Some people plan their days around meals; some people plan their vacations around food. As an organizing principle, that strategy has a lot of appeal. Depending on the kind of food you like, you can watch it being made, bottled, boxed, or otherwise prepared—getting insider access to a behind-the-scenes world that you could otherwise get only from binge-watching the Food Network. (And bonus! Free samples.) If you’re in the neighborhood, or looking for a fun food to plan a trip around check out these sites:
What better way to cool off in the summer than take a quick tour (and it is quick—around 30 minutes) of an ice cream factory with a visit to the sample room at the end? Learn how ice cream is made, try a new flavor, and grab an ice cream themed memento to remember your summer trip. But if you’re visiting in the winter, go for the Umiak Snowshoe & Ice Cream Too Tour, which leads guests on a 45-minute snowshoe walk in the lovely woods behind the factory and includes a visit to the “flavor graveyard.” Kids under 12 are free; adults pay $4; seniors pay $3.
New York, NY
I know, right? New York + Chocolate = the most decadent destination walk you’ll ever take. The tour begins at the Chelsea Market and ends at Vosges Haut Chocolate two hours later. The cost is $50 per person—and that covers the cost of all the yummy samples you’ll get along the way.
Groves of orange, grapefruit, and tangerine trees provide the raw materials for the citrus-flavored candies and classic marmalades produced here. The candy and jelly factory tour is free, and in addition to the tasty samples, coupons for deep discounts and freebies are freely offered. You can also pick up an assortment of fresh fruit including tangelos and honey tangerines.
This company—makers of more than 340 kinds of snack items—has worked hard to turn their factory tours (which are free) into a fun, family destination. They’ll even schedule birthday parties there. Learn the history of Herr’s and how to pick a great “chipping potato.” They also offer three different virtual tours.
If you’re driving north of San Francisco or west of Sacramento and plan on passing Fairfield, why not take a detour for jelly beans? Reader’s Digest once called this “the best factory tour in America” and (of course) free Jelly Belly samples are offered. Reservations are not required and the tour is free.
Various cities, Wisconsin
There’s a reason why people from Wisconsin are nicknamed “Cheeseheads.” You can find a cheese factory on practically every corner, and all of them are delighted to show you around, offer you samples, and send you home with packages of their product. Details of the tours vary so check listings for the one (or ones) in the area you’ll be visiting.
Long before Portland branded itself the “quirk capital” of the United States, Boulder, Colorado was home to Celestial Seasonings teas with their biodegradable packaging and proudly counter-cultural vibe. The half-hour walking tour begins with an introductory video and is free. After viewing the factory, stop by the Celestial Cafe for a nice, relaxing cup.
Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit!
Katherine Tomlinson is a writer and editor whose work appears in print and online. Her memoir pieces have been published in What Was I Thinking? (St. Martin’s Press) and Pearls of Wisdom from Grandma (Regan Books). She writes fiction under the name Kat Parrish. Follow her @storyauthority.