The author of this blog submission, Debbie Glade of Smart Poodle Publishing, is the Geography Awareness Editor for Wandering Educators. The original version of this blog can be found by following this link.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to plan a vacation around touring some of American finest factories and manufacturing museums.
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 real-world geography.
I found this great website called Factory Tours USA. It lists the factories (or former 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. What about you?
- The Kaleidoscope Factory (Pocahontas, IA): This small-town factory offers tours showing you how hand-made wooden turns, glass, and acrylics create uniquely beautiful kaleidoscopes.
- Minute Maid Park (Houston, TX): Tour the stadium of the reigning World Series champs, the Houston Astros!
- SPAM Museum (Austin, MN): Putting a “whole new spin on cubism,” this massive museum has seven galleries, including Can Central and the World Market.
- 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 forests and using renewable resources.
- Smokejumper Visitors Center (Missoula MT): Although you do visit the Ready Room, tour guides don’t toss you out of planes to fight forest fires.
- C.F. Martin & Co. (Nazareth, PA): The musicians in your family will love this acoustic guitar factory, where they can observe the entire process of making high-quality stringed instruments.
- Celestial Seasonings (Boulder, CO): Let a tea expert explain how this world-changing beverage is made, from raw ingredients to finished product—and take a whiff of the tea factory’s “Mint Room.”
- Stirling Hill Mine (Ogdensburg, NJ): Bring your jackets to tour this chilly mine that once excavated iron and zinc.
- John C. Stennis Space Center (Pearlington, MS): The legendary Saturn V rocket engines were tested here, and today the facility is home to the world’s largest concentration of oceanographers (that’s right, oceanographers)—most of whom are working at the U.S. Navy’s Meteorology and Oceanography Command.
- Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (Waterbury, VT): Watch a movie, enjoy a guided tour of the factory and of course, sample the ice cream!!
- Guide Dogs for the Blind (San Rafael, CA): Learn how dogs are trained to help visually impaired people gain greater mobility, and even attend a graduation ceremony recognizing the accomplishments of students and new guide dogs after a two-week training.
- Shelby American, Inc. (Las Vegas, NV): If you’ve got automotive fans in the family, check out this manufacturing plant. You can tour the facility, visit the museum, and observe cars being tested.
- CNN Studio (Atlanta, GA): Go behind the scenes at the world’s first 24-hour news channel.
- American Whistle Corporation (Columbus, OH): This is the only factory in the U.S. that makes metal whistles. Plus, these are the loudest whistles in the world! You can see how they are made from start to finish, and learn what it is about the design of a whistle that makes the sound.
- U.S. Capitol (Washington, D.C.): The Capitol is a working “factory” of government, and you can book tours through its employees—your senators and representatives.
Why not do some research and plan a vacation around your favorite American products?
But before setting out on a factory tour, remember to check directly with the manufacturing company for tour hours and restrictions. Some factories are open only on a seasonal basis, some offer tours at specific times, some have age limits 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!