Geek out on how candy gets created, the way history comes to life, and what it takes to construct everything from kazoos to airplanes.
Witness the Manufacturing Process
1. Swing by the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, in Kentucky, for a half-hour look at the production line—you’re so close you can see the wood chips flying. Kids can try out bats from famous players and slide through a giant glove sculpture. $8 to $15, all ages.
2. Cape Pond Ice, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, shows the fam how it uses 150 tons of frozen water daily for blocks and sculptures. $8 to $10, all ages.
3. Your kids can take a spin on two vintage merry-go-rounds at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, in North Tonawanda, New York, before they find out details about how the horses were carved. $3.50 to $7, all ages.
4. During the 45-minute tour, see the cutting, stitching, and lacing that go into making Wilson footballs for the National Football League.
5. The factory in Ada, Ohio, churns out 3,000 pigskins daily. $5, all ages, reservations required.
6. As kids watch coins produced on the factory floor 40 feet below them at the United States Mint in Philadelphia, they can touch screens that explain the process. Vintage coins, military medals, and info on the coin designers make the 45-minute, selfguided walk-around more engaging. Free, all ages.
7. Create a kazoo, choosing from 14 colors, during The Kazoo Factory tour, in Beaufort, South Carolina. $5, all ages.
See Animals Being Cared For
8. The 90-minute tour of the Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, includes photo ops with horses, turkeys, and Bandito, the alpaca. Kids can even feel his fleece! $5 to $10, all ages.
9. Watch whale sharks being fed, explore the waterquality lab, and see where sick animals get TLC during the 45-minute Behind the Seas Tour at the Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta. $13.50 to $15, all ages.
10. If your fam watches Animal Planet’s reality show Tanked, look into its backstage tour in Las Vegas. Learn how aquariums are built, snap a photo on sets used in the show, and maybe even meet the stars. $20 to $40, all ages, offered on Mondays.
11. Greet Atlantic bottlenose dolphins at the National Aquarium, in Baltimore, during an insider’s look at how the mammal specialists care for them. $15, ages 8+
12. Play “I spy” a moose as you ride through back roads in New Hampshire’s Western White Mountains on the nighttime Pemi Valley Moose Tour. Almost all groups encounter a couple of the animals; some see dozens. $22 to $32, all ages, reservations required.
13. Your kid will never forget getting splashed by bathing elephants. And imagine the photo op! It’s the highlight of the behind-the-scenes tour of the elephants’ living area at the Little Rock Zoo, in Arkansas. $50 to $56, ages 6+
14. Pet calves and learn about the bottling process on the 60-minute tour of organic dairy Shamrock Farms in Stanfield, Arizona. Free, all ages, reservations required.
15. How cool would it be to feed squid to a sea lion? Your future marine biologist will have a chance to do that during the Wild Encounters tour at the Oklahoma City Zoo. Plus, she can ask a sea lion to bark and touch her hand. $20 to $50, all ages, reservations required.
16. Learn how sea turtles are rehabbed (and get to feed them) during a 90-minute visit at The Turtle Hospital, in Marathon, Florida. $12 to $25, all ages.
17. Spend 45 minutes watching animals that aren’t on exhibit and exploring the kitchen where workers prepare hundreds of pounds of feed daily as part of the behindthe-scenes tour at the Sea Life Aquarium in Minneapolis. $10, all ages.
Marvel at How Food Gets Made
18. Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour, in Waterbury, Vermont, starts with a fun video where kids discover who Ben and Jerry are; then everyone heads to the production floor. Don’t drive away without checking out the “flavor graveyard” of the “dearly de-pinted” outside. $4 for adults, all ages.
19. Take a self-guided walk above the factory floor of the Jelly Belly Candy Company, in Fairfield, California, where you’ll learn how long it takes to create jelly beans (no spoilers!), guess flavors at ten smell stations, and test your “belly flop IQ” to find beans that aren’t the right shape. Free, all ages.
20. At the PEZ Visitor Center, in Orange, Connecticut, see the production area, check out the huge collection of vintage PEZ, and snap an Instagram-worthy pic of your kid’s head atop a dispenser. $4 to $5, all ages.
