Last Updated on July 12, 2022 by Jim Ferri
By Dave G. Houser
Tours of a factory can be exceptionally interesting for the entire family. Although it sometimes seems we live in an age of imports, let’s not overlook the bounty of goods and products that proudly bear the “Made In America” label.
From jets to hot sauce, baseball bats to blankets, we still make lots of good stuff here in the USA. And many manufacturers host factory tours for you to see how their products are made.
These behind-the-scenes tours of their factories can be quite entertaining and informative – and they’re usually at no or very low cost.
Here are eight American factory tours that are very popular.
Winnebago Industries (Forest City, Iowa)
Nearly 15,000 visitors come to this Northern Iowa city each year. They come to learn about one of America’s iconic brands with a tour of Winnebago Industries’ main RV production facility.
Founded in 1958, Winnebago was the first recreation vehicle manufacturer to build motor homes on an automotive-style assembly line. The company now boasts the world’s largest and most technologically advanced RV plant.
This free, two-hour factory tour highlights a visit to the factory’s main assembly area – named Big Bertha. Equivalent in size to eight football fields, Big Bertha features three busy production lines. Tours take place Monday-Friday, April through November.
Winnebago Industries, Inc.
1045 South 4th Street
Forest City, IA 50436
Tel: (641) 585-6936 or (800) 643-4892
Tours: Monday and Wednesday at 12pm / Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 9am and 12pm
Note: Reservations are highly recommended / closed-toe shoes required / significant walking including ascending and descending stairs / no video or photography permitted
You can also enjoy Camper Van tours at Winnebago’s Lake Mills, IA facility. Tel: (641) 585-6936 for information
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (Waterbury, Vermont)
Ice cream! Ice cream! We all scream for ice cream! And how cool it is that we can watch it made at this funhouse of an ice cream factory. You’ll find it in the scenic Green Mountains of Vermont.
Famous for its wildly fanciful flavors (Vermonty Python, Bovinity Divinity, and Urban Jumble among them), Ben & Jerry’s welcomes visitors on daily guided tours. After being closed during the pandemic, tours will begin once again mid-July 2022.
They include a “moo-vie” about the company’s history, an overview of the production facility Mondays through Fridays. In addition, there’s a final stop in the Flavoroom to sample the flavor of the day.
Afterward, you can visit the Flavor Graveyard to pay respects to discontinued flavors. In the past this kooky, entertaining 30-minute tour costs $4 for adults, while kids 12 and younger were admitted free.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
181 Waterbury-Stowe Road
Waterbury, VT 05676
Tel: (802) 337-1201
Open: opening date not yet announced; call for information regarding dates and admission fee.
Note: ticket availability is very limited. Ben & Jerry’s recommends you purchase tickets online.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory (Louisville, Kentucky)
Here’s an experience that’s sure to be a home run with baseball fans. In Louisville, KY, pay homage to the official bat of Major League Baseball during a half-hour tour of the factory where the fabled Louisville Sluggers are handcrafted from sturdy white ash or maple.
Participants can also peruse the company museum, where they receive a mini-slugger as a souvenir.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Tel: (877) 775-8443 / (877)775-8443
Open: Monday–Thursday: 9am – 6pm / Friday–Saturday: 9am – 7pm / Sunday: 10am –5pm
Admission: adults $18 / 60+ $17 / children 6-12 $11 / 5 and under free
Note: Louisville Slugger recommends you purchase tickets online in advance
Pendleton Woolen Mills (Washougal, Washington)
A six-generation family enterprise, Pendleton Woolen Mills is (pardon the pun) a dyed-in-the-wool American success story. During the early years, the company’s original mill in Pendleton, Oregon, made robes and blankets for American Indians — and therein originated the intricate patterns and vivid colors that have come to characterize the Pendleton brand.
Luckily for travelers, Pendleton has now resumed its tours at its Washougal mill after canceling them during the pandemic. The company is expecting tours of its Pendleton, Oregon mill to hopefully resume later this year or early next year.
Visitors can join narrated tours of the Washougal mill, located on the Columbia River about 18 miles east of Vancouver, Washington. There you can observe working looms and learn a bit of the company’s history and tradition, then shop for clothes and blankets in the factory outlet store.
Pendleton Woolen Mills
2 Pendleton Way
Washougal, WA 98671
Tel: (360) 835-1118 (Pendleton’s on-site retail store)
Open: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 11am and 1:00pm.
