My first recollection of a Factory tour was on my father’s shoulders at the age of 3 pinching my nose for what seemed like forever as we wandered amongst huge vats of swirling colored liquid in a cheese factory. I was miserable. Flash forward and we just visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory on the rural Oregon coast. The experience was wonderful. I tried Cheese Curds for the first time in my life and really liked their light texture and flavor, and now I finally know what Little Miss Muffet sat eating on her Tuffet. Who knew?
If you have never taken a Factory Tour you are missing out. You most likely don’t need to travel more than a few miles from your home to enjoy this adventure. Factory tours are not restricted to the U.S. We’ve been on factory tours in Europe, Caribbean, Latin America and all around the U.S.
What is remarkable about them is that while we are getting the inside view we are learning, meeting the locals and adding to our overall arsenal of understanding about how our world economies work. They are adventures for our mind and senses. Just the automation and machinery is a marvel to enjoy. Each time I come away in awe that “this little item” that I take for granted in my life has such a rich history and so much engineering and ingenuity have been harnessed to bring it to me. It often makes me feel insignificant but at the same time privileged to live in a time of such amazing innovation.
Other Factory Tours we’ve enjoyed are the NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Harry & David’s in Medford, Oregon, Monaco Motorhome Factor in Coburg, Oregon, Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland, Hershey’s Chocolate Factory tour in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Bacardi Rum tour in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Ethel M Factory (home of M & M Candies) and Cactus Garden in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in Waterbury, Vermont.
My wish list of Tours would start with these:
The Fragonard Perfume Factory at Grasse, France
Gibson Guitars in Memphis, Tennessee
Harley & Davidson Motorcycles in York, PA,
Caves de la Veuve Clicquot Champagne making in Reims, France
Intel Museum tour of the famous computer chip manufacturer in Santa Clara, CA
Future of Flight and Boeing Aircraft tour in Mukilteo, Washington
Volkswagen –VW Factory and Autostadt Factory in Wolfsburg, Germany
Guinness Beer Factory in Dublin, Ireland
Cuban Cigar tour in Havana
On a recent tour of Harry and David’s food gift basket factory in the small Oregon city of Medford, we learned they were just hiring 5000 ( YES 5,000) workers for the last quarter of the year to support the Christmas season sales season. The economic impact of this on the local economy is huge and consequently the local loyalty to the company is felt when talking with people. The factory was impressive, critically clean, processes clear and very transparent to guests. There was a small fee of $5.00 each, but we did receive a coupon that we could have used in their store at the end.
It says a lot about a company that they are willing to open their doors and expose themselves to inquiring eyes. When touring the Monaco Motorhome factory in Coburg, Oregon we were hosted by a shop foreman that talked about lean times and employees having to learn multiple jobs to keep the place running. The workmanship from the cabinetry, the fabrication and the painting was amazing.
Most of the factory tours provide some samples. Even the Waterford Crystal factory in Ireland gave us a little token gift when we left. Chocolate factories are a favorite and we especially enjoyed the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden Christmas lighting ceremony in Henderson, Nevada outside Las Vegas. It was free, the garden a novel and beautiful surprise and the samples generous.
Sometimes you can just make friends and ask for a tour at a facility you are interested in. We’ve done this with a Printing plant in Mexico and a Shipyard in Jacksonville, Florida.
Wineries and Farms are technically factory tours too, and are a wonderful way to learn about the economy and agrarian way of life. We’ve learned that most of the wineries are happy for you to bring your own picnic lunch, buy a glass of their wine and wander their beautiful grounds.
The Bacardi Rum factory in Puerto Rico shared the importance of sugar cane through the centuries, the hardships of the class system that developed from that and the importance Rum production has had on the entire economy of the Caribbean. We were invited at the end of the tour to enjoy their outdoor bar area where we had a wonderful afternoon with an interesting view, trade wind breezes and delicious drinks.
The biggest impact of these tours for us has been in our financial education and the personal stories we’ve heard from our local hosts. We have a better understand of the challenges our fellow citizens are facing and how un-generic the regional communities remain despite the standardization of the global businesses like McDonalds. They have become an entertaining learning experience of the communities we visit.
To find a factory tour near you checkout – FactoryTour.com
VisitorTips.com – A GREAT RESOURCE- These are the Brochure stands you see in all attractions. Get all the local brochures before you go, coupons, maps etc. They also have an app.