I have friends who travel to eat, shop and visiting historical landmarks. But have you considered factory tours as a fun way to interact with a new city. Plus, isn’t it so interesting to see how things are made?
Here are a few iconic American factory tours you should check off your bucket list.
Crayola Crayons Factory – Easton, Pennsylvania
The factory tour that started it all… at least in my mind! I remember Mr Rogers walking us through the creation of a yellow Crayon, and I was mesmerized by the process. Plan on spending 3-4 at this downtown Easton beacon– it’s bigger than an NFL football field!
The Crayola Experience feels less like of a “factory” and more of a Crayola showcase and history museum. There is a lot of history to soak up; after all, the company has called Easton home since 1903. This tour is super kid friendly, with four floors of interactive exhibits, indoor playgrounds and, of course, coloring projects. You can even make and name your own crayon.
Harley Davidson Motorcycle Factory
York, PA | Kansas City, MO | Menomonee Falls, WI
Harley may be based out of Milwaukee, but you can see them on the assembly line in three places. Their York facility produces touring motorcycles. In Kansas City, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the street family of motorcycles.
However, for the mack daddy of them all, make a reservation for the Steel Toe tour at Harley-Davidson’s 849,000 square-foot facility in Wisconsin. This two-hour experience lets you get up-close and personal with the assembly line, powder coat process, cold testing, and steel and aluminum machining. This tour comes with a bona fide costume: a safety vest, safety glasses, and steel toe protection, all of which are provided. Afterward, grab a bite at the museum restaurant, Motor, which actually has delicious grub. Think cheese curds, brats and beer. This is Wisconsin, after all.
Jelly Belly – Fairfield, CA
A quarter-mile of jelly beans? Count me in! This free, self-guided tour allows you to stroll through this iconic factory at your own place. In addition to gaining a bird’s eye look at candy making, you’ll get plenty of free samples. Check out the interactive exhibits and games along the tour lane.
If you like vino, be sure to check out the Jelly Belly Chocolate and Wine Experience. Sample five local vintner wines paired with decadent chocolate. If you’re traveling with kids, fret not—they do have non-alcoholic pairings as well.
Ben & Jerry’s – Waterbury, VT
Whether you’re a Cherry Garcia fan, a Phish Food lover or more of an Americone Dream-er, Ben and Jerry’s probably holds a place in your heart. Tour their Vermont facility 7 days a week, 362 days a year. All tours are guided, last 30 minutes and are offered (including the sample!) whether or not ice cream is in production. If you haven’t gotten your fill of the frozen stuff by tour’s end, you can get a scoop or three at their onsite scoop shop.
Be sure to walk through the Flavor Graveyard and pay your respects to the “dearly de-pinted” flavors of years past. Tour Tickets are available on a first-come first-serve basis, and they do occasionally sell out in the summer, fall and over the holidays. Go early!
FILSON – Seattle, WA
Outdoorsmen and women: This one’s for you. For over a century, Filson’s attention to detail and quality makes them unparalleled in the business. Take the free 30-minute tour to see craftspeople take the world’s best raw materials and turn them into garments, bags and gear that last for generations. You may even catch a glimpse of an item in-production—maybe something you’ll need to add to your camping repertoire.
Gibson Guitars – Memphis, TN
Do you every take a look at a product and say, “I could make that myself.” Well, that’s probably not going to happen at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase in Memphis. Tour this legendary guitar factory, complete with an intimate viewing of the facility as Gibson’s skilled luthiers (aka someone who build instruments) craft some of the finest guitars in the world. The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes. Reservations aren’t required, but are recommended. Be sure to check out the onsite store. Who knows, you may leave so inspired that you bring a piece of Gibson history home with you.
Have another not-to-be-missed factory tour? Share in the comments!
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