What’s the perfect outing for a curious kid? A behind-the-scenes factory tour! From Portland to the coast, these Oregon factories offer VIP peeks at gigantic machines mixing vats of dough, speedy conveyor belts, expert workers, and more. And did we mention these tours are free, cheap, and full of tasty samples? Click through the slideshow below to find your curious kid’s next great adventure.

Tillamook Cheese Factory

Why go:
Your half-pints will love the bird’s eye view of watching giant, 40-pound blocks of cheese get cut into smaller sizes, whiz by on a conveyor belt, get wrapped in packing film, and then be vacuum sealed by a machine that looks like a gigantic octopus. It’s always fun to take “cheesy” pictures behind the farmer and cow face cutouts, and Loaf Love tour bus. Then there’s the animated Super Scooper game and interactive touch-screen kiosks with a Kidz Zone full of fun facts and sound effects. But the best part is eating the free cheese samples and squeaky cheese curds at the end of the tour. Stop by the gift shop to buy cheese, butter, sour cream, yogurt, Baby Loaf onesies and gourmet goodies. Then head over to the Creamery Café for ooey gooey goodness in the form of grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, omelets and more.

No visit is complete without sampling several ice cream flavors before deciding on the perfect one (or two) to top your fresh-griddled waffle cone. Or go whole-cow and pay around $30 for the Tillamook Ice Cream Adventure, a flag-topped, mini-scoop mountain of every flavor Tillamook makes, served on a platter. The ice cream scoopers serenade you while making it. You and your brood are probably stuffed by now, so buy some fudge to go for later.

Open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) for free, self-guided tours from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Labor Day through mid-June; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. mid-June through Labor Day.

4175 N Hwy 101
Online: tillamook.com

photo: Tillamook Cheese

Have you been to any of these food factory tours? Let us know in the comment section below. 

—Halle Smith