21. The coolest part about the two-hour Maui Pineapple Tour, in Makawao, Hawaii, is hopping off the wagon to eat the fruit in the field. Later, you’ll explore the shipping and packing factory; admission includes a boxed pineapple to take home. $55 to $65, ages 5+
22. How does the corn-muffin magic happen? Find out at the Jiffy Mix Plant, in Chelsea, Michigan. The hour-long experience includes a kid-friendly video and a guided walk-through of the packaging facility. Free, ages 6+, reservations required.
23. Watch potatoes, cheese, corn, and other ingredients being whipped up into your kids’ favorite snack foods at the Golden Flake Company near Birmingham, Alabama. Free, ages 5+, reservations required.
24. Your little kitchen helpers will have so much fun making chocolate-covered cookies as part of the hands-on factory tour of the production area at Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, in Freeport. $4 to $5, all ages.
Nurture Your Kid’s Passion
25. Bikes: Kids can see how bikes and trikes are built (from making the frame to sanding and boxing) during the hour-long tour of Trek Headquarters, in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Free, all ages.
26. Music: Your fam will go from workstation to workstation, watching how blocks of wood are transformed into an instrument at the Gibson Retail Store and Factory, in Memphis. $10, ages 5+
27. Movies: The Oz Museum, in Wamego, Kansas, houses more than 2,000 artifacts from the classic movie, including the ruby slippers that shimmer with 3,500+ Swarovski crystals. $7 to $9, all ages.
28. Cars: Your kid’s heart will race with excitement during the 90-minute, VIP Grounds Tour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Step onto the winner’s podium, walk the track, and explore the garages. $15 to $30, ages 6+
29. Olympics: The hour-long guided experience at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs includes stops in the gymnastics center, the swimming arena, and the wrestling ring. Go in the morning when you’re more likely to see the athletes. $8 to $12, all ages.
30. Crafts: The bow-making machine at the Hallmark Visitors Center, in Kansas City, Missouri, is worth the trip alone. It turns a piece of ribbon into a small bow in less than 15 seconds, puts it on a paper backing, and sends it down the chute for you to take home. Free, all ages.
31. Outer Space: A ticket to the Infinity Science Center is the only way to get a 40-minute guided bus tour of NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Pearlington, Mississippi, America’s largest rocketengine testing facility. You’ll see the rocket-engine test sites, engine-firing pads, and if you’re lucky, a launch. $8 to $15, all ages.
32. Baseball: Wrigley Field, in Chicago, hits a home run with its 75- to 90-minute guided tour, giving wannabe sluggers access to the field, the press box, the dugouts, and on nongame days, the locker rooms! $25, all ages.
33. Rocks: Explore dinosaur tracks, gather crystals from Glitter Mountain, and play in red-sand dunes during a five-hour off-road Petroglyph Tour that begins in St. George, Utah. Book the experience through viator.com. $89, all ages.
34. Trains: From the observation decks of Golden Spike Tower, check out Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard, in North Platte, Nebraska, the world’s largest. The visitor’s center also has train displays that your mini conductor will appreciate. $5 to $7, all ages.
35. Roller Coasters: Your daredevils can see control rooms, maintenance areas, and the special-effects building on the Roller Coaster Mini Tour at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, in Virginia. Then they score a special ride time on three of the park’s coasters. $30 plus park admission, ages 6+, reservations required.
Bring History to Life
36. Head to the basement in the Beneath the Breakers tour at the Newport Mansions, in Rhode Island, where you’ll learn about the development of electricity in this National Historic Landmark. $15, all ages.
37. Meet French Quartour Kids Tours at the New Orleans riverfront, and use maps and other artifacts to get a picture of what life was like in the 19th century. $20, ages 4+, reservations required.
38. See private portions of the grounds at Biltmore House and Gardens (including remnants of the railroad) in the Legacy of the Land 90-minute bus tour in Asheville, North Carolina. $23, all ages.
39. The Time Traveler’s experience takes mini explorers to the spaces where the du Pont family played at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, in Delaware. Free with admission, designed for ages 4 to 11.