Best US Factory Tours and Museums
In an age of foreign imports, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are plenty of goods and products made right here in the USA. Many manufacturers will let you get a glimpse of how their products are made with a behind-the-scenes tour, often complete with history lessons, demonstrations and free samples. On your next vacation, consider stopping by a factory that produces one of these iconic American products.
We’ve all had a cup of Sleepytime tea, but have you ever wondered what goes into making that little pouch of goodness? At the Celestial Seasonings factory, visitors can watch as herbal tea ingredients are blended, packaged and shipped to your local grocery store. The tours are free, and include free samples of all the different Celestial Seasonings tea varieties.
Get in touch with your inner biker at the Harley-Davidson factory in York, PA, where the Touring, Softail and Trike models are all made. Catch a glimpse of the manufacturing and assembly process, and sit on a Harley before it’s shipped from the factory.
Did you know that a jelly bean takes at least a week to make? Find out why on a Jelly Belly factory tour in Fairfield, CA, where 150 different jelly bean flavors are constantly being cooked up. Tours are free, but make sure to check out the candy store and chocolate shop before you leave.
Visit the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory to see how the iconic bats are made. The factory museum also has a collection of retired Louisville Sluggers that have been swung by some of baseball’s greats. Tours are $10, and you’ll get your very own miniature bat!
While there is not an actual manufacturing plant onsite, the Crayola Factory serves as a museum and visitor center where you can become an expert on how the famous crayons are made. Learn about Crayola’s history, color on the walls, play with sidewalk chalk, and watch as your own souvenir box of crayons is made.
The Intel Museum is a 10,000-square-foot learning experience. Watch as employees demonstrate how silicon chips are made, and even try on one of the “bunny suits,” which workers must wear while manufacturing the chips.
Maker's Mark Distillery
Visit this National Historic Landmark to learn about the distillery’s history, watch the fermentation process, and get a look at the barrels that the whiskey ages in. The tour also includes a look at the bottling area, where workers hand-dip the top of each bottle in Maker’s Mark’s signature red wax.
Feel like you stepped into a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Hershey’s Chocolate World. Walk through a tropical jungle where cocoa beans are harvested, take a simulated factor tour, create your own candy bar, and don’t forget to pick up your free sample!
Head to Macungie, PA, to see how Mack trucks are made. Be prepared, because the factory tour includes 1.5 miles of walking! Stop by the Mack Museum in Allentown, PA, to see truck models from 1907 to 1973.
Located in Vermont’s Green Mountains, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory is a must-see for satisfying any sweet tooth. Get a glimpse of the ice cream production line, watch a “moo-vie” on the company’s history, and stop at the Flavoroom for a taste of the flavor of the day. Don’t forget to visit the flavor graveyard, the final resting place for retired ice cream varieties.
The Gibson luthiers (string-instrument makers) bind, paint, neck-fit, buff and tune the famous guitars right at the Memphis factory. Watch as they make some of the same guitars that have been played by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
Visit tiny Avery Island on the Bayou to learn how the famous hot-pepper sauce is made, aged, bottled and shipped. Make sure to stop at the Tabasco Country Store at the tour’s end for a taste of Tabasco-flavored ice cream and to pick up Tabasco-inspired souvenirs.