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October 27, 2011

Road Trips Made Bearable

by Anne Paddock

Road trips can be monotonous, boring, and long – and if there are kids or teenagers in the car, a road trip is about as much fun as organizing a high school reunion.  So, the challenge is how to make a road trip bearable and the answer is to stop along the way to tour a factory and learn how something is made.

Several years ago, I bought a book called “Watch It Made in the USA:  A Visitor’s Guide to the Best Factory Tours and Company Museums” and the book definitely is one of my better travel purchase books, although my family may disagree at times depending on the destination selected.
The book was written by a husband and wife team who have two children with the first edition printed in 1994, the second in 1997, the third in 2001 and the fourth edition (pictured above) in 2006.  Organized by regions within the United States and also by states, the book is very easy to use when planning a trip because the sites are also placed on a regional map in the book. Most factory tours are in small towns and the names of these towns don’t mean much to travelers so seeing the location on a map is very helpful.

The choices are abundant to appeal to a wide audience which makes family negotiations easier: “We’ll go to the Harley Davidson Factory this morning if we can go to the Jelly Belly Factory this afternoon.” Of course, on the days we do back to back tours, we don’t get very far on our road trip.  The upside is we learn about something new, have a few laughs, and usually get to eat something really tasty – all of which makes for a fun day.

There are nearly 330 factory tours and company museums listed with heavy concentrations in the following states:

  • New York  (14)
  • Massachusetts  (12)
  • Vermont  (10)
  • California  (35)
  • Pennsylvania  (21)
  • Illinois  (13)
  • Michigan  (12)
  • Ohio   (15)
  • Wisconsin  (15)
  • Texas  (12)
  • Kentucky  (15)
My personal favorites are ice cream factories (especially in the summer), candy or chocolate manufacturers, and anything generally related to food. My husband would tell you that he has seen all the ice cream factories he has ever wanted to see and puts up a fierce protest if I suggest a tour of yet another dairy purveyor off the beaten path.

There are always cheese manufacturers, cereal makers, pretzel producers, breweries, and cheesecake bakers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, crayon producers, teddy bear factories, and even a post office. He never puts up resistance if it’s an airplane, automobile, tractor, or motorcycle manufacturer and although my daughter and I have been known to yawn at the thought of seeing how tractor is made, the tours have never been boring.

The book is available on Amazon:  In addition, the authors have a website ( which is also informative and has up-to-date information.

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