Take a different kind of road trip this fall and visit one of the many fun factory tours available close to home. (No “golden ticket” required!) Several companies open their facilities for the public to see how their favorite products are manufactured. These tours are family friendly and often have specific programs and activities designed just for kids. Check out our picks for planning a few trips just a short drive away.
A trip to the Great American Popcorn Company is worth it just to smell the chocolate, cheese and caramel flavored popcorn made fresh each day. During the short tour, learn the history of popcorn and see how this delicious snack goes from cookers to coaters. The tour is free, but you must call ahead (and be sure to ask for a fresh batch of caramel popcorn to be ready for taste testing!)
Who doesn’t like Dum-Dums? Take a trolley tour of the factory where these lollipops are made, along with many other treats. This affordable destination also has a museum and a store to stock up on these famous hard candies.
Did you know there are seven steps to making ice cream? At the Velvet Ice Cream headquarters, your family can enjoy a free tour that includes the history of the company and a look inside their factory from the viewing gallery. During the 30-minute walking tour, you will learn how the company began in 1914 and what it takes to make this sweet dessert.
South Bend, Indiana
Still have a sweet tooth? Located near The University of Notre Dame, The South Bend Chocolate Company is the fastest growing chocolate company in the nation. See up close how their chocolate and candies are made with the 45 minute “Inside Scoop” tour, or a shorter 20 minute basic tour option.
For the baseball-loving family (and even non-fans), the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory should be at the top of your list. Many different attractions are available to keep your children’s interest and a mini bat is included with the price of the tour.
Maybe you’re more of a football fan? Since 1941 every NFL game ball that’s appeared in the Super Bowl was made at the Wilson Football Factory. See the process of what goes into manufacturing each one. Call ahead as times for the tour do vary.
We all know children love to make noise, and what better way to do it than with a whistle? Visit this manufacturing plant and see how a whistle is made from start to finish. Tours are scheduled in advance and are customized to the interests of the patrons, so all ages are welcome and encouraged!
As a part of the Henry Ford complex, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour has a lot to offer. From an elevated walkway, you will tour a working assembly line that produces one F-150 truck every minute! There are also two theatre experiences that your children are sure to enjoy, including a film with special effects and a short documentary with rarely viewed footage.
So hit the road for one of these unique destinations! Not only will your family have an interesting experience, but your children will be able to see a manufacturing process from start to finish and appreciate the skill it takes to create some of their favorite products.