If you’ve ever wondered how they get that tiny ball into the inside of a whistle or dreamt about being surrounded by giant vats full of melted chocolate, a factory tour might be right up your alley.
Whether you are looking for a last-minute summer getaway or are planning ahead for fall break, these unique factory tour road trips put you face-to-face with good old-fashioned American ingenuity.
800 W. Main St., Louisville, KY
Batter up! Baseball fanatics and benchwarmers alike will get a kick out of this fascinating factory tour that takes you through the steps it takes to turn a hunk of wood into America’s favorite baseball bat. The tour starts with a movie that transports you to the forests and mills where every Louisville Slugger bat begins. Then, be prepared to watch the wood chips fly. At the end, you’ll walk away with a free souvenir mini-bat. After your tour, be sure to make a stop at the adjoining museum filled with baseball memorabilia and interactive exhibits.
400 N. Portland St., Bryan, OH
This tour is straight out of Willy Wonka, minus the creepy boat ride. Hop aboard the Dum-Dum Trolley and enjoy a guided tour through the receiving warehouse, past the lollipop wrapping room, in and around the candy packing area and out into the finished goods warehouse. Once the tour wraps up, head to the museum to learn the history behind this 110-year-old family operation. Tour and museum hours vary, so call ahead to plan your trip.
3300 W. Sample St., South Bend, IN
A 58,000-square-foot factory devoted to chocolate? Yes, please! Learn about the origins of chocolate and get the inside scoop on the processes that go into creating the company’s delectable confections. Of course, no chocolate factory tour would be complete without a free sample at the end. Afterwards, explore the Chocolate Museum, home to one of the largest collections of chocolate memorabilia in the world.
20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn, MI
Start by exploring the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation and then hop aboard a bus bound for the Ford Rogue Truck Factory. There you can take a self-guided tour along an elevated walkway to get a bird’s-eye view of the plant’s final assembly line. (Note: Because production varies by vehicle demand, full-scale assembly may not be available on all days.) There is also an interactive film experience, complete with vibrating seats, gusts of wind and winking robots.
1400 River Dr., Moline, IL
This place takes the touch-a-truck concept to a whole new level. Explore some of the biggest John Deere machines, from combines and dozers to excavators and swing machines. Climb into the cab, sit in the driver’s seat and test your skills in state-of-the-art simulators. Nearby, John Deere Harvester Works and John Deere Seeding Group offer factory tours for children 13 and up, giving an in-depth look at the company’s modern manufacturing processes.
6540 Huntley Rd., Columbus, OH
So how do they get that tiny ball inside the whistle? You’ll uncover the secret on this entertaining factory tour devoted to every parent’s favorite noisemaker. The American Whistle Corporation is the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the U.S., making this a truly unique factory experience. Note: Tours are by appointment only, so call ahead to plan your trip.
Next time you are in the mood for a road trip, consider adding a factory tour to your agenda. Not only will you get a behind-the-scenes look at how some of your favorite products are made, you’ll also have a ton of fun in the process.