Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Entertaining excursions: Touring factories that make cool stuff

CC-"Jelly Belly Beans"photo by Brandon Dilbeck -SA

Children have an innate sense of curiosity for the world around them and can spend hours uncovering and discovering the new and unusual.

Sometimes, the most common things in our everyday life can spark that curiosity and turn it into an entertaining adventure as well as a learning experience – such are factory tours.

There are hundreds of companies nationwide that open their doors to the public each year, sharing the what, who, when, where and how their products are made.

Some tours are guided and some are not.

Some charge entrance fees and others simply offer tours to build goodwill within communities.

Many also offer free samples and sell products because of the nature of their tour, but anyway you approach it, taking a factory tour makes for an unusual and fun outing for children.

Whether you’re a parent, caregiver or teacher, let your imagination run wild when determining what type of facility would be interesting to visit: bakeries; candle makers; a farm; musical instrument makers, and then match it up with your geographic location.

The following are some suggested tours, which are basically free of charge, family-friendly, and might just spark you and your child’s interest.

In California – The Jelly Belly Company tour – see candy being made.

In Colorado – The United States Mint tour (also in Pennsylvania) see money being made (no samples offered here, of course) and follow the prompts if you need a free download of Adobe Flash in order to see the slide show.

In Illinois- John Deere Pavilion – see and learn about big equipment used in agricultural farming. Note this is not a factory tour but interesting nonetheless.

In Massachusetts - Cape Cod Potato Chips- tour the factory ONLINE and see how these delicious chips are made.

In Pennsylvania – Harley Davidson tour – learn all about motorcycles.

In Texas - Mrs. Baird’s Bakery tours – there are several Texas locations where you’ll see bread being made. (Children must be at least six-years old and accompanied by an adult, 18 or older; video cameras are not allowed; special clothing required along with advanced booking.)

In Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania locations - Simon Pearce – where you can see glass being made.

In Washington State – The Microsoft Visitor’s Center – where you’ll learn all about computers and try out new products.

For further information on tours that are offered in your area, the Factory Tours USA web site is an ideal starting point. The site offers information that is gleaned from many sources, mostly from other readers who enjoy touring factories and then sharing their information.

You can search the site by geographic location or by manufacturing area of interest.

Factory Tours USA makes every effort to continually provide updated links. However, if a link is not available it’s a good idea to check the featured company’s website to verify the finer aspects of certain tours such as cost; handicap accessibility; certain dress code requirements; hours and days of tour availability and any age restrictions.

The video below from the Gibson Guitar Company, gives you an idea of what types of things you’ll see on their paid admission Memphis Factory tour.


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