At some point or another, we’ve all pondered the creative and industrial processes used to create some of our favorite products. Satisfy your curiosity by touring the point of origination! Factory tours are becoming ever more popular across the United States, giving consumers greater insight into how things—chocolate, hot sauce, moonshine and even baseball bats—are made. Today, we share with you a few of our favorite factory tours across the South. Great for a vacation destination or perhaps just a fun Saturday afternoon outing, these tours are sure to keep the whole family entertained!
Jack Daniel Distillery • Lynchburg, TN
Whiskey, scotch, rye, bourbon … they’re all a little different and yet oddly the same. We’ve heard that Tennessee whiskey will vehemently defend its uniqueness and a trip to Jack Daniel in Lynchburg, TN, will show you why. A tour of the distillery includes the story of the whiskey itself and how it came to be made, with a few tidbits about Mr. Jack himself. Tours are available daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m at no charge.
Maker’s Mark Distillery • Louisville, KY
Maker’s Mark differs from its Southern neighbor. To learn the difference between bourbon and whiskey, Maker’s Mark is the place to go. The tour highlights the distilling process of corn or grain and reveals just how the famous spirit is made. Samples are included for those of drinking age, though children and teens younger than 21 are still welcome on the tour. Tours cost $9 and run Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Sugarlands Distillery • Gatlinburg, TN
Thanks to TV shows like “Duck Dynasty” and “Moonshiners,” the formerly illicit high-proof spirit has become quite trendy. Sugarlands Distillery in Gatlinburg, TN, a quick three-hour drive from Nashville, distills white corn whiskey, but has more than just alcohol to share with its guests. The Back Porch serves as a stage for local bluegrass acts, as well as a home to the Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association. Nestled in the Smoky Mountains, the distillery also partners with an outdoor company to provide visitors with beautiful trips into the surrounding area. The distillery tour also walks through the entire moonshine making process. Tours are free, but must be reserved in advance.
Olive & Sinclair Chocolates • Nashville, TN
Duck fat what? Caramel?! In my first week in Nashville, I’d seen the chocolate treats numerous times and heard about them again and again. Either everyone was crazy or a visit to Olive & Sinclair, the makers of such sweets and other delicious chocolates, was in order. I settled on the latter, much to my sweet tooth’s content. The tour includes LOTS of samples (obviously important), as well as information about the entire “bean-to-bar” process and history of the artisan chocolate company. Olive & Sinclair offers tours for $5 on Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bud’s Best Cookies • Birmingham, AL
“Me want cookie! Me want cookie! Om nom nom nom!” Cookie Monster’s voracious chant is familiar to all of us. So while a tour of Bud’s Best Cookies might have us going google-eyed and sprouting blue fur, at least our taste buds will be happy! The cookie factory outside Birmingham creates bite-size, full-flavored goodies sure to please all ages. The tour highlights the cartoonish and youthful nature of the brand, while providing lots of information about how the different products are made, definitely ideal for a family outing! Tours are free and available on Mondays and Tuesdays from mid-September to mid-May, but must be reserved in advance.
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory • Louisville, KY
Horses and the Derby may typically be the first thing to come to mind when Louisville, KY, is mentioned. However, the home to Churchill Downs is also home to the most iconic baseball bats in history. Louisville Sluggers have graced the hands of legends like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and so many more. The factory tour shows how each bat is carefully crafted to suit professional and beginning players alike. Other highlights include the Signature Wall and the Grand Slam Gallery, which show the history of famous bats and the players who hit with them. Louisville’s tours cost $12 for adults and run Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gibson Guitars • Memphis, TN
Known as a music town in its own right, Memphis has had a role in the success of hundreds of musicians over the decades. Iconic Beale Street is home to some of the best music in town, so it makes sense that the Gibson Guitar Factory found its home there as well. The intimate tour reveals the complex and intricate process required to create these incredible instruments. Tours cost $10 per person and run Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Bush’s Baked Beans • Dandridge, TN
We all recognize the TV commercials with Jay Bush and his conniving dog Duke as the two strive to respectively protect and sell the family recipe. To see the home of the dynamic duo and learn more about how the delicious side dish is made, stop in Dandridge, TN. Located right along Highway 411 between Knoxville and Johnson City, it is the perfect family pit stop. The visitors center