Made in the USA: 32 Must-See Factory Tours
Many people have gone on a brewery tour or been through the chocolate wonderland that is the Hershey's Chocolate Tour in Pennsylvania. But guitar factories, glassmaking studios, motorcycle plants, and other fascinating sites are also open to visitors. This survey of more than 30 tours -- all free or less than $10 a person, unless otherwise noted -- can add an educational element to your next vacation and may also provide free samples, along with fun memories.
Visitors can get a glimpse of how a car is made on a free, hourlong tour of Toyota Kentucky in Georgetown. It's America's first and the world's largest Toyota manufacturing facility, cranking out some 2,000 vehicles each day. Visitors see a 1988 Camry, the first ever made in the United States, before enjoying the guided, tram-driven tour around the plant.
Summit Brewing Co. in St. Paul, Minnesota, bills itself as the maker of "A More Meaningful Brew." Visitors can find out what that means when they "witness the miracle of brewing" and have a few samples from these Midwest pioneers who made their name with copper kettles instead of covered wagons. There's no charge for the tour, but visitors are asked bring a food donation for Second Harvest Heartland.
It might be crass to call this a factory tour, but Beecher's Handmade Cheese in New York City's Flatiron District (a sister to the famed flagship in Seattle's Pike Place Market) features a glass-walled cheese-making kitchen where visitors can watch centuries-old craftsmanship. Guests can also grab a sandwich in the café or have a glass of wine downstairs in the Cellar, where rows of Beecher's cheeses ripen to perfection.
Stone Creek Coffee features a free weekly tour of its 1880s factory on Sundays. The Milwaukee craft coffee roaster, founded in 1993, gives visitors an inside look at the craft, from the coffee-growing seasons to the art of specialized roasting, in its green storage area, roasting facility, cupping lab, and training center -- along with free coffee.
Cigar Factory New Orleans has been described as "a cigar factory, smoke shop, and hangout space with a cigar museum and rollers doing on-site demos." Seems to cover all the cigar-related bases, right? In the famed French Quarter since 1999, this is a place to step back in time accompanied by Latin sounds and aromatic scents.