Road Trip! Destination: Factory tours in York
With so many products made in foreign factories these days, you might even have a hard time finding an American flag without a “Made in China” tag. But if you drive about four hours southeast of Pittsburgh — to York and towns near it — you can choose from some two dozen places that offer tours of their hometown factories.
Whether it's food products, motorcycles, violins or other items, you will find several Made-in-America companies that show off their facilities and give demonstrations of artisans and cooks creating their goods.
The York County visitor site, www.yorkpa.org, lists 24 tours, and identifies York as the “Factory Tour Capital of the World.”
If you have children, note that many of these tours have a minimum age.
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7824.
String them along
At Bluett Bros. Violins in York, visitors can enter the factory and watch luthier Mark Bluett practice the intricate art of making stringed instruments, including violins, mandolins and cellos. Bluett made his first violin in 1982 and started the company two years later. Reservations are required for the guided tour, available to guests age 10 and older. Admission is $5.
Details: 717-854-9064 or www.bluettbros-violins.com
Can you imagine threading more than a thousand heddles (needles) in one day? That's what the 40-some workers at Family Heirloom Weavers in Red Lion do using the company's antique looms. The business is one of the last surviving U.S. textile mills, and workers at the family-owned business proudly use the outdated looms. They have made fabric for many movies with a historical setting, including “Gettysburg,” “God and Generals,” “Cold Mountain” and “Lincoln.” They also do work for Colonial Williamsburg. Guests ages 8 and older can tour the factory by reservations only for $3; children get in free. Tours last one hour and are offered Mondays through Fridays.
Details: 717-246-2431 or www.familyheirloomweavers.com
If you love motorcycles, check out the Harley-Davidson Motor Co., which offers guided tours 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, for guests age 12 and older. You'll get to watch how these legendary bikes come to life on the assembly line in the new York factory. Note that on Fridays, the factory staff may not be in production. Tickets are free and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis for walk-in tours each day. You must make reservations for a group of 10 or more, though. Details: 877-883-1450 or www.harley-davidson.com
A hill of beans
If the aroma of coffee delights you, the New Grounds Roasting Co. in York will give you a tour to show you how coffee is made, starting with the beans. The company imports green coffee beans from around the world, including Panama, where the proprietor got first-hand training. Guests will learn about the roasting process and watch a demonstration with the industrial-size roaster on the 45-minute tours, which require reservations at least 24 hours in advance. Admission is free. Tours are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and the company has a coffee shop where you can enjoy its creations.
Details: 717-843-0716 or newgroundscoffee.com
Revonah Pretzels — a handmade pretzel bakery in Hanover — offers tours where you can see workers mix dough, twist dough, dip and bake. The sourdough pretzels are then dried for hours in a kiln and packed for shipping. Reservations are recommended for the tours, which are free. The 20-minute tours are offered 9:30 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Details: 717-630-2883 or www.revonahpretzel.com
Built upon a tradition of pride in craftsmanship, Susquehanna Glass in Columbia has been in the business of making personalized glass items such as barware, stemware and crystal gift items since 1910. Laser-cutters, pad printers and sandblasters are operated alongside stone-wheel cutters operated by master craftsmen just as they did more than 100 years ago. Visitors can watch craftsmen with steady hands and trained eyes practice this precise and difficult art. But you may not want to try for this tour in the summer: The factory closes when the temperature reaches 90 degrees. Reservations are required for the free tours, offered 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Details: 717-684-2155, ext. 124, or www.theglassfactory.com
Take a chip trip
To watch Pennsylvania-grown raw spuds transform to potato chips, check out Utz Snacks, which produces up to 14,000 pounds of chips per hour. The Hanover-based business started in 1921 in William and Salie Utz's summer kitchen, where they made 50 pounds of potato chips an hour. Visitors can watch the 30-minute process in a self-guided tour, and leave with a souvenir bag of chips. Free, walk-in tours are offered 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Call ahead if you want to come on Friday.
Details: 800-367-7629 or www.utzsnacks.com