Nuts and Bolts
Step inside these factories, and get an up-close-and-personal look at everything from brewing beer to building motorcycles.
Have you ever wondered how a carousel or motorcycle is made? Ho w about lipstick, jelly beans or beer? Across the country, businesses are opening their doors and inviting vi sitors to get a firsthand look at their operations. From Celestial Sea sonings in Boulder, Colo., t o Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wis., factory tours make for enchanting and eye-opening experiences.
These affordable—and sometimes free—activities offer something for everyone. Whether you’re a musician, makeup artist, chocoholic, tea aficionado, car enthusiast or scrapbooking guru, you will love our 20 best picks.
1 MRS. GROSSMAN’S STICKER FACTORY
Visiting Mrs. Grossman’s sticker factory in Petaluma, Calif., just 40 miles north of San Francisco, is like stepping into a magical world. Inside the factory, you’ll see hundreds of thousands of colorful stickers being made. Besides witnessing the printing, assembly, wrapping and packaging, you’ll also see the Laserweb machine as it shoots 10,000-degree laser beams that cut Mrs. Grossman’s signature into the stickers. In the art room, visitors are given a bag of stickers to use in a complimentary art project.
2 CAROUSEL MAGIC FACTORY
At the Carousel Magic factory in Mansfield, Ohio (about 70 miles south of Cleveland and 60 miles north of Columbus), you can watch skilled craftsmen build, carve and paint carousel figures. They will explain the intricate process that turns a pile of wooden boards into a fleet of enchanting animals. The 30- to 45-minute tour ends at a colorful photo gallery elucidating the history of this whimsical ride.
3 STUFFINGTON BEAR FACTORY
At the Stuffington Bear Factory in Phoenix, you can learn the step-by-step process of designing, manufacturing and sewing teddies. The shorter drop-in tours take place daily at 1 p.m., but the “stuff your own bear” private tour is the most popular option. This hands-on experience comes to life when visitors choose their own 12-inch bear, which they can stuff, comb, bathe and dress.
BLUSH & BLENDERS
4 MARY KAY INC.MANUFACTURING PLANT
View the giant kettles and mixing tanks that produce more than 200 types of cosmetics in this Dallas-based plant. Walk among the one million units of Mary Kay products that are produced each day.
5 KITCHEN AID MANUFACTURING PLANT
A trip to this plant in Greenville, Ohio, 45 minutes outside of Dayton, is the ultimate kitchen adventure. The nearby Experience Store features eight interactive areas where visitors can try all of the Kitchen Aid appliances.
6 VELVET ICE CREAM FACTORY
Nestled on 20 acres of rolling hills in Ohio’s scenic Licking Valley, the Velvet Ice Cream factory in Utica, located 35 miles east of Columbus, gives visitors an insider’s look at the fascinating world of ice cream production. Enjoy a sundae or banana split at the turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor, housed in a historic mill adjacent to the factory. At the interactive ice cream museum, learn the history of this frozen dessert, and attempt to churn ice cream the old-fashioned way.
7 JELLY BELLY CANDY FACTORY
Get a firsthand look at how jelly beans are made at the Jelly Belly candy factory in Fairfield, Calif., about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. Walk through the production process, and see how the candy is cooked, molded, coated, polished, sorted and packaged. Afterwards, head to the sample bar and taste the 150 flavors made in the factory. The candy-inspired menu at the Jelly Belly Cafe features jelly bean-shaped pizza and hamburgers.
8 HERR’S SNACK FACTORY
At Herr’s Snack Factory in Nottingham, Pa., an hour from both Philadelphia and Baltimore, you will learn what makes cheese curls cheesy and why pretzels are brown. You’ll see how raw ingredients—mainly potatoes and corn—are prepped, cooked and seasoned to make different products. After sampling freshly cooked potato chips still warm from the fryer, bagged potato chips will never taste the same.
9 ETHEL M CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Sample chocolates at Ethel M’s Chocolate factory, just 15 minutes away from the Las Vegas Strip. Take a peek into the processing kitchen, and stroll through the company’s four-acre cactus garden—one of the world’s largest—home to more than 300 species of the desert plant.
