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Factory/Plant Tours - Where Would You Go? 117

kingelvis asks: "I have been thinking of putting together a road trip with a theme - Traveling to factories, manufacturing plants, etc all over the country and taking their (free) tours. I've already thought of a few places; Boeing, Auto factories in Detriot, Ben & Jerry's, Jack Daniel's distillery, and so forth. I'm interested in everything from 747s to bottled water, so please respond with any public tour you can think of. Where are some cool places you'd recommend visiting to see how stuff gets made? "
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Factory/Plant Tours - Where Would You Go?

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  • I've got a standing offer for a tour of the Jelly Belly factory here in the SF bay area from a friend of mine. I should really take her up on it one of these days (and yes, JB does offer free - IIRC - public tours).
    • Just FYI, the factory is in Fairfield (near Solano), which is on highway 80 as you head away from the bay toward Sacramento. A neat place to visit, and you can buy 'defect' jelly bellies on the cheap.
      • The defect jelly beans are known as belly flops. Imagine jelly beans now put two of the together in interesting ways, or take one and mold it in your mind into cool little shapes. Naturally most of them are larger than the average Jelly Bean, now imagine bags of them really cheap! You usually get lots of the sour flavors too! Yum!
    • I was just going to suggest that very thing [jellybelly.com]! I live right down the street from the Wisconsin factory and have yet to stop by. I work at MotLabs [motorola.com] -- if you're interested in a tour, I can look into it. Since there's research a-doings there, it might only be a factory tour, and I don't know anything interesting that's assembled in Schaumburg.
  • You can stop by my house. I live up in the hood in Chapel Hill, NC. It's a must see.
  • then find out what is in the city. other than that, pick your own category of stuff to check out thru-out the country. btw, the baseball park thing has already been done
  • Alas... (Score:3, Informative)

    by afabbro ( 33948 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @11:31PM (#5012202) Homepage
    ...several of the cool places I visited as a kid are now closed to tours: Kellogg's cereals, various Detroit factories, etc. I remember when Kellogg's closed (in Battle Creek, Michigan), they said it was to prevent corporate espionage. The car factory in my home town (Grand Rapids, Michigan) closed to tours due to liability concerns. But I wish you will in your hunt ;)
    • --hey man, I grew up in michigan and I went to the kelloggs plant too! Schooltrip-cereal=neat! We also went to some meat plant I forget the name of now, tried a buncha sausages out. Kids like museums and zoos, but they like to EAT too! heh heh heh When I was a teenager we used to sneak over to zug island in the detroit river at night. Kinda like a real life sci fi doom end of the world city of the future. I guess a working steel mill or a foundry would be a good addition to the guys industry tour. And a working mine if you can find one. I remember going by some mine, think it was lima ohio, had this WHOPPER piece of equipment there, a dragline maybe, just humongous.
  • I've thought about going to makers of cards to see how things get made in that department. Anyone know if Creative, ATI, ASUS, ect. give tours?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Slow night, eh?

    Try Dublin, TX. Check out Dr. Pepper's bottling plant there.
  • by zsazsa ( 141679 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @11:34PM (#5012222) Homepage
    If you're passing by St. Louis, don't miss the free Anheuser-Busch brewery tour. St. Louis is the headquarters and has the oldest, largest brewery, but they have breweries that give tours around the country. For more info check out their website [budweisertours.com]. Best part of going on the tour - free beer at the end.
    • For what it's worth, the brewery tour at Busch Gardens Tampa was decent. They closed the brewery there a few years ago though.
    • Actually, the oldest brewery in America is Yuengling [yuengling.com], in Pottsville, PA.

      Anheuser-Busch started in 1860 [anheuser-busch.com] while Yuengling started producing beer in 1829 [yuengling.com]

      Yuengling offers tours [yuengling.com] as well, as well as some truly excellent beer.

      • I believe the original poster meant that the brewery was the oldest Anheuser-Busch brewery. Everyone knows Yuengling is the oldest. It's on the cap ;-). Then again, it is mostly brewed in Florida now, instead of Pottstown, which is unfortunate.
        • Parent probably meant Pottsville in Schuylkill County and not Pottstown in Montgomery County.

          I thought the alternate brewing location were just to serve different areas of the country? I guess it does make sense to build them bigger...
          • Yes, this is what I meant. Thank you for the correction. And, according to a recent Philadelphia magazine article on local beer and breweries, most of the country's (and the Philly region's) Yuengling is brewed in Florida now. Also, the different flavors of Yuengling (5 or so at last count) are really just different mixtures of 2 flavor concentrates. Yards brewing company, a new microbrewery within city limits, just expanded their operation and might be open to tours. Plus their beer blows Yuengling's out of the water.
      • Also, Yuengling is 10 times better than Bud.
    • Budweiser, etc? Ummmm. I know I shouldn't criticize something as subjective as taste, but Budweiser is poor quality. Every brewery/winery on the planet that offers tours has free alcohol. Don't go to budweiser for that reason alone. My recommendation: any brewery that doesn't produce "light" or non-alcoholic beer. Also, if the brewery makes both ales and lagers, you can witness different styles of fermentation. And if the brewer is known to have a huge variety of styles e.g. stout/porter, pales, scottish, belgianish, brown, wheat/hefeweizen, alt, bock, whatever, then all the better. Might as well learn something. My dad went to Rogue Brewery in Oregon and he said it was stellar. Plus the attached bar had like 25 different Rogue beers on tap; many of which weren't available in stores.