Admission: Tours are free
Boeing Future of Flight (Mukilteo, Washington)
Washington is also home to a tour experience that ranks as the nation’s most popular factory tour — an exciting and informative 90-minute spin through the world’s largest aviation plant and the only jet-manufacturing center that’s open to the public.
Nearly 300,000 visitors a year view the giant assembly area where Boeing turned out the famous 747s and continues production777s and the 787 Dreamliner. It takes place in a massive building with a footprint covering 98.3 acres.
The Future of Flight Aviation Center features exhibits and interactive displays, including a seven-seat flight simulator, The Innovator, which puts you in the cockpit for a hair-raising ride. Reservations are a must to guarantee tour times. Ticket prices vary seasonally from $20 to $16 for adults and $12 to $10 for kids under 15. Note: there’s a minimum height requirement of 4 feet for children participating in the Boeing tour.
Boeing Future of Flight
8415 Paine Field Boulevard
Mukilteo, WA 98275
Tel: (800) 464-1476
Open: Monday – Sunday 9:30am – 5pm (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
Admission: adult $12 / youth (6-15 years) $6 / 65+ $10 / Military with ID $10 / under 6 years free
Note: The Boeing Future of Flight is located 25 miles north of Seattle, not in Seattle.
Tabasco Factory (Avery Island, Louisiana)
You’ll never mistake the piquant Tabasco aroma as you drive to 2,200-acre Avery Island in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country.
Your eyes will water a bit as you tour Tabasco’s production line, where well-aged, island-grown peppers, vinegar, and salt brew to create America’s favorite hot sauce. It’s a tour highly recommended to those suffering from blocked sinuses.
Tabasco also owns Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre display of azaleas, camellias, and bamboo; and Bird City, a haven for waterfowl. Both are located near the factory and add to the sensory rewards of an Avery Island visit.
32 Wisteria Road
Avery Island, LA 70513
Tel: (337) 373-6129 / (337) 373-6139
Open: Daily 9 am – 4 pm
Admission: Adults $12.50 / children $9.50 (4 and under free) / seniors & veterans 10% discount
Note: cash is not accepted for admission
John Deere Factory & Pavilion (Moline, Illinois)
With four plants strategically located in America’s agricultural heartland, Deere & Company has an impressive array of famously green farm machinery, construction and forestry equipment, and consumer lawn and garden gear.
Tours are available at three Deere factories in Waterloo, Iowa – but our choice is the Harvester Works in Moline. Here, you can not only go behind the scenes on a narrated 1.5-hour tour to see some of the company’s largest machines brought to life – but also visit the John Deere Pavilion — the world’s largest agricultural museum. Note that at the present time all Deere factory tours continue to be closed to the public due to the pandemic.
The immense 14,000-square-foot Pavilion is loaded with equipment and engaging interactive exhibits that trace the company’s 179-year history. Next door, the cavernous John Deere Store sells various items emblazoned with the company logo. Tour participants must be a minimum of 13 years of age.
John Deere Harvester Works
1100 13th Avenue
East Moline, IL 61244
Tel: (800) 765-9588
Open: John Deere factory tours are currently unavailable due to the pandemic. Check the company’s website (above) for updates.
Admission: Factory tours and admission to the Pavilion are free. The company highly recommends, however, that you make reservations in advance.
Note: No video recording or photography is permitted on the tours
Maker’s Mark Distillery (Loretto, Kentucky)
Maker’s Mark is not only a working distillery, it’s the largest distillery in the world. In addition, it’s also a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Located on 1,000-acre Star Hill Farm, Maker’s Mark is the only distillery with its own water source and watershed. And this distillery still does things the old-fashioned way, including printing its labels on a hand-operated printing press and hand-dipping each bottle’s top in hot wax. That’s quite a list of credentials for any factory tour.
Tours are given year-round with several options to choose from. If you’re looking for something more than a tour there’s also a seasonal gathering, a whisky workshop. and fine dining at Star Hill Provisions.
Maker’s Mark Distillery
3350 Burks Spring Road
Loretto, KY 40037
Open: Daily 9:30am – 3:30pm
Admission: adults 21+: $22 + tax / active Military with valid ID: free / Veterans with valid ID: $17
The distillery does allow children to join the tours (although they can’t partake in the bottle dipping, and obviously, any samplings).