In 1837, Illinois blacksmith John Deere set out to address the concerns of local farmers whose plows weren’t holding up against the thick Midwest soil, and the John Deere empire was born. Today, the company’s East Moline factory offers tours that guide visitors through the process of manufacturing the company's various machines—the American-made equipment that helps feed the world.
The 15 Best Factory Tours in America
If you're hitting the road this summer, try to work one of these fun factory tours into your itinerary. There’s something on this list for everyone, from airplane enthusiasts to whiskey connoisseurs.
John Deere in East Moline, Illinois1/15
Jelly Belly in Fairfield, California2/15
Why does it take up to 14 days to create a single jelly bean? Find out on the Jelly Belly Candy Company’s free factory tour. Learn how the 50 Jelly Belly flavors and other sweet treats are made, sample some of your favorites, and stop off at the café or fudge shop afterwards to enjoy some sweet (and savory) snacks, or take them to go. Jelly bean-shaped burgers, anyone?
Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations in York, Pennsylvania3/15
The Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations center, established in 1973, is where the Touring, Trike and CVO families of motorcycles are assembled. Visitors to the Vaughn L. Beals Tour Center will be able to explore exhibits, walk the factory floor from manufacturing to assembly to the end of the line, and sit on a current production model.
flickr.com via Klaus Nahr
The United States Mint in Philadelphia and Denver4/15
See where the money gets made at two of the four active United States Mint facilities. The Philadelphia and Denver locations offer free self-guided walking tours that showcase the past and present of the Mint and describe all stages of the coining process, from the craftsmanship that goes into the original designs to the final production process.
Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour in Mukilteo, Washington5/15
To visit the only North American commercial jet factory open to the public, direct your car to Mukilteo, about 30 miles north of Seattle. There, you can view 747, 777, and 787 Dreamliner models while they’re being assembled in the Everett production line and meet some of the thousands of employees who support the design and development of Boeing’s aircraft. The Everett production facility, the largest building in the world by volume, has welcomed millions of visitors since 1968.
Celestial Seasonings Factory Tour in Boulder, Colorado6/15
The Celestial Seasonings Factory offers what may be one of the country’s most aromatic tours: a behind-the-scenes look at how tea is made. See for yourself the manufacturing magic, from blending to shipping, that goes into every cup of tea, including the company’s ever-popular Sleepytime blend.
flickr.com via Wally Gobetz
Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania7/15
Hershey’s Chocolate World’s big attraction isn't technically a factory tour—it's more like an educational ride, the likes of which you might find at Disneyland. Guests board a moving chain of cars, “It’s a Small World” style, to travel through the story of chocolate, where animatronic characters explain how Hershey makes the company's iconic milk chocolate. After the tour, try other attractions, including a create-your-own-candy-bar activity or the 4D Chocolate Mystery show.
flickr.com via Rain0975
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Kentucky8/15
An apprentice in his father’s woodworking shop, John Andrew "Bud" Hillerich began crafting baseball bats for himself and his teammates in the 1880s. Although the company was originally known for its wood butter churn, the baseball bats eventually became the company’s signature item. Fast-forward more than a century, and guests on the factory tour can watch the bats made right before their eyes—and even receive a free miniature Louisville Slugger bat to take home as a souvenir.
flickr.com via Alves Family
Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour and Ice Cream Shop in Waterbury, Vermont9/15
Learn how one of America’s favorite ice creams is made, from farm to freezer. View the production room from a glassed-in mezzanine, and enjoy the sample of the day. After the tour, wander through the Flavor Graveyard to pay your respects to beloved flavors of years past.
Gibson Guitars in Memphis, Tennessee10/15
Music lovers won’t want to miss the Gibson Beale Street Showcase in Memphis, where highly skilled luthiers (makers of stringed instruments) craft world-class guitars. On the tour, you’ll learn how Gibson became a leader in the musical instrument industry and trace the many steps involved in making a guitar, including binding, neck-fitting, painting, buffing, and tuning.
Toyota Tour in Georgetown, Kentucky11/15
At the world’s largest Toyota manufacturing facility, more than 2,000 cars are made each day. The Georgetown, Kentucky, factory welcomes visitors on weekdays for a tour that includes a tram ride around the plant, a discussion of the acclaimed car company’s future, and a peek at the very first Camry ever made in the United States—a pristine example of late-1980s auto design.
Airstream Factory Tour in Jackson Center, Ohio12/15
For many, an Airstream isn’t just a convenient, comfortable way to get from point A to point B—it’s a way of life. These touring coaches and travel trailers are handcrafted in Jackson Center, Ohio, where the company welcomes visitors for a two-hour walking tour through the state-of-the-art factory.
Related: The 18 Best Tiny Houses on Wheels
flickr.com via Matthew Simoneau
Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee13/15
Make a trip to Lynchburg, Tennessee, for a behind-the-scenes tour of the whiskey-making process at the Jack Daniel Distillery. As no distillery tour would be complete without a taste, upgrade to the Flight of Jack Distillery Tour, which includes a stop at historic Barrelhouse 1-14, where visitors over 21 years of age will savor a flight of five Jack Daniel’s whiskeys and liqueurs.
Tabasco Factory in Avery Island, Louisiana14/15
The McIlhenny Company has turned their hometown of Avery Island into a destination for lovers of their famous Tabasco® brand Pepper Sauce. A factory tour of their facility provides background on the McIlhenny Company and the McIlhenny family, and answers all your burning hot-sauce questions. While you’re there, take the Tabasco Culinary Tour, sample delicious Cajun cuisine, or take a Tabasco-centric cooking class with Hospitality Chef Lionel Robin.
flickr.com via Kent Kanouse
Pendleton Woolen Mills in Washougal, Washington, and Pendleton, Oregon15/15
Learn how Pendleton turns raw wool into fabric, and fabric into beautiful, intricate clothing and blankets. The Pendleton Blanket Mill and Washougal Weaving Mill offer weekday tours where they educate visitors about the weaving process and demonstrate how one weaver's dream and the hard work of six generations turned Pendleton into a household name.
flickr.com via Association of Washington Business
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