)


It may surprise you that I'm including a distillery in an article about family-friendly tours, but Buffalo Trace offers an interesting and educational tour that is appropriate for all ages. I'm not a bourbon fan (and obviously, neither was 12-year old Trevor), but we enjoyed the tour just as much as Steve, who is a bourbon fan. You don't have to use the finished product to learn about how it's made and its role in the history of the area. Bourbon is an important industry in Kentucky and Buffalo Trace runs a top-notch tour. The tour ends with bourbon tasting and bourbon-filled chocolates; anyone who didn't want bourbon, for whatever reason, sampled root beer and plain chocolate.


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Tillamook Cheese Factory (Tillamook, Oregon)


Cheese is one of my very favorite foods and Tillamook makes some of the best. The farm exhibit is informative and interesting, but the best was seeing each step of the cheesemaking process on their tour. I particularly watching the huge blocks being cut into consumer-sized portions. And tasting all the samples. That part was awesome.


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We're always on the lookout for family-friendly factory tours when we travel. If you've been to one that's great, please let me know in the comments. Bonus points if the tour is free!

7 comments:

  1. Just for the heck of it, I would do the Amazon Warehouse/distribution center tour but I can't seem to convince anyone I know that it could be a part of a fun day trip. Free....but could be they are right and it would be boring.

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    1. I'd love to tour Amazon's warehouse! I had no idea they do tours. Let's make this happen.

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  2. Ooooh...I would do the potato chips tour!

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  3. These all look like so much fun!!!!!

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  4. This is not exactly a factory tour but this tour of the Bush Beans museum and visitor's center in Tennessee was surprisingly interesting! Bush Beans has been family owned for more than 100 years and their history mirrors a lot of food manufacturing history in the US, including the Depression and War years. https://bushbeans.com/en_US/visitors-center

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    1. Thanks! That sounds really interesting. We'll try to check that out when we're in Tennessee!

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