It’s educational.  It’s fun.  It’s usually cheap and sometimes free.  And it can even involve some great samples and souvenirs.  What is it?  A factory tour!  Satisfy your child’s curiosity and your own limited entertainment budget by visiting a factory close to home this summer.  Here are some great ones to consider:

Boeing Aircraft Company Everett, WA

Walk through the enormous plant grounds and see various stages of plane creation and testing.  As part of the tour, visit the world’s largest building by volume.

Located 25 miles north of Seattle, the facility is open 7 days a week.  Tours are offered hourly from 9:00 to 3:00.  Tickets are sold on a first-come basis and go fast in the summer months.  $15 for adults/$8 for kids.  Children must be 4 feet tall to go on the tour.

The Jelly Belly Bean Company Fairfield, CA

Did you know that it takes one week to make a single jelly bean?  At this working factory, guests can watch the process of making this famous candy.  There’s a sampling bar to quench your taste buds.  Have lunch at the Visitor Center Café, where you can order a jelly bean-shaped pizza or hamburger!

Located an hour north of San Francisco, there’s no admission charge for the 40-minute walking tour.  Tours are given most days from 9:00 to 4:00, but come during a weekday to see the candy making in process.

Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat Museum Louisville, KY

The official bat of Major League Baseball, the Louisville Slugger has been around since 1884.  See how each bat is meticulously carved out at this family-favorite factory tour.  An adjacent museum features baseball exhibits.  This year families can delight in seeing baseballs signed by presidents!  Tour visitors leave with a miniature bat souvenir and personalized bats can be ordered when you arrive and picked up before you leave on the days bats are in production.

Adult tickets are $9. Child tickets are $4.  Ages five and under are free.  Allow two hours to take the tour and explore the museum.  They open at 9:00 Mondays through Saturdays.  Check the website for specific days and times.

Crayola Crayon Company Easton, PA

No, this isn’t the actual place where the waxy rainbows are made.  But it’s an even-better visitor center where families can not only see how crayons are made, but can explore and use the wide variety of Crayola art tools and products.  Kids can use the latest Crayola products to create masterpieces on site.  (Parents – you don’t have to clean up!)  Watch as your own 4 pack of crayon souvenirs is made, labeled and packaged before your eyes.

The visitor center is open most days from 9:30 – 3:00.  The online calendar shows special hours, themes, and daily activities.  Tickets are $9.50 each.   

Cape Cod Potato Chip Company Hyannis, MA

How do they get those yummy chips so crunchy?  Watch as the potatoes are sorted, sliced, and hand-stirred.  Believe it or not, this is the area’s largest attraction – with over 250,000 people touring the factory each year. 

Factory Tours are open Monday – Friday, 9:00 – 5:00.  Admission is free.

Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Company Waterbury, VT

Guests will start with a movie, watch the ice cream making in process, sample the flavors of the day, and spend some time in the gift shop.  Learning how ice cream is made is fun for all ages.  But adults especially will enjoy the story of Ben and Jerry’s – from their amazing climb to success to the many ways they give back to the world.   

Tours last 30 minutes and cost $3 for adults.  Kids are free!  Hours and schedules vary by the season.  Check the website before you go.