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Everyday Cheapskate: Factory fun on family vacations

Planning a family vacation? Factory tours can make for great vacation fun, especially when the company manufacturers something kids like. Free samples can’t hurt.

Currently, more than 550 factories across the USA offer tours to show people what they do and how they do it. Most tours are free; however some require a small admission. Here’s a sample:

MRS. GROSSMAN’S: Petaluma, Calif. This is the sticker company kids and scrapbookers know and love. Mrs. Grossman’s prints 15,000 miles of stickers every year! Your family can see what’s behind the fuss on a factory tour of the bright and colorful printing plant. The tour begins with a video narrated by the owner’s dog Angus and concludes with a sticker art class and a gift bag stuffed with stickers. A gift shop sells all of the company’s 700 sticker designs. Reservations are required. Admission: adults $7; youth under 12 $5; children under 3 free. Call (800) 429-4549 or go to for more details.

TILLAMOOK CHEESE: Tillamook, Ore. Visitors are treated to a free tour, showcasing the entire cheese making process from cow to mouth. There are interactive kiosks providing nutritional information that kids of all ages can enjoy. As visitors reach the end of the tour, they are treated to samples of Tillamook’s famous cheese. For more information and tour times, go to

JELLY BELLY: Fairfield, Calif. Step into the Jelly Belly factory and smell the aroma of chocolate, peach, cinnamon, pineapple, or whatever is being cooked up that day. Located about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, and 45 minutes west of Sacramento, this 40-minute walking tour is led by Jelly Belly tour guides who show a real-working factory cooking up more than 150 different sweet treats. You’ll discover why it takes more than a week to make a single bean. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time, except on holidays. Jelly Belly factory tours are free and no reservations are required. For more information, go to

BUREAU OF ENGRAVING AND PRINTING: Fort Worth, Texas. At the new Western Currency Facility, adults and kids will love learning all about U.S. paper currency. Best of all, you can actually see billions of dollars being printed as you walk along an enclosed walkway suspended over the production floor. Before or after your tour, enjoy two floors of interactive exhibits showcasing the history of currency and the intricacies of the printing process. Other features of the visitor center include a theater film, a gift shop, and a vending and rest area. The tour and fabulous visitor center are free to the public. To schedule a tour, call (817) 231-4000 or toll free (866) 865-1194;

BEN & JERRY’S ICE CREAM: Waterbury, Vt. Last year, 275,000 ice cream fans toured this facility. Not bad for a company launched in 1978 in a renovated gas station. As visitors soon learn, it’s not just about ice cream — there’s a social mission behind Ben & Jerry’s. Thirty-minute tours are offered daily, beginning with a seven-minute video, continuing on to the tour mezzanine, where you watch ice cream production. If production is down, a narrated video will fill in the details. The tour ends at the Scoop Shop, where guests try old favorites like Cherry Garcia and perhaps test-drive a new flavor. For more information go to:

To find a list of factory tours arranged by state, go to

Mary Hunt is founder of

You can email her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.


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