There are plenty of factory tours with interactive experiences for kids (and kids at heart), but the best of them include handmade souvenirs to take home. Let your family enjoy one of these take-home experiences, from creating candy bars to making candles.
Jewelry – Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, N.Y.
A museum devoted to glass might seem an unlikely destination for a family outing. But at the Corning Museum of Glass, a kid-friendly venue situated in the heart of the Finger Lakes, kids and their adult chaperones can watch a hot glass show, learn about science in hands-on exhibits, and make their own artistic glass creations in an in-house studio. Project choices include glass beads or pendants (ages 10 and up), picture frames, mirrors, clocks, night lights and sun catchers (ages 4 and up), sculptures and ornaments (all ages.)
Turkey Hill Experience Taste Lab, Columbia, Pa.
Create your own ice cream flavor, add embellishments, and then try it out in the Taste Lab at the Turkey Hill Experience, just outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Available as an add-on to the traditional ticketed ice cream production tour, a visit to the Turkey Hill Taste Lab takes around 40 minutes and includes an Ice Cream 101 lesson and a pint of your personally designed flavor.
Chocolate – Lake Champlain Chocolates, Burlington, Vt.
Just a stone’s throw from the famed Ben & Jerry’s Factory, you can gain inspiration on a cocoa-rich Lake Champlain Chocolates factory tour, then step next door to a hands-on kitchen where you can design your own chocolate bars to take home. Chocolate Bar Making classes at Lake Champlain Chocolates affiliate, South End Kitchen, are $5 per person and are open to children ages 6 and up (children under 9 must be accompanied by a parent.) Participants learn how to temper, mold and hand-wrap their specialty creation. Each apprentice goes home with four full-size candy bars.
Chocolate – Farris and Foster’s Famous Chocolate Factory, Orlando, Fla.
After touring Orlando’s theme parks, take a sweet detour to Baldwin Park, just east of downtown Orlando, where you and the kids can become chocolatiers for the night. Ninety-minute Family Night sessions at Farris and Foster’s Famous Chocolate Factory are held on Mondays at 5 and 7 p.m. For $29, four people can create a pound of hand-made chocolate, including clusters, truffles, chocolate-covered treats and molded chocolates. Participants get to take a turn manning the conveyor belt, as well as sample shop specialties like chocolate-covered bacon and chocolate covered-potato chips. The cost for additional family members is $5 per person. Farris & Foster’s also offers 45-minute Kids Kitchen classes on Wednesdays in the summer.
Kazoo – The Kazoo Factory, Beaufort, S.C.
If your family travels take you to North Carolina, be sure to make a stop in Beaufort, where you and the kids can take a factory tour, create your own kazoos, then play them in an impromptu family concert at The Kazoo Factory. Forty-five- to 60-minute guided factory tours ($5 per person, children under 3 free) are available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and culminate in a visit to a make-your-own-kazoo station, where you can choose from 14 colorful body styles. Afterwards, pay a visit to the onsite gift shop.
Candles – Yankee Candle Village, Deerfield, Mass. or Williamsburg, Va.
It’s not a factory tour, but after you’ve sampled the homemade fudge, dips and gourmet popcorn, taken a stroll through the Bavarian Holiday Park, enjoyed regular sprinklings of “snow,” and been entertained by an animatronic jug band, you’ll see why Yankee Candle Village is a favorite family tourist attraction. In the Wax Works workshop, amateur artists can create their own jar candle, wax hand, candle critter or taper candle. Project prices range from $2 to $36, depending upon size and selection.
It’s Christmas year-round at Yankee Candle Village, but holidays like Valentine’s Day and Easter are celebrated, too, with special character appearances and fun family-oriented events, like kids’ cooking classes, carnivals, Mad Science activities and cupcake decorating.
Muppet – FAO Schwarz, New York City
Toys ‘R Us acquired the FAO Schwarz toy store chain in 2009, but fortunately for faithful fans, the flagship Fifth Avenue FAO Schwarz location in New York City has retained its original branding and signature look, from a playable BIG floor piano to an amazing selection of over-the-top toys, “schweetz,” large-scale LEGO figures and super-sized stuffed animals. Also unique to the Midtown store is an onsite Muppet What-Not Workshop, where visitors can design a custom Muppets, then watch it being made by an in-house apprentice. Prices start at $99.
Teddy Bear – Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Shelburne, Vt.
Sure, you can take a trip to your local mall if your kids want to build their own bear, but if you want to combine nostalgia with an interactive takeaway experience, plan a trip to the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. See how signature Vermont teddy bears are made from start to finish, pay a visit to the Bear Hospital — where injured bears are repaired free of charge — and then step into the Bear Shop (additional charge applies), where you can watch your own Vermont Teddy Bear being made before dressing him or her and even adding custom embroidery.
Crayons – Crayola Experience, Easton, Pa.
Kids will have a ball making crayon critters, creating custom markers, puzzles and other super artsy souvenirs at Crayola Experience in Easton, Pennsylvania. Plan on spending several hours at the sprawling family-friendly attraction, which features multiple hands-on activity areas plus a Water Works, Toddler Corner and jungle gym play area.