      To be fair to Budweiser though, I suppose touring their brewery (factory) would be somewhat interesting for seeing good old american mega-mass-production at work.

  • Powerplants always have pretty interesting tours. Try and visit a couple of different types.. coal, nuclear, hydro, etc.
    • The hover dam had a very nice tour.
      • Hoover Dam was way cool. Take the hard hat tour. I costs extra and takes about 1.5 hours, but it is well worth it. Make sure you watch the documentary on show at the theater by the exit, it is very informative.
      • My shop teacher in highschool told me he was out there one time, and pulled up to Hoover Dam at like 2am. He said he just walked right in, and did his own little tour. no one was on guard or anything. He said he only ran into one maintenance guy, down in the generator room.
      • Just remember, at the end when they ask if there are any more questions, don't say, "Heh, yeah, heh, is this a god-damn?"

    • I've been to a nuclear plant and a garbage burning one. The garbage incinerator was actually more interesting. You got to see their huge pit full of garbage, and the gigantic claws that would lift garbage like an arcade game claw lifting a stuffed animal. (They scared us by putting us by a window and then nearly hitting the window with the claw. The claw actually used to hit the window and broke it sometimes until they put in this I-Beam to stop it.) Then we got to look inside the incinerators. You can't really look inside the core of a nuclear power plant. They're both cool though, and there's more nuke plants than garbage burning plants. Good luck getting inside either these days, though.

      • I have also been to both, the Incinerator in York PA, and TMI

        I agree that while TMI has a cool factor, the incinerator was much more interesting, with the tour going to the tipping floow (where all the trash is dumped before the crane puts it in the burner) and a control room, with temperatures of the burners and everything

        TMI's tour included going inside one of the closed cooling towers and looking @ the operational ones. most of the tour took place @ a tour center not even on the island, and there wasnt really any "wow look @ that" stuff to it, being as they cant really show us anything, and there's not that much to see anyway
        • Down at Millstone in Waterford (now Dominion Power Plant) they had three reactors. #1 was offline forever, #2 was down for maintainance, and #3 was up and running.

          We got to look at the turbines and heat exchangers for the #1 since radiation was really, really, really low, and we got to crawl around inside the turbine area. Holy monkey. I remember thinking: Five stories of piping, cages, and catwalks + lots of people + paintball = a fun time. Heh, CTF paintball.

          Anywho, I had a great time. The tour wasn't a touristy-type tour, so they didn't have a whole pamphlet and stuff to let us in. It was more like some guy from the office got bored type tours.

          Sadly enough, after (I feel like such a cliché saying this) 9/11 they locked down the plant. Now the containment towers have guys with Stingers on 'em, and they've hired a kind of paramilitary security force. You won't make it past the training center with the security they have there.
          • one of the reactors @ TMI is offline as well, but because it almost melted down, and is still highly radioactive, not just closed

            yes, you are right, my tour was before 9/11 and they probably dont do tours of the island anymore, and the security there is now really high
    • My home town has one of the very few chicken shit power plants (no, that's not some curse, it really is powered by burning chicken shit).
      I don't know if they do tours, but I'm down that way next week, and this article has inspired me so I may go find out.

      Oh, this snippet of amazingly (un)interesting news is kinda moot, as I come from Thetford, in Norfolk, on the other side of the pond, England.

    • Powerplants always have pretty interesting tours. Try and visit a couple of different types.. coal, nuclear, hydro, etc.

      Research reactors are good, too. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) used to offer tours of three nuclear reactors just 3 hours up the road from Ottawa, in Chalk River.

      You were actually allowed to stand on the NRX nuclear reactor there, while it was running, and look down into the calandria to see the pretty blue glow. It was nice and warm up there, with a thrumming under your feet from all the pumps and support equipment running.

      Of course, all tourists were outfitted with dosimeters and screened thoroughly before and after.

      I worked there as a co-op student one summer, it was great fun. The NRX was my favorite, but I think it's decommissioned now.

  • by shaper ( 88544 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @11:35PM (#5012231) Homepage

    All Corvettes are made at the GM plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The plant tour is free and very cool. And the Corvette Museum is right next door. Be aware that the tour schedule can change with holidays and special events so you might want to call ahead. I have never (yet) done it, but I have heard that one option on buying a new Corvette is to take delivery at the plant or maybe the museum, I forget the details.

    • Its at the Museum, but the option means that the Bastard Chevy dealer in Cave City gets the sale, which they have screwed me twice in 7 years since I got my License, both in service and sales. But the Corvette plant is cool to go through, and the new Caddy sportster should have started its line by now.
  • Motorola has/had a good tour in Schaumburg, IL. They even had a little museum that showed some of their history and some descriptions of their technology.

