6 of the Best Food Factories to Visit in the U.S.
While it’s unfortunate that Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory doesn’t exist and cannot be visited, there are still hundreds of other food factories that can be visited. These factories offer educational tours, delicious free samples, and unique experiences that won't soon be forgotten. The following list includes 6 of the best food factories to visit in the U.S.
Hershey’s Chocolate World – Hershey, PA
The closest thing to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, Hershey’s Chocolate World provides free 30-minute tours that concludes with, of course, free chocolate. Known as Hershey’s Chocolate Tour, the tour takes place on an indoor train ride that features singing cows. It also offers an educational lesson about how cocoa beans found in rain forests are turned into the delicious Hershey chocolate you know and love.
Other attractions in the Hershey’s Chocolate World building include a historical timeline that outlines the innovations made by Hershey’s throughout the years. Candy lovers will also have the opportunity to participate in a create-your-own candy bar program. For those interested in the finer aspects of devouring chocolate, the Chocolate Tasting Experience allows hungry visitors to see, smell, and taste a wide range of different types of chocolate.
For a more comprehensive Hershey’s experience, hop aboard the Hershey Trolley Works. The ride lasts one hour and covers the story of founder Milton Hershey. The trolley visits his birthplace, home, and other relevant sites. Conductors relay a glut of interesting information while also sometimes singing for your pleasure.
Herr’s Snack Factory – Nottingham, PA
The legendary pretzel and potato chip company offers visitors a free tour that lends insight on how Herr’s has perfected its production process. The tour will cover how tortilla chips are seasoned and also give you a first-hand look at the machines used to make potato chips. Knowledgeable guides and an educational video inform you about everything you’d want to know about the company and its process. Lasting for one hour and making stops in three separate buildings, the tour eventually concludes in a gift shop that contains several unique souvenirs. Each person on the tour receives a free bag of potato chips and might even get to taste a few warm chips fresh off the conveyor belt.
Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory – Avery Island, LA
Located in the bayou of Louisiana, the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory is situated on a 170-acre jungle that sits atop a natural salt water dome. The surrounding area is home to alligators and other wild life, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a sighting. A tour of the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory shows visitors how the company’s tabasco sauce is made, bottled, and shipped. It also exposes them to the white oak barrels, in which spicy sauce is aged until it’s ready for consumption. Tour guides and educational videos make up the rest of the experience, covering any questions visitors might have.
Pez Visitor Center – Orange, CT
With 4,000 square feet to explore, the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut is the ultimate for fans of Pez candy. Admission is free, and visitors can go on self-guided tours and get clear views of the Pez factory’s production room via clear windows. In addition to being able to watch a video that demonstrates how the candy is made, visitors can also play interactive games, learn about the history of Pez, explore a large collection of unique Pez dispensers and memorabilia, and even make their own candy. If you think Pez tastes great right out of the wrapper, you need to discover how delicious it’s right off the conveyor belt! A gift shop offers a wide range of Pez candy and unique merchandise.
Jelly Belly Visitor Center – Fairfield, CA
Home of the Jelly Belly jelly bean, the Jelly Belly Visitor Center in Fairfield, California offers visitors a chance to learn about the magic that goes into flavoring jelly beans. A free, 40-minute walking tour allows you to better understand the process of creating jelly beans from scratch. While it might not seem like such a big task, it takes over a full week to make a single jelly bean. There are also several videos that explain the process.
For jelly bean enthusiasts who want to know everything, a far more comprehensive one-hour paid tour called the Jelly Belly University is available. Accompanied by a guide, groups of six dawn gloves, lab coats, and hair nets then venture into the heart of the factory. These tours require reservations and aren’t available on weekends or holidays.
Perhaps the crown jewel of the Jelly Belly Visitor Center is its candy store. Offering samples of every Jelly Belly jelly bean in existence, the store has a flavor for everyone. Mix and match different combinations to see what flavors best blend together. After you find whatever jelly bean(s) you like most, make sure to bring enough home that they’ll last you until your next visit. There are a myriad of other souvenir items that are also worth checking out.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory – Waterbury, VT
The legendary ice cream pioneers allow visitors to take a 30-minute tour of the factory for a peek at how their product is made. Other highlights of the Ice Cream Factory include the Flavoroom, which gives hungry ice cream lovers free samples of the Flavor of the Day, and The Flavor Graveyard, which lets you take a trip down memory lane and try old Ben & Jerry’s flavors that are no longer being mass produced. A Gift Shop and full-service Scoop Shop are also on the premises. Hours of operation for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory vary depending on the time of year, so be sure to check the website before making a trip.