Made in America: Factory tours let you see what's made, and where

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Made in America: Factory tours let you see what's made, and where

  • The physical "Made in America" label has become less common to spot, but everything from automobiles and airplanes to washboards and whistles are still made in U.S. factories.

    Many of these facilities welcome visitors on scheduled behind-the-scenes tours to see how products get made. As a nice bonus, free samples are often part of the adventure.

    Curious about cars? You can watch workers build Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz vehicles in Alabama, Subarus in Indiana and Toyotas in Kentucky, or take a self-guided Ford Rouge Factory Tour in Dearborn, Michigan.

    Bullish on beer? All manner of independent craft beer breweries offer tours, as does Anchor Brewing in San Francisco (Adults: $25; pint glass and free samples included) and Anheuser-Busch in Fort Collins, CO. (Free; sample included)

    CNBC recently selected more than a dozen other factory tours to consider adding to the summer travel schedule.

    2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Bob
    Source: Harley-Davidson
  • Batter up

    In Kentucky, the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory offers tours along the production line where workers turn timber into the well-loved baseball bat brand. (Adults: $15; Kids 6-12:$8. Includes museum admission and a free miniature Louisville Slugger bat.)

    While in Kentucky: Jim Beam gives distillery tours in Clermont and has a visitor center with a small working distillery in Louisville. Tours ($5, with free samples) are also offered at the Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory in Frankfort, where Bourbon Balls were invented.

    Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, Kentucky.
    Source: GoToLouisville.com
  • Winged wonders

    You don't have to be an aviation geek to be wowed by Boeing's airplane factory in Everett, WA, 25 miles north of Seattle. The popular (and often sold-out) 90-minute adventure takes visitors through the world's largest building (by volume) to see how three different Dreamliner airplanes get made. (Adults: $25; Kids ages 15 and under, and over 4 feet tall: $15. Admission includes entry to the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Aerospace Gallery next door.)

    While in Washington, check out Theo Chocolate, which makes its organic, fair-trade treats in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. The factory offers hour-long factory tours (with lots of samples) for $10. (Bonus: on the third Thursday of each month, the 4:30 p.m. tour is free — if you can snag a reservation.)

    A Qantas 787-9 Dreamliner being built at the Boeing Co. factory in Everett, Washington.
    Photo: Harriet Baskas
  • Washboards and whistles in Ohio

    In Logan, visitors are welcome to watch workers hand-make washboards for laundry, music and decoration at the Columbus Washboard Company, the only remaining washboard factory in the U.S. and home to the World's Largest Washboard. (Adults: $5; Kids (up to 18 years of age): $3; free fridge magnet included. A good time to visit is during Logan's annual Washboard Music Festival, held annually on Father's Day Weekend, when the factory is open for free tours.

    While in Ohio: Tours are also offered at Velvet Ice Cream at Ye Olde Mill in Utica, the American Whistle Corporation in Worthington, the KitchenAid Mixer Factory in Greenville, and at Anthony Thomas Chocolates and Phoenix Bat in Columbus.

    Making washboards at Columbus Washboard Company in Logan Ohio.
    Source: Columbus Washboard Company
  • Indiana's RV capital

    Indiana is ground zero for the country's recreational vehicle, motor home and manufactured housing industry. Factories in Elkhart County lay claim to building about half of all recreational vehicles on the road today.

    See vehicles and memorabilia stretching back to the 1920s and 30s (including a vehicle made special for Mae West) at the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum in Elkhart (Adults: $12; Kids 6-16: $9) and then tour a few factories where modern-day RVs are made. Elkhart County's list includes Heartland Recreational Vehicles and Thor Motor Coach in Elkhart and Winnebago Industries and Jayco in Middlebury.

    While in Indiana: Albanese Confectionary in Merrillville offers free self-guided (and guided group tours) of the factory that makes popular chocolates and gummi candies (samples included).

    Motorcycle Mania

    Jayco RVs factory floor, Middlebury, Indiana.
    Source: Elkhart County CVB
  • In Wisconsin, motorbike fans can learn about the history and making of the iconic bikes at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, and they can tour the company's Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility, where engines and transmissions are made in Menomonee Falls, about 20 miles away. (30-minute Classic Factory Tours featuring a video are free; Steel Toe behind-the-scenes production line tours: $38. Factory tours are also offered at Harley-Davidson plants in York, PA; Kansas City, MO.)

    While in Wisconsin: Jelly Belly offers free kid-friendly tours - with samples - in Pleasant Prairie; The Kohler Co. provides a free, 3-hour tour at its kitchen and bath product plant in Kohler; and Travel Wisconsin has put together a tasty list of cheese factories that can be toured.

    Harley Davidson engines made in Menomonee Falls.
    Source: Harley-Davidson