    Also, most chemical companies have tours. In part, it's PR for the locals.
  • What time of day? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by heliocentric ( 74613 )
    This seems like the way that shows like Insomniac [comedycentral.com] get started.

    Perhaps you should watch that show a few times and see where he goes. Nothing like a good tour of a brothel to add to your church group tour plan.
    • Theme song:

      Drunks and losers,
      Dwarves with limps,
      Flos and ho's and one-eyed pimps -
      Down the alleyway they creep.
      They're all your friends when you can't sleep.

      Come with me and you will see.
      A late-night-freak-show-Jubilee!
      Kick the Sandman in his sack;
      Stay up late - Insomniac!
      Sounds like a great tour to me! I love this show though, he has been to some cool places.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Many dams offer tours of their inner workings, and it can be an interesting experience to walk around in the guts of such a huge structure. I know they don't really qualify as factories or plants (unless you consider them hydroelectric power plants), but they're certainly marvels of engineering and construction.

    If you pass through Arkansas, consider touring the Greer's Ferry Dam. The tour was so nice, I took it twice in consecutive years. You'll never look at the outside of a dam the same again once you've been down inside!
  • Three words... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Postal Sorting Facility!

    They're the Post Office's Post Offices, huge super-hubs of mail and machines where mail comes in by the truckload and is divvied up for distribution to area Post Offices. Most large cities have at least one, and it's amazing to see inside. You'll never curse the mail carrier for being late again once you see the sheer volume of parcels being handled inside one of these facilities - it's a wonder the mail works at all, when there's so much of it. Imagine a huge warehouse with conveyor belts 5 or 6 levels deep, shooting mail every which way as it passes through OCR equipment, counting and sorting machines, etc.

    I don't know whether or not they still offer public tours (does anyone know if these stopped after the anthrax scare?) but you could always call and ask!
    • Re:Three words... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by grammar nazi ( 197303 ) on Saturday January 04, 2003 @02:21AM (#5012929) Journal
      I used to work for Lockheed Martin in their postal distribution technologies department (Owego, NY). Believe it or not, some of my code is on all of the USPS and UK Post's sorting machines. We used a very simple nueral network along with a good feature selection and a few tweaks to detect and record postage for all USPS and UK mail. That was fun and the all of the distribution machines were impressive. I second the post office idea.

      Another fun idea would be to visit a prototyping plant. Often these have more secrecy than production plants, but IMHO the prototyping plants are more interesting. There are large stereography machines that are basically gigantic 3D printers. You'll find large devices that drag tiny needles all over a surface, recording dimensions. The prototyping plant I worked at had the largest wood workshop that I've ever seen. They designed prototype airintake manifolds, and castings often start out as a wooden model. Other parts of the plant included huge CNC lathes that you could park a car under and a various injection molding tools/dies/machines. They also had a blow-form machine that would take tiny little plastic slugs and inflate them into water containers, 2Liter soda bottles, anything.

      Tours of manufacturing plants are definietly cool.

      • Tours of manufacturing plants are
        definietly cool.

        Keeping /. free of grammatical errors for ~5 years.
      • Other parts of the plant included huge CNC lathes that you could park a car under and a various injection molding tools/dies/machines. ...

        Tours of manufacturing plants are definietly cool.

        Keeping /. free of grammatical errors for ~5 years.

        What have you learned about grammar, nazi?
  • Places (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ratbert42 ( 452340 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @11:55PM (#5012322)
    These aren't all factories, but they're some of the more interesting places I've seen along those lines. Vehicle assembly buildings at Cape Kennedy. CNN Studio tour in Atlanta. USS Alabama (and the USS Drum, a WWII sub) in Mobile. Air museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Delorme (map company) headquarters near Portland, Maine.

    My tour would be to see all of the publically displayed SR-71s [sr-71.org].

    • I've spent the night on the USS Alabama. A truly rewarding experience if you have a group to do it. They only allow one-sex (read all male or all female) but check into it. No food is included but you can tour the ship all night long. Just about everything is open. The gun turrets are amazing to see. Look inside for many spray painted pictures.
    • I'll second the Wight patterson air force base. THat's a great place to go.

      I'm surprised that nobody's mentioned it, but the Corning museum of glass is the best museum that I've been to. It's in Corning New York and it's an impressive selection of art, science, and technology. Although I could spend 3 full days at this museum, I have a masters degree in Ceramics. A typical person could spend one full day, because there is so much. The museum does a great deal with manufacturing of glass, there's multiple glass blowing demonstrations throughout the day, great glass sculptures by all of the best artist (including the best Dale Chihuly piece outside of Las Vegas), and lots of hands-on science stuff.

    • The Kennedy Space Center I'll second as one of the cooler things to see. The sheer scale of the crawlers they use to haul the shuttles out to the launching pad truly needs to be seen to be appreciated.

      I've never been on the CNN Studio Tour, but I ate lunch in CNN center almost every day for a year and a half. The tickets seem to go quick and everyone that I've seen on the tour appeared to be having a good time. Plus they film Talk Back Live right across from the food court so if you get bored on the tour you can try to promote Free Software on national TV. Sounds win-win to me!
    • If you're into military aviation at all, the USAF museum in dayton is one of the most disgustingly cool places on the planet.

