Great Family Vacation – American Factory Bound


Great Family Vacation – American Factory Bound

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to plan a vacation around touring some of American finest factories. What a fantastic family adventure it would be! Discovering where the products we use every day come from, and observing how they are made is one of the best ways to learn about what America is all about.

Great Family Vacation – American Factory Bound

I found this great website called Factory Tours USA.  It lists the factories that are open for tours in each of the 50 states. After browsing around the site, I found some fascinating places I would love to see:

The Great Alaskan Bowl Company (Fairbanks, AK) - This factory makes birch bowls using equipment that is more than 100 years old. The owners are dedicated to preserving the forests and using renewable resources. Visitors can watch the bowls being made, and of course, buy them.

Waco Manufacturing (North Little Rock, AR) – Waco is one of the oldest manufacturers of aluminum pontoon boats in America. It would be interesting to see how their innovative designs are manufactured.

Celestial Seasonings (Boulder, CO) -  This innovative tea company offers visitors samples while they are waiting for tours of the factory. The most poplar part of the tour is the mint room, because the scents are so strong.

The Kaleidoscope Factory (Pomeroy, IA) - This small-town factory offers tours showing you how the artist makes handmade wooden turns, glass and acrylics to make the most uniquely beautiful kaleidoscopes.

The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) – How cool would that be to see how a newspaper is made? You can do just that here.

Stennis Space Center (Stennis Space, MS) – The largest rocket test center in the USA is open for tours. The main engines of space shuttles are tested here, and every American astronaut must come to this center to test the equipment. There are 14,000 square feet of exhibits. Plan your trip here around the firing of space shuttle engines, so you can watch it all happen.

SmokeJumper Center (Missoula MT) – Imagine getting a firsthand look at how a smokejumper fights forest fires. (A smokejumper is a firefighter who parachutes down into an area of a wildfire to help get it under control.)

Shelby American, Inc. (Las Vegas, NV) – If you’ve got some racecar fans in the family, check this manufacturing plant out. Shelby produces a limited number of their cars to keep the value high. You can tour the facility, visit the museum and observe cars being tested.

Stirling Hill Mine (Ogdensburg, NJ) – Bring your jackets to tour this chilly mineral mine that once produced zinc and hundreds of other minerals. Though the mine is closed now, the facility is still open for tours. You’ll get a glimpse into the challenging process of mining.

World Wide Monkey Inc (Plattsburgh, NY) – This entertainment company will show you how their Banana Planet cartoons are made and take you on a tour of their plush animal factory.

American Whistle Corporation (Columbus, OH) This is the only factory in the US that makes metal whistles. Plus these are the loudest whistles in the world! You can see how they are made from start to finish in the small, efficient factory and learn what it is about the design of a whistle that makes the sound.

Martin Guitar Company (Nazareth, PA)  -  The musicians in your family will love this acoustic guitar factory, where they can observe the entire process of making high quality guitars.

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (Waterbury, VT) Watch a movie, enjoy a guided tour of the factory and of course, sample some of their incredible ice cream!!

This is just a small sampling of the many American factories open to visitors. Why not do some research and plan a vacation around your favorite American products? But before setting out on a factory tour, check directly with the manufacturing company for tour hours and restrictions. Some factories are open only on a seasonal basis or operate tours at specific times, some have age minimums for children and some require advanced reservations. It would be a shame to get there and find out the factory is not open that day!


Debbie Glade/smartpoodle is the Geography Awareness Editor for Wandering Educators. 


Note: this article was originally published in 2010 and updated in 2018