If you’re looking for something fun to do with your family, consider taking a factory tour. New England is home to a variety of interesting, unique companies that offer free (or inexpensive) tours – and many come complete with product samples. Participants of all ages will enjoy seeing how ice cream, toothpaste, maple syrup, soda, potato chips and beer are produced and packaged. Visitors can also see newspapers being printed, glassblowers creating works of art and much more.
Here is a sample of some of the more interesting tours in our area:
Anheuser-Busch – When you think of a family adventure, you might not automatically think of a brewery tour, but visiting the Anheuser-Busch factory in Merrimack, NH really is entertaining for all ages. During the free tour, visitors will see how beer is brewed, fermented and packaged. Guests will also enjoy beautiful scenery, with gorgeous landscaping. Kids will love visiting the Clydesdale Hamlet, home to the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales. Older (21+) guests will enjoy the complimentary beer tastings onsite. The gift shop offers a variety of Anheuser-Busch merchandise.
Parkers Sugar House – Folks at the Sugar House in Mason, NH make maple syrup the old-fashioned way, using a wood fire to create top-quality syrup with a distinctive flavor. This family-owned business has been around for decades and on the free tours, they demonstrate older methods of making the syrup – placing hot rocks into the sap – as well as more modern techniques, using a wood-fired evaporator. How sweet! The Sugar House is in full operation every March and April.
Conner Bottling Works – The Conner family has been producing and bottling Sqamscot Old Fashioned Beverages for five generations – dating all the way back to the Civil War. Visitors to their Newfields, NH plant can learn more about the company’s soda (or tonic), which comes in many delicious flavors. In the factory, which smells like melting popsicles, guests can watch the manufacturing and mixing of the syrup recipes and the conveyor filling glass bottles with carbonated water and syrup. Come visit NH’s last independent bottler, where the hard-working staff invites you to “Experience the Past… One Sip at a Time”!
Flag Hill Winery – Flag Hill’s spectacular vineyards in Lee, NH offers delicious wines and stunning views. Not all grapes can survive the cold New Hampshire winters, so Flag Hill carefully selected six varieties of grapes that thrive in this climate, producing and bottling all of their own wines onsite. They create delicious grape, fruit and dessert wines, as well as New Hampshire’s first port. Each spring and summer, they offer fruit wines, including new varieties such as blueberry. Visitors will enjoy the tours, samples and breathtaking views. Bring a picnic or enjoy a meal in their lovely dining room.
Toms of Maine – Are you curious about the how the products you use every day are made? Visit the Toms of Maine Factory in Sanford, ME and find out how toothpaste gets in the tube, how deodorant is made and more. Tours are held at specific times during the summer, reservations are required, not recommended for children under age 5.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream – I scream, you scream, we all scream for the Ben & Jerry’s tour. Visitors to the Waterbury, VT factory will learn about ice cream, as well as the company’s social mission. The half-hour tours start with a short “moovie”, followed by a tour of the ice cream production, where guests will learn how two childhood friends created a hugely successful, socially-conscious business. Then, guests can sample the flavors in the Scoop Shop and visit the gift shop for products with a socially responsible mission.
Cabot Creamery – It may sound cheesy, but a trip to the Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT will be a “gouda” time for the whole family. Join a factory tour, where you can watch cheese makers in action, watch a video about the history of Vermont agriculture – and, of course, enjoy plenty of samples of Cabot’s specialty – cheddar cheese. In addition to cheese samples, visitors can visit the gift shop for an assortment of tasty made-in-Vermont products, including local micro-brews, wines and coffees. Tour admission is $2/person, children 12 and under are admitted free.
Simon Pearce – Visitors can watch the talented Simon Pearce glassblowers at work in their Windsor, VT factory. By blowing glass, craftsmen can produce vessels in a wide variety of shapes and sizes – which is a spectacular thing to watch. Their catwalk viewing gallery, located above the factory floor, provides a great vantage point of these skilled artisans. Guests can also see beautiful pottery being made and shop for stunning, unique products, including dishes, vases, lamps and more.
The Cape Cod Potato Chip Company – For a family adventure that’s “all that and a bag of chips,” visit the Cape Code Potato Chip factory in Hyannis, MA. The company produces 150,000 bags of potato chips, popcorn, pretzels and tortilla chips each day. The free, self-guided factory tour takes about 30 minutes and is fun for all ages. You’ll end up at the factory store, which offers a variety of products and free samples that will make you cheer, “chip, chip hooray!”
The Boston Globe – In today’s Internet era, your family can still experience the wonders of a more “traditional” media outlet. The Boston Globe offers free tours of its Boston facility, including the printing plant. The hour-long tour includes a short videotape. Participants must be at least 9 years old and groups are limited to a maximum of 30 people. Tours are by reservation only and must be scheduled in advance.
There’s a wide array of interesting tours in New England – and across the country. For other ideas, visit: www.factorytoursusa.com.