      Not only do they have an SR-71, but they also have the XB-70(The mach 3 strategic bomber, one crashed) When I was there, the whole SR-71 was parked under one of the wings of the XB-70. Also there is the YF-12(or is it yf-11? I can never remember) Anyways it's the interceptor that became the SR-71.

      Also there is a YF-22, X-15, A-10, just about every army air corps aircraft from ww2, and numerous rare ww2 fighters(Notably the me262 and me163). Not to mention the slew of weapons, engines, and so forth.

      IIRC, it's has more aircraft on display than any other museum in the world.

      Has a complete list of everything at the museum, and info on much that they don't have.
  • Ben & Jerry's (Score:4, Interesting)

    by waffle zero ( 322430 ) on Friday January 03, 2003 @11:57PM (#5012337) Journal

    All of the Ben & Jerry's factories are in Vermont. Personally, I've been on the tour at the factory in Springfield several times so I'll discuss that. You start out with a little multimedia presentation and then walk through some elevated paths above the work floor. After that you go and get free samples of whatever two flavors of ice cream that where produced the previous day.

    Its a little more than my brief description, but it has always been fun. It'd probably be better to go during the summer so you can lounge around and enjoy a cone on the deck outside the factory.

    Overall, its a nice cheap way to waste an afternoon if you're in the area. Although they're not factories, you'd probably want to visit some local agrarian type places like a farm, fruit orchard or (maple) sugar house.

    More info can be found here. [benjerry.com]

  • The BMW factory in Greer, SC does tours although I am not sure if they are totally free. This is where they make all the Z4's at X5's. Fuji Film gives tours in their Greenwood, SC plant where they make all those disposable cameras.
  • You might try visiting the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO [alabev.com]. You'll get to see the world's largest single-site brewery as well as the nation's largest aluminum can manufacturing plant. Naturally, they give several free samples at the end of the tour. For those of you who scoff at Coors, they also produce Killian's Ale (originally an Irish recipe, but produced in the U.S.) and Keystone ('the never bitter,' cheapest possible beer) if one of those floats your boat.

    Be warned, students of the nearby college frequently take 'the short tour', which skips the bottles and chemicals, going straight to the beer. At a college that's around 75% guys, this could be a hazardous experience for females.

    • Man, you hit both reasons I decided not to go there. No women (75% male might be a little low) and the town absolutely reeks from that plant.

      Somewhat on topic though, what about crashing random trade shows? Not sure how easy it would be but I've snuck into a rather amusing Plumbing convention (There were fewer butt cracks than you would think), and there's a fireworks convention in North Dakota that's supposed to be insane.

    • I'm sure if you slip the tour guide a few bucks, he'll show you where Klan rallies [corporations.org] took place.

      Be sure and ask about their environmental [enviroweb.org] initiatives [serconline.org], while you're at it.

      • Surprising that one of the largest plants in the state might just have some environmental problems. Even 3M's 3E program fails at times, and they wind up in their own scandals.

        Personally, I found the large accidental dump of sour mash into Clear Creek a year ago to be a bit more noticable example of the company's irresponsibility, not the drafting of legislation which held back what was already completely lax enforcement. Luckily, the dump caused little death of wildlife. Clear Creek is a great waterway, in most parts, but the upstream mines manage to kill off most of the fish long before they reach the shores of Golden.

  • Don't miss the U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing [treas.gov] tour (watch them print U.S. currency). Sorry, no free samples. For some reason they built the U.S. Holocaust Museum [ushmm.org] right next door.
  • Louisville slugger plant if you are a baseball fan, Corvette plant if you like cars, and the distillery's if you are an alcoholic. If you wait till spring you can catch the horse farms/Keeneland around Lexington.
  • intel ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hfastedge ( 542013 )
    I went to SanFran this summer, and I said...hey, why don't I drop in on Intel in Silicon Valley.

    I took the train down, and dropped in...

    They had some dinky ass little museum about how chips are made. And a single 20 inch tv screen showing 1 hallway in the actual production plant....

    It was the lamest thing ever.

    I had more fun pedal biking around the valley (and up the mountains) than at this excuse for a factory.

    Maybe the only tourist attraction is the apple campus. But Silicon Valley is just basically overpriced suburbs...., nothing exotic.
  • tour the Brewery there. It was great, however some rooms smelled like the "morning after a party" smell.
  • Don't miss Kennekott [kennecott.com]. It's the largest open pit copper mine in North America. You get to see where all those nasty heavy metals in your PC come from plus some HUGE trucks and explosions and smelters, etc.
  • I wouldn't bother. I know someone who's seen a plant. There's basically a faucet, and water bottles go underneath it, and they get filled up.

    The guy was in advertising though, and he described his involvement with the bottled water company as convincing idiots that paid $1 for a bottle of tap water that $2 was a fair price.

  • Watch It Made (Score:4, Informative)

    by mvance ( 75821 ) on Saturday January 04, 2003 @01:21AM (#5012692)
    I would highly recommend a book called "Watch It Made in the U.S.A." [amazon.com]. I don't have the latest edition, but the previous edition has a lot of great detailed information (cost, freebies given, hours, nearby attractions, etc) for all kinds of tours.

