Children are natural-born learners, so what better way to feed your kid’s curiosity (and his or her tummy) than with a behind-the-scenes peek at how their favorite foods are created? From freshly baked bread to artisan chocolates, these working factories regularly welcome families to tour their facilities. Many are free and all are within (or doable as a day trip from) the Portland area.
photo: Carrie Uffindell
Bob’s Red Mill
At Bob’s 300,000 square foot facility, you and the kids will learn all about stone-milling and healthy whole grains. After a short video, watch the mill in action from a set of viewing windows. There’s hands-on activities as well, including a grain grinding table. All visitors get samples to take home. Afterwards, head to Bob’s Whole Grain Store and Visitors Center, located about two miles northwest of the factory, for lunch and/or baked goods.
Details: Tours offered Mon.-Fri. at 10 a.m., except on major holidays, and run 60-75 minutes. Groups of 10 or more can arrange a private tour. All ages welcome.
13521 SE Pheasant Ct.
The 50-minute tour kicks off with a brief presentation on the Franz Family Bakeries, followed by a walking tour of the facility, which is the real highlight of the trip. Kids will be fascinated by the giant mixer stir up enormous batches of dough and the cooling buns zooming around the building on a metal track. The tour ends with a snack of bread, butter and apples juice, as well as a special gift to take home.
Details: Tours are offered throughout the school year, from Labor Day until summer break in June, and must be scheduled in advance. Only children seven years of age or older can attend. Franz is a working bakery so there’s a strict dress code for visitors. Visit the website for more details.
340 NE 11th St.
photo: Jln_lunasea via Flickr
Tillamook Cheese Factory
Oregon’s iconic dairy factory is currently building a brand new 38,500 square foot visitors center, which is slated to open this summer. In the expanded factory viewing area, watch 40-pound blocks of cheese whiz by on a conveyor belt before being cut into smaller pieces, wrapped and vacuum sealed by a machine that looks like a gigantic octopus. Then score some delicious samples, like squeaky cheese curds and ice cream.
Details: Open daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Labor Day through mid-June, hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mid-June through Labor Day, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Note: The temporary visitors center has no factory viewing gallery since it’s located in a separate building. See the website for more details.
4175 N Hwy 101
Fish Peddler Market & Restaurant at Pacific Oyster
For a look inside Pacific Oyster Company’s operations, head to the Fish Peddler in Bay City. Though it’s more observation window than traditional tour, seeing the skilled shuckers speed through thousands of pounds of oysters is truly impressive. Hungry for more? Snag a table near the window so you can enjoy the entertainment while you nosh on fresh seafood.
Details: Open daily, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. The shuckers usually work weekdays from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
5150 Hayes Oyster Dr.
Bay City, Or
photo: Creo Chocolate
This bean-to-bar craft chocolate factory and cafe offers a sweet kid-friendly tour. Expect lots of interactive experiences, from watching how chocolate is made to tasting freshly roasted cacao beans. Then, during the second half of the tour, you and your little chocolatier will create, design and package your very own chocolate bar to take home.
Details: Tours run Tues.-Sun and is about an hour long. You must sign up in advance online. Hairnets provided, closed-toe shoes required. Children must be 8 years or older.
122 NE Broadway
photo: via Goody’s Chocolates
Goody’s Chocolate and Ice Cream
All ages are welcome at Goody’s headquarters, which has been crafting chocolate, candies and ice cream in the Bend area for over 30 years. On both tours, big windows let you will peek inside the commercial kitchen, where some 20 tons of gourmet chocolates – as well as toffee, caramel corn and ice cream – are made every year, mostly by hand. After a sweet sample, head to the factory retail store to pick up your favorites.
Cost: Free for self-guided tours, guided tours are $2
Details: Self-guided tours run Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3:45 p.m., no appointment required. The 15-minute guided tours are only for groups of 10 or more and must be scheduled two weeks in advance. Closed most major holidays.
1111 SE Division St.
What’s your family’s favorite food factory tour? Let us know in the comment section below.