10 CELESTIAL SEASONINGS TEA FACTORY
A trip to the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder, Colo., is an experience for the senses. Entertain your taste buds at the daily tea sampling—featuring more than 100 teas—and visit the Celestial processing plant, where 10 million tea bags are produced daily. The visit culminates in the Mint Room, where thousands of pounds of dried spearmint and peppermint are stored.
11 SECHLER’S PICKLES
During the guided tour at Sechler’s Pickles in St. Joe, Ind., two hours north of Indianapolis, visitors get a glimpse of the pickle-making process, beginning at the tank yards, where the cucumbers are stored, through the processing, cutting, sweetening and packing of the pickles. From apple-cinnamon to jalapeño dilled, you’ll have a hard time choosing your favorite from Sechler’s 39 varieties.
12 CEDAR GROVE CHEESE
Learn about artisinal cheese in Plain, Wis., at the Cedar Grove Cheese factory, located about 35 miles northwest of Madison. During the tour, you’ll see cheese transform from pasteurized milk to finished blocks of mouthwatering goodness. Visit the Living Machine, which uses a biological technique to clean utilized water before it is deposited into the Wisconsin River.
13 NATURAL OVENS BAKERY
At the Natural Ovens Bakery in Manitowoc, Wis., about an hour and a half north of Milwaukee, you can savor the aroma of baking bread. Visitors can see the entire baking process, beginning with the formation of dough to baking in the 120-foot-long ovens. Enjoy samples as you browse the store, which carries a variety of whole foods and a complete line of Natural Ovens products.
BEER & WINE
14 HERZOG WINE CELLARS
Experience wine as you never have at the Herzog Wine Cellars in Oxnard, Calif., located 60 minutes from Los Angeles. On a walking tour, visitors have the chance to see the cellar, bottling line and barrel room come to life. Tierra Sur, the winery’s restaurant, has a menu where selections are paired with Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
15 MILLER BREWERY
Taste for yourself Milwaukee’s biggest beer export. Enjoying a frosty sample at the Miller Inn before you take a walk through the brewery, purchased by Frederick J. Miller in 1855. If it’s a sunny day, you can lounge in the beer garden after the tour wraps. Adults are welcome to their beer of choice, while fountain soda is available for the kids.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL IS HERE TO STAY
16 GIBSON GUITAR FACTORY
Ever wondered who makes guitars for B.B. King and Sheryl Crow? At the Gibson Beale Street Showcase in Memphis, two hours from Nashville, watch luthiers handcraft some of the finest guitars in the world. You’ll not only see the binding, neck-fitting, painting and buffing that goes into making a guitar, you’ll also hear how Gibson has shaped the music industry for more than 100 years. In the evenings, enjoy live performances at the Beale Street Lounge, located on the first floor of the factory.
17 EMERGENCY ONE FACTORY
At the Emergency One factory in Ocala, Fla., about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, you can gain an appreciation for the some of the finest rescue vehicles in the world. Watch the intricate process of manufacturing and assembling fire trucks of all colors. In the final testing area, climb into the cab of a fire engine and smile for a one-of-a-kind photo-op.
18 FUTURE OF FLIGHT AVIATION CENTER & BOEING TOUR
Model airplane lover or not, you will be wowed by the Boeing assembly plant in Mukilteo, Wash., 30 minutes north of Seattle. After watching a video at the Future of Flight and Aviation Center that shows how a jumbo jet is assembled, a bus takes you to the nearby Boeing factory. From the outdoor viewing deck, you can watch airplanes take off and land; it’s the closest you can get to a runway without actually being on a plane.
19 HARLEY DAVIDSON FACTORY
At the Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City, Mo., visitors can see the plant that produces the Sportster, Dyna and VRSC families of motorcycles. Home of the V-Rod model, this factory is the only location that makes a complete motorcycle from start to finish. Visitors are invited to walk through the factory, where they can view a wide range of operations, from welding and frame-bending to powder-coating and wheel assembly.
20 CORVETTE ASSEMBLY PLANT
During the one-mile walking tour at the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., about 60 miles north of Nashville, you’ll see how Chevrolet Corvettes and Cadillac XLRs are assembled. From mere feet away, you’ll see the body shop, assembly area and dynamic vehicle tests. Get a look at how the car’s trim and chassis are “married” when four operators merge the vehicle’s two main components together in less than three minutes.