The Bay Area is a mecca for all things savory and sweet, but did you know that there are tons of opportunities for the little ones to get up close and in on the action? From to ice cream to cheese to small batch chocolate, check out our list for the best Bay Area tours for foodies, big and small, to go behind the scenes and sample some of the Bay Area’s most popular bites.
Having robots assemble your food is the hottest trend and at Creator you can see it happen right in front of your eyes. Creator's massive, custom-made burger assembly machine sits prominently in the back of the restaurant and makes your burger to order—no humans required. After you place your order, you can watch the machine slice your bun, apply sauces and toppings and finally add the freshly cooked burger patty. Anyone, especially eager kids, can walk up to the machine and watch, and usually there are staff on hand to explain the entire process. If you want a more formal tour, they also offer a full "robot tour" that includes lunch, for $25/person. Visit the website for more details.
Good to know: Creator is only open Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., so it can get busy. The burgers are worth the wait though, as is the show.
680 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA
Fenton's Creamery opened in 1894 and it's still satisfying everyone's love of ice cream. Their Oakland shop offers a half hour Arctic Tour specifically geared for little kids six and up: guests will learn about the history of Fenton's, visit the ice cream production room to see ice cream being churned, and then visit the icy cold blast freezer where the ice cream is stored. You'll need to call Fenton's to find out about tour availability and to make a reservation. There are several options to choose from including adding a treat of ice cream, sundae or lunch to the tour. This will be the sweetest fun your kids will ever have learning!
Good to know: Tours require 8 guests minimum and need to be arranged in advance; call 510--58-7000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
4226 Piedmont Ave.
Enjoy a taste of a San Francisco’s institution, Boudin Bakery—the city’s oldest continuously operating business since 1849—and tour their flagship location at Fisherman’s Wharf. Boudin’s Museum and Bakery Tour not only offers interactive exhibits about the history of Boudin and San Francisco, but a 30-foot observation window into the ground floor demonstration bakery, where you and your little chef can see a team of bakers up to their elbows in sourdough. You can walk the route on your own for free, or you can go on a 30-minute tour with a guide to learn more about the bread-making process. Afterwards, you can grab lunch at the café, which offers sandwiches, pizzas, and Boudin's classic soup in a sourdough bread bowl.
Good to Know: Self-guided tours are free and can occur at your leisure during operating hours of 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Docent-guided museum tours are $5/person, and require calling ahead to secure a tour time between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 415-928-8882.
160 Jefferson St.
San Francisco, CA
From Sour Apple to Berry Blue to the popular Buttered Popcorn, see how all your favorite Jelly Belly flavors are made at the Jelly Belly Factory. Located in Fairfield, you and your little one will enjoy the factory’s walking tour showcasing their 150 different sweet treats. You'll follow an observation track over the production floor seeing the whole manufacturing process, and free samples are given out at the end. Since this is a fully functioning manufacturing facility, production schedules may change so be sure to plan your trip and check for dates on their events calendar.
Good to Know: Tours are offered Monday–Friday 9:15 a.m.-4 p.m. You can either do a self-guided tour, or you can book a 40-minute personal guided tour which lets you bypass the line and gives your group a guide to explain the jelly bean making process. Guided tours must be booked in advance through the website; cost is $39/person and maximum group size is 6.
1 Jelly Belly Lane
It's-It Ice Cream
What's better than an ice cream-cookie sandwich? One dipped in chocolate! The It's-It, an iconic Bay Area dessert, was created nearly 90 years ago when founder George Whitley placed a scoop of vanilla ice cream between two fresh oatmeal cookies, then upped the ante by dipping it into dark chocolate. The decadent desserts are now created in their Burlingame factory. There are no tours of the actual factory floor, but the factory store offers a video showing you the process. Bonus: you can buy all of the flavors there, including hard to find seasonal ones like pumpkin and strawberry, plus unique memorabilia and other frozen treats.
Good to know: The shop is open Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
865 Burlway Rd
For the eight and older set, the new Dandelion Chocolate factory in San Francisco’s Mission district is a true foodiechild’s eyes will light up as they taste cacao as it goes through the process of bean to chocolate bar. Dandelion Chocolate offers hour-long tours every day of the week, but you need book your tour ahead of time online—check the website for available dates and times. Tours cost $15/person, and include a hot chocolate gift card. Dandelion Chocolate also offers children’s classes—interactive, behind-the-scenes workshops catered towards children ages 7-13.
Good to Know: The factory operates Monday through Friday 9 a.m. - 5.p.m if you want to select a tour time when the machinery is in operation!
2600 16th St.
San Francisco, CA
Cowgirl Creamery is a must-visit destination for all the cheese lovers out there. They offer 60-minute guided tours at their original Pt. Reyes creamery on Fridays at 11 a.m. every week—reservations required. You and your little one will not only see their curd-making techniques, but you can indulge in samples of all of Cowgirl Creamery’s fine cheeses. If you can't do the guided tour, they suggest visiting the creamery between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday for the best time to view them making cheese. There's also a deli at the creamery selling sandwiches, salads and drinks, so you can grab a picnic lunch and make a day trip out of your visit.
Good to Know: Tour cost $5 per person, and maximum tour group is 18 spots. Reserve your spot online as they can sell out quickly.
80 4th St.
Point Reyes Station, CA
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory
Ever wonder how a fortune gets inside a fortune cookie? See for yourself and go on a culinary adventure to San Francisco’s Chinatown, where tucked away in a nondescript alley is the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. This small factory has been churning out fortune cookies since 1962. Enjoy the sweet smell of freshly-baked goodies as you and your kiddo watch cookies pressed and molded right before your eyes. Free samples of “mistakes,” or flat fortune cookies, are abundant! You can also purchase bags of fortune cookies in various flavors, from original to chocolate to matcha. They even have glazed and chocolate-dipped ones!
Good to Know: The factory is open M-F 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sat-Sun 9 a.m.-7 p.m. While the visit is free, if you want to take a snapshot of the fortune cookies being made it’ll cost a whopping 50¢ per click!
56 Ross Alley
San Francisco, CA
Anchor Brewing Company
A family outing to Anchor Brewing, America’s first and oldest craft brewery, is a fun and totally unique experience. Your kiddos obviously won’t be able to partake in the tastings, but they’ll still appreciate the history of this brewery and its ties to the history of San Francisco, as the brewery dates back to the days of the Gold Rush. Seeing the huge copper vats and fermentation tanks is pretty cool, too. The hour and a half tour takes you through the brewery and ends in the taproom where adults can sample Anchor Brewing's lineup in a fun tasting session.
Good to Know: Anchor Brewing guided tours are offered seven days a week—check the website for available times and to make reservations. It costs $25 per person, but 21 and under are free. Closed toe shoes are required and be aware the plant operates Monday through Friday only, if you want to see the brewing process in action.
1705 Mariposa St.
San Francisco, CA
Ramini Mozzarella, Tomales
To learn how authentic mozzarella di bufala is made, head to Tomales to meet the buffalo of Ramini Mozzarella. Tours and tastings are offered on Saturdays and includes a 45-minute talk, a tasting of cheese in the picnic area surrounded by buffalo and a chance to pet and interact with the buffalo. Children are welcome. Everyone should dress in layers for cool weather and wear closed-toed shoes.
175 Gericke Rd.
—Anita Chu, Sandra Lee, Melissa Bouse & Yannina Pacis