Monday, May 22, 2006

Free tours for the whole family

Fun Factories
by Jeff Yeager
Free tours for the whole family

When I was growing up in the Midwest, our family vacations and weekend outings invariably included show and tell stops at factories that manufactured everything from cookies and candy to light bulbs and model rockets. In retrospect, I realize that my parents undoubtedly loved the price tag of admission (almost always free) and the fact that we usually walked away with free samples to further augment our limited family budget. That we were also getting a painless (if sometimes rather superfluous) educational experience was icing on the cakes coming off the conveyor belt.

As kids, all we knew was that these tours were the best part of almost any trip. Still to this day, at family gatherings, we fondly recall our tour guide "Three Fingers Fred" at the meat packing plant we toured in Chicago, and we laugh at the dog-eared snapshot taken of our family at a pickle factory in Ohio, with each of us proudly sporting the pickle shaped paper hats like those worn by the plant's workers. We never got to a single Disney park when I was growing up, but when it comes to good times with family, I'll take our dream factories over the Magic Kingdom any day.

Unfortunately, fewer factories today open their doors to visitors. I suspect that's because of increased liability concerns and, sadder still, the growing belief among Americans that if something doesn't cost a lot of money, it can't be fun or worthwhile. Nonetheless, many factories still do offer tours, and most of them are still free.

For only the cost of a smile, you can see dolls being made at the Turner Doll factory in Heltonville, Indiana, sample otherworldly teas at the Celestial Seasonings plant in Boulder, Colorado, and see Harley-Davidson Motorcycles roar off the assembly line at the factory in York, Pennsylvania. The tour of Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont is a hit with more than a quarter of a million visitors each year, particularly the sampling stop in the FlavoRoom (adults $3 and kids under 12 are free). You can even take a virtual tour of the Spam Factory at the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota.

Check out www.factorytoursusa.com for a comprehensive list of tours by state. And, my upbringing on factory tours has carried over to adulthood. Here's where to look for information on brewery and winery tours: www.ratebeer.com, www.allamericanwineries.com, and www.wineamerica.org (become a WineAmerica Trailblazer for $25 a year and get access to special VIP tours and tastings). _____________________________
Jeff Yeager is a freelance writer and public speaker with a humorous approach to personal finances. He has appeared on the NBC Today Show and can be contacted via his website www.UltimateCheapskate.com.

Note from Lucy: I love taking tours. I suppose my favorite tour was at the Blue Bell Ice Cream plant in Brenhem, TX. It just freaked me out at how big the mixing units were. I still wonder how they make so many flavors of ice cream in one place. They must have the biggest freezer in the world! The best part of the tour was the tasting room. Yummmm.

With summer on our heels, you just might be able to find a way to compensate for gas prices by taking a free tour or two on you trip. If you want to take a vacation, closer to home, a free tour might just make the day. There is no telling what you will find. Follow the links above and have a good time.

13 Comments:

At 8:38 AM, Blogger FRIDAY'S CHILD said...

Here in our country we call it field trip or educational tour. Factories or manufacturers here still open doors for children or students who go and visit for educational tours.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Touring factories is definitely a great idea, especially with the high costs of gas and living now. We used to go on hikes, and take nature walks as well to save some money during our vacations.

Have a good day.

 
At 9:48 AM, Blogger Jahn said...

Reminds me of when I got to tour the Leatherman factory in Portland back in '99. I was out there at a Reserve unit doing a "table-top exercise" and the factory was right down the road from our hotel. Great experience.

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Sherpa said...

Just Born, the maker of Peeps and Hot Tamales doesn't have a Factory tour, but its my dream to see Peeps being born. And eating a 5 lb bag of hot tamales and a case of Peeps in Bethlehem, PA.

 
At 2:13 PM, Blogger DayByDay4-2Day said...

I'm smiling from ear to ear today from my pressie! Thanks!

 
At 10:55 PM, Blogger Mountain Mama said...

What a fun thning to do! I have never toured a place or got samples. One time when my hubby and I were driving by the Olympia Beer plant he said we could stop for a sample but I never liked the stuff. Now if it had been the Chocolate factory in Hershey, PA, Mmmmm I would have done it!

 
At 4:18 PM, Blogger Fred said...

Great tips, Lucy. I've stubled across many of these when I traveled internationally, but this is good to know now that many of us will stay closer to home this summer.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger angel, jr. said...

I'm like you, I love taking tours of factories and famous homes/historical sites, all that stuff that some people think is crappy.

 
At 12:39 AM, Blogger Live, Love, Laugh said...

Can't say that I have been on many tours, but it all sounds educational and fun all at the same time, guess I will have to try this out. Thanks for the info.

 
At 2:53 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

What a super idea :o)

 
At 3:31 PM, Anonymous nettie said...

I remember the Hershey Factory...

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Oh great One said...

I went to the Tabasco factory for a tour. It was fun even though it was a little stinky.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Tab said...

Oh I can still remember the sweet rich smell of a little chocolate factory my grade 4? class went to for a tour.It was a little chocolate factory in a little park called
Chocolate Park! I also remember as a teen on vacation with my Mom visiting friends in a little town,we went for a tour of a Cheese factory too..the smell wasn't nearly as nice as the chocolate factory! LOL
Tours of any kind are great!!!!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home