Welcome to Have Geeklets, Will Travel, a summer travel series that will help you think up cool travel plans that will appeal to both kids and adults. From geocaching expeditions in your backyard to factory tours in far-flung states, we’ll be providing ideas all summer long to get you out of your house and on the road for great adventures.
When the twins were four years old, we were eating through a bag of chips at dinner when I noticed that they were made in Virginia, as in, the next state over. Suddenly, I had a burning desire to see how our potato chips were made, and show the twins the process of turning a potato into a salty snack. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to give the company a call and ask if we could come by to see the machines in action. Come on down for the chip fry, they said.
Three hours and several wrong turns courtesy of Google Maps later, we pulled into the semi-empty parking lot of the potato chip factory and walked inside to the horrified staff who didn’t realize we were actually going to take them up on their offer to see the chip fry. There was a small window that we could peer through to see the machines, and the two or three workers (curse you, artisan potato chips with your small batches!) paused what they were doing to crack open a few bags and allow us to taste all their flavors. We bought a few bags and went home, determined to find a real factory tour.
Luckily, there are dozens of places across America where you can travel to see your favorite snacks being made, from potato chips to caramel corn to jelly beans. It’s entertainment and education rolled into one, and most tours come with samples to boot. Snack tours are sort of like… well… the perfect chip. Bet you can’t go on just one.
Educational component: Beforehand, find out the names of the machines you’ll encounter on the tour, and make a bingo board for your kids to carry so they can mark a square whenever they find a new machine. Or have your kids build a “machine” at home out of recyclable materials. What type of snack can their machine create?
Here’s a list of tours to get you started. Try Googling food factory tours in your state:
- Cape Cod Chip Factory (Hyannis, Massachusetts): self-guided tours of the factory are held Monday through Friday (it’s closed on the weekends). Their website also boasts an online tour to watch beforehand, or for people who can’t make it to the factory.
- Utz Potato Chips (Hanover, Pennsylvania): a guided tour in front of an observation window, gadget geeks will love this tour with closed-circuit television enhancements. Open Monday through Thursday.
- Intercourse Pretzels (Intercourse, Pennsylvania): not only will you see pretzels being made, but kids are given some dough to try their hand at tying a knot. Their website has a detailed tour schedule. [If your kids are in the tween years, be prepared for some snickering at the name of the town/factory. - Ed.]
- Golden Flake Potato Chips (Birmingham, Alabama): see how your chip goes from whole potato into slices in a bag. Open Monday through Thursday.
- Campbell’s Sweet Factory (Cleveland, Ohio): learn how they make their sweet popcorn. Call ahead to set up your tour.
- Jelly Belly Jellybeans (Fairfield, California): did you know it takes a week to make a jellybean? You can learn that on one of the daily Jelly Belly tours.
- Hammond’s Candies (Denver, Colorado): watch how stripes get on candy canes Monday through Saturday on this candy factory tour.
Hit the road, geeks, and we’ll see you after your trip with the next summer travel idea.