    Also, the Travel Channel's website has a list of the Best Factory Tours for Kids in the U.S. [discovery.com] in case you want to act like a kid.
  • Factories to visit in the Louisville, KY area that may be of interest:

    General Electric's Appliance Park

    Louisville Slugger bat factory/museum

    Ford truck assembly plant

    National Corvette Museum/assembly plant (in nearby Bowling Green)

    Howard Steamboat Museum/JeffBoat(U.S. largest inland shipbuilder)

    Zimmerman Art Glass factory(Corydon, IN - 30min drive)

    Falls City Ironworks
    ...and enough Kentucky bourbon distilleries to make a man giddy. Other than those, I can't think of any production facilities that encourage public tours. The McAlpine Locks & Dam (not sure if the power plant is open for tours) is a pretty interesting site, even if it isn't a factory.

  • See how electricity is made - specifically in pressurized water reactors. This exhibit covers pretty much every aspect of the power generation and transmission business - nice interactive displays and helpful guides and experts to answer questions! Also includes nature trails in some of the southeast's most fragile, preserved, ecosystems. Site below has 360 degree images of all displays and also has contact info and directions. Hutchinson Island, Florida http://www.fpl.com/learning/contents/energy_encoun ter_overview.shtml [fpl.com]
  • I can think of two factories, but you might need to pull some strings to get into them. First...see a steel mill. They are loud, smelly and dirty but watching several hundred tons of melted metal being poured out of a huge ladle is something that just has to impress you. The other one is try to get into the General Motors Electomotive Division locomotive assembly facility in London, Ontario. Locomotives are something that we all see everyday, but usually from a distance. The process of building a train locomotive as absolutly astounding!!! The deisel engines on these things a HUGE! More than 400 cu in PER CYLINDER.....20 cylinders! Plus the final assembly involves lifting the entire finished locomotive using an overhead crane, and placing it on the tracks that lead out of the building.
  • Saint Brieux Saskatchewan Canada, has only 500 people and manufacturing facilities including:
    metal forging of ag parts at my work [tillagetools.com] and rotational plastic molding [freeformplastics.com] and at my neighbours employer "Bourgault is adding almost one acre of manufacturing area. This expansion will provide room for a Tanaka heavy plate laser that can cut up to 1¼" plate steel with unbelievable precision. The laser will be the first of it's kind in Canada. The expansion, along with new welding robots and other CNC equipment implemented earlier in 2002, will allow Bourgault to increase total manufacturing output." Other cool stuff within 60 miles
    Doepkers [doepker.com]
    and Schulte Sales [schultesales.com] and more lakes and golf.

    Camping and a lake in town with fishing and a 9 hole golf grass green course. Free Tours, camping fishing and golf. Bring your tent, and book your vacation well in advance because our centenial is next summer! [homestead.com]
  • 1.Hershey, Pennsylvania. Tour the Hershey chocolate factory to see how they make all that tasty chocolate. Hit the amusement park while your there to kill the rest of the day.

    2. The best tour I've ever done in my life is the Disney World Backstage Tour. You pick the park you want to do the tour in because each park has their own tour. I have only done the main Disney park which after listening to the description of each tour sounded the coolest. You get into a group of about 10-15 people and walk around the park listening to the guide talk about the history of the park and about how the park is run. The guide speaks about Disney's philosophy and what it's like to be a Disney employee. But the best part of the tour is when you get to actually go backstage. You start off in the huge underground tunnels that connect the park (the park is built on a huge mound of dirt).You'll see wardrobe, storage, cast members,floats,etc. You also get on the rides in the park (you go to the front of the line on each time) and get the history of each ride. It really goes on and on. The tour is 12 and over (some age cutoff that is low) because you will see the characters with their heads off so if you have kids under 12 or so it will be a no go for you. Really a great tour. I plan on going on the other tours (MGM,EPCOT,Animal) the next time I go back there.

    3. Also the SeaWorld backstage tour is great.

    • you may have more fun asking about the incidents described in these sites:

      http://www.th emeparkinsider.com/accidents/
      http://www.urbanleg ends.com/death/disney_deaths.ht ml
      http://www.disneypix.com/forum/index.php?s=165 fe59 240d86254cec78319f63b5ea8&act=SF&f=33
      http://www. saferparks.org/ed_disney_safety_report. htm
      http://www.conservativenews.org/InDepth/archi ve/19 9810/IND19981014d.html
    • Just an FYI to anyone considering a factory tour of the Oakdale, CA Hershey plant... They are no longer giving factory tours out here. I don't know about other Hershey plants, but this one stopped because of "security concerns after Sept. 11th." Very disappointing to my 3 yeard old to say the least!
  • The place where the Cape Cod chips are made.

    Yes, it is a dinky little tour, but it does not take that much to make the chip, and it is amusing to see the frying kettles.

