York County, Pennsylvania, has much more to offer visitors than just a passage from Lancaster County (Amish Country) to Adams County (Gettysburg). Dubbed the Factory Tour Capital of the World, York County offers visitors a multitude of fun (and usually free) opportunities to see how things are made.
More than a dozen factories offer tours year round, and additional manufacturers open their doors to the public during the Made in America Tours in November. (This event was previously called Manufacturers’ Days and was held in June.) Highlights include:
Harley Davidson’s Final Assembly Plant offers an excellent guided tour for adults and minors over the age of twelve. Visitors can see the assembly line where a simple triangular frame becomes a completed Harley and can watch the new bike be tested. The visitors’ center also offers a film and museum that even the young’uns can enjoy.
More authentic than the audio-animatronic tour ride offered at nearby Hershey’s Chocolate World, the guided tour at Wolfgang Candy Companyallows visitors to stand inches from the workers making chocolate candy. Children of all ages are allowed to tour the plant, and the free samples are delicious!
Visitors to Family Heirloom Weavers can watch as forty antique looms produce unique tapestries and reproductions of historical fabric, which is later used as costume material for Civil War re-enactors and replacements for worn-out rugs in historical homes. The looms take up most of the space in this small plant, so tour groups are kept small and young children are not allowed.
Part of Hanover, the Snack Capital of the World, is in York County, and several well-known snack makers offer tours. At Snyder’s of Hanover, tour guides leading visitors down second-story corridors provide an overview of the pretzel making process below. Utz Snackshas a self-guided tour with free potato chip samples, and Martin’s Potato Chips(technically several miles east of Hanover) gives guided tours.
All of these tours are free, and as a bonus, most factories have adjoining gift shops or outlet stores, often with lower prices than other retail stores. Some factories offer tours only one or two days each week, so be sure to call ahead for times and reservation requirements.
If you want a vacation that offers interesting and educational attractions at low prices, it’s hard to beat factory touring, and you’d be hard pressed to find more factory tours in one area than you’d find in York County.