    Oh and make sure to pick up a bag of dark Russet chips...that is what the real chip tastes like.
  • It's not a factory, but taking a tour of the fusion reactor at General Atomics in San Diego is something I can't recommend enough for anyone able to appreciate it.
  • by fwc ( 168330 )
    Not exactly a factory, but I highly recommend touring EBR-I (Experimental Breeder Reactor I) [inel.gov] if you are anywhere near the INEEL Facility [inel.gov] in Idaho. This is the coolest facility I've toured *ever*. For those of you who don't know, this is the place where electricity was first generated by nuclear power.
  • Steel mill, coke oven, basic oxygen furnance, maybe a blast furnance still--something there puts up a 24/7 column of flame that you can see for miles.

    They seem to have tours about once a year--appropriate attire (serious shoes, long pants, sleeves, hard hat, safety googles) is required and they don't allow cameras.

  • by Klaruz ( 734 ) on Saturday January 04, 2003 @02:22AM (#5012932)
    Any power plant. I'm not sure how much you'd see on a tour, but there's some neat tech in these. (My dad works at one so I've seen everything there is...) It's mostly 'low' tech, other than things like control systems. But the scale and the amount of power going through is neat.

    NORAD in Colorado Springs, CO or Offutt AFB in Omaha, NE. Norad has some neato tech, and the 'building' is way cool. Offutt AFB has a bit more modern tech (I used to work there, maybe I'm biased), but is basicly the same thing. Both are very high security, so call in advance (at least a couple weeks, maybe a month) so they can do a background check. But it's worth it to see the coolest vax clusters on the planet. (You won't get to actually see them, just the output, but it's still cool. Again, maybe I'm biased, they were my babies for several years) The SAC museum is in Omaha too if you like bombers and stuff.

    Any type of steel or metalurgical plant. Those places boggle my mind. (usually located near power plants for cheap electric, at least around my home town)

    Chemical plants. Not sure what the security is like near these but it's neet to see how stuff is all heated and mixed together to produce whatever it is they're making. I've been to chevron, dow, and dupont plants (all near my home town also - they call the mid ohio valley, 'chemical valley' for a reason). I'm suprised I don't have an extra limb or something.

    Maybe I'm a geek, but I'd like to see some microchips getting made and some surface mount boards getting assembled.

    Anyplace that uses robotics is cool. My uncle gave me a tour of the biotech company he built the robots for. If you can get the tour guide or the geeky looking guy standing around at the factory to explain some of details of the tech, do it. I had no idea how far robots had come.

    Think about something a little more old fashoned. A hand made wood working shop, a metal shop. Then work your way up to more modern things like windows, and lumber mills.

    Get your Laverne and Shirley on at a brewery. Hit someplace that makes snack food or candy. From watching shows on food tv I've noticed they seem alot like chemical plants...

    Hmm I'm hungry now. Have a good trip tho.
    • Been on this one many times on school trips. You actually get to see a lot of cool stuff. [nypa.gov]
    • Moot point on NORAD's Chyenne Mountain facilty.. they shut that down well before 9-11..
      The other military facilities maybe closed or have racked up their security where you wont get to see much..

    • Go see a papermill. You'll see so much that either goes into pulping virgin pulp or recycling or converting. There's so much going on and the process automation on the paper machine can be mind boggling.

      Go find a newsprint mill and a paperboard mill to see the differences in technology, machinery, speed, and automation. The high speed paper machines are mind-boggling and the paper board machines make you wonder how they work.

      I work in the paper industry as a chemical engineer. You can see much more with paper since it requires, on avergae, twice the number of processes to make a final product than a chemical plant. Plus much of the process flow is open in a paper mill and you can get pulp samples at intermediate sections of the mill.
  • (In Golden, Colorado)
    I have been on this tour twice, and it was pretty good. Free beer at the end, of course, but the coolest part is probably watching the packing floor where they do all the canning and boxing.
  • Don't know if it has been said or not, but a tour of a printing plant (ie, large newspaper or magazine publisher) can be very interesting...
  • Livermore (SF Bay Area), California.
    LLNL offers tours [llnl.gov] Tuesdays and Thursdays, including:
    Tour stops include a trip to the
    National Ignition Facility, the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), the Biology and Biotechnology building, ASCI White, the country's largest and most powerful supercomputer, and the Discovery Center.
    There are some restrictions and rules about visiting, read the linked page for details.
  • Forget bottled water. Drinking fountains are what it is all about. You should contact Halsey Taylor [halseytaylor.com] and see if they give tours.
  • Nuclear testing site (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Matt2000 ( 29624 ) on Saturday January 04, 2003 @03:26AM (#5013155) Homepage

    Every once and a while they take a bunch of people out to the facilities they built, then blew up at the Nevada nuclear testing sites [dreamlandresort.com]. That's what I'd check out.
  • I once had a tour of a linerboard mill as part of a teen career-options program (I wanted to be a ChemE at the time). Linerboard is the paper on the outside of cardboard. The place is noisy and smelly, but it was neat to see trees go in one end of the plant as chips and paper come out of the other end in rolls.
  • by arkham6 ( 24514 ) on Saturday January 04, 2003 @04:01AM (#5013252)
    I worked in Springfield Vt's manufacturing plant. It was neat at first, but then it became like any other job. I stood at a conveyer belt and put peace pops into boxes for 8 hours a day. Real thrilling. But the process was kind of interesting. There was a giant vat that the cream and other ingredients were mixed in, then onto a machine that turned them into a somewhat frozen state and ploped them onto a belt. Then sticks were placed in the ice cream, and it went through a long freezer to shock cool them. After spending 10 or so minutes in this freezer, they came out, and were picked up and dipped into molten chocolate. The chocolate dried quickly, and off into the wrapper they went. Then out of that machine and down to me, where i stuck them in boxes.

    It was decent work for VT, and not too stressful. Plus they made us eat ice cream every day for quality assurance. Sounds nice, but try eating a peace pop every day for 3 months, you get absolutely sick of them very quickly.

    I think there is a plant up in Waterburry VT where you can see ice cream being made, and it is kind of neat to watch for a few minutes.
  • They're just about the only worthwhile thing to see in West Virginia, but they're a treat. There are still people that sit down with a pole and a lump of glass and a furnace and stick the glass in the thing, and then work with a spinning, glowing, very hot mass of glass. Sparks, flames, glowing colors, and really nice looking finished work. They're realized how much people like watching them, and at one of the ones I've seen, they have an observation deck and a parking lot and a gift shop, simply because of all the people that come through.
  • For the college ACM chapter to which I belong (and am president), we have an annual habit of touring the Leinenkugle Brewery and Cray facility in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. It's a few hour drive for us in northern Minnesota, but it's worth it and makes a great day out for a bunch of college nerds! :)

    We may not do it this year, problems with making the trip to Cray. Not sure if they give tours anymore, bring a bit down and out... but it's quite the tour!

    Plus, you get the benefit of drinking decent beer. I saw someone else reccomend a tour of the Busch and Budweister plants- I say "plants" because they could hardly be called breweries! Leine's may not be as good as Moose Drool, but it sure as hell isn't the torture like most of the stuff AB makes...

    If you're up in the Duluth area, there is also the Lake Superior Brewing brewery that deserves a tour- some really tasty beer! Hell, their Kayak Kölsch is pretty light, yet full of real flavor for those of you who may venture north but are used to drinking piss instead of the good stuff... :)
  • The Tillamook County Creamery Association's [tillamookcheese.com] cheese factory gives free tours [tillamookcheese.com]. You get to sample all manner of dairy products, too.

    It's in Tillamook, Oregon [tillamookchamber.org] on the Oregon Coast.
  • If you're anywhere near New Orleans, definitely visit the Tabasco factory in Avery Island (about 2 hours away). They've got a great tour and a really interesting history. Also it's a really nice drive, and the whole surrounding area smells like Tabasco sauce! (big plus for me.) It would also complement the Jack Daniels tour you're considering.

    I'm getting hungry now.
  • Krispy Kreme
  • This is the department of homeland seurity. You are under arrest!

    Sure you just want to "see how stuff gets made." So you can blow it all up, right?
  • Middlebury, Indiana has a Jayco (RV builders) has a plant that you can take tours in. When I was there, they let you get pretty close and see campers in various states of construction. Many of the workers there are Amish, which can be jarring when you see a fellow with suspenders and a long beard riding to work in his horse-drawn buggy.

    More info: http://www.jayco.com/html/about/about_visit.php
  • Factories are fun - and are everywhere. Some I have visited:

    Pulp and paper plants: the chipper where they throw tree trunks into a hole and they are munched into little bits at a scary rate is the most impressive bit. Don't fall in. Look for a high degree of automation after that - try to see the contrl room.

    Foam/polystryene: ridiculously simple process - combine chemicals and watch as foam expands to fit into whatever mold shape is present.

    Extrusion molding: a cone of soft plastic slowly lowers, a mold is clamped over it, air injected and voila, a laundry detergent bottle. (loads of rejects with this but the plastic is endlessly recyclable)

    Injection molding: test-tube of hard plastic are turned into 2 litre coke bottles with very high pressure. Impressivly automated, which means you often can't see much. Usually located next to a

    Centrifugal molding: put plastic material in a large round mold, spin it fast for a while and apply heat. Open it up and there you have a (usually cylindrical) round trash can or similar.

    Soda Factory: where soda is created from water, CO2 and proprietory syrup. Highly automated - and great pictures of all those bottles/cans whizzing around conveyer belts

    Tin Can factories: 2 kinds: aluminium - cans are extruded from aluminium and printed on after that. (you try printing on a round, fragile can). Steel (think older beer cans and food tins): Steel is printed on and then rolled up and welded on a "soutronic welder". then the ends are put on. Impressive display.

    Ice cream factories: and other food processing plants - usually a flow process with lots of tanks and pipes so you don't see a lot. B&J's was well set up so you could see the mixing of plain ice-cream, the adding of ingredients and the packing. Plus there were ice creams at the end.

    Car factories: I have not seen one, but it would be fun to follow your car from chassis to completion, through paint-shop, production line and final quality checks. Just don't go on a Monday morning as you may get depressed. Be sure to ask questions about logistics (arrival of parts etc.) - this is one area the car industry is showing the way.

    Computer factories/assemby plants: I have also not seen one, but these guys (i.e. Dell) have flexible manufacturing well sorted out - each computer can be different from the last.
  • I suggest going on any brewery tour you can find. I've been on four of them. All of them being fun and informitive. You will never forget the smell and you can't beat free beer. Here are some links to breweries [whatalesyou.com].
  • As a student at LFM http://lfm.mit.edu, we did tours at the following places:

    HP Medical (now Agilent) in New Hampshire - the cool part was watching a wave soldering station and a very fast pick-and-place surface mount maching

    Polaroid in MA - there was an awesome plastic injection molding machine for those little drawers in the film packs, plus the processing of the springs was cool.

    Eastman Gelatine in Peabody, MA - not for the weak of stomach - they make gelatin, kosher, from cattle bones. We went through the whole process, which includes some pretty cool chemical vats. Watching the stuff ooze out in the last step was pretty cool.

    Kodak in Rochester - we saw the manufacture of single use cameras. Some pretty cool machines that place the film in the camera, but most of it is manual. We also saw them make the kiosks that go into Wal-Mart for scanning and printing as well as the digital camera assembly. At their museum, you can look down into where most of the motion pictures are stored today.

    Detroit - I'm from here and have toured the following plants: Lansing Grand River (not operational yet), Hamtramck (Full-size Caddies and Buicks), Orion (Full-Size Buick). Ford Windsor Engine plant. All very cool, but since I'm automotive it's all old hat.

    Ford Explorer - Kentucky - at the time it was the fastest (87 per hour) assembly plant in the US. They don't start the Explorers until the last step of the process, unlike GM that has them idling for the last (seems like) half hour of the assembly process.

    Alcoa - near Evansville, IN. Another very cool tour. Didn't get to see too much of the process, but what we saw (where the oxide is removed and the final rolling as well as some quality testing) was cool. That plant has about the best union-management relationship I've seen.

    Dell - Austin TX. Not too much to see there, although interesting for geeks. There are some interesting things, such as how they handle their suppliers and how they do testing (they balked when I told them how they could save time and money using Linux for burn-in). We saw an Optiplex plant and a Workstation/Server plant.

    Garrett Turbocharger - LA. If you can, watch them finish the test on a turbo unit. They pump air through it until it explodes to make sure it isn't dangerous. They have a laser welder that is very cool to watch. Interesting to see their precision since the tolerances on turbos are so tight.

    Intel in Phoenix, AZ - You won't be able to do this tour, but very cool to see them make chips and discuss various clean room rules (sneezing, throwing up, etc.) Also, testing machines and very interesting to watch security measures (pre 9/11, even)

    Boeing. You, of course have to do this tour. We saw the 777 line, but also toured the test facility where they were finishing up testing on one of the ISS modules, and toured where they make the wing spar (one solid piece of aluminum that is milled down)

  • They have one in Kitimat, BC, owned by Alcan. The thing uses several hundred megawatts of electricity from the Kemano damn, built just for it in the 1950's. The strength of the magnetic fields inside the plant are astounding. On a previous tour, the people inside the bus managed to stack 37 paperclips end to end. Note that you can't visit if you have a pace-maker, and digital devices don't fare well (leave the digital cam at home). Visit http://www.sno.net/alcan/tours.htm for more info. Also, within walking distance is Methanex, an ammonia and methanol plant. Lots of pipes everywhere, but few moving parts to look at. Most things are run by Sun machines. June - August: Monday and Wednesday 10:00am (1.5 hours), reservations required, no children under 12, phone 250 639-9292. Close by is Eurocan Pulp & Paper. Your basic, small sized kraft paper mill. Neat if you haven't seen one before. Also, on the tour, we walked by a room that had radioactive hazard signs all over it, but we rushed by it, and when I asked the guide about it, she didn't know what i was talking about. I guess they had some cesium isotope for x-raying pipes or something. Phone 250 632-6111.
  • Starrett Instruments in Athol Ma has a tour - call first. If you want to see how precision measuring tools are made
  • Now is the time to take a tour of JPL [http://www.jpl.nasa.gov] because the twin MER spacecraft/rovers [http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer] are viewable from the SAF (Spacecraft Assembly Facility) viewing gallery. I've noticed that they're running tours seven days a week too. Better make it soon because we're shipping S/N 001 to the cape in February. I think S/N 002 goes in March. Here's the link for tour information: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pso/pt.cfm. Here's a link to a photo of MER S/N 002 next to the Sojourner flight spare. These would have been taken in early November. -Kevin
  • Up until 1995 you couldn't try a sample or even buy a bottle in Moore county. You still can't UNLESS you buy a "commemorative decanter" at the distillery. The rest of the county is totally dry. Check it out at

    http://www.jackdaniels.co.uk/oldno7/facts.asp#numb er13

    A few years back, I got to go on the only Fermilab particle accelerator tour in like 15 years. I just happened to call on the day they were offering the tour. Unbelievable. It was great. They had all kinds of tour busses and stuff to take you around to the different parts. That place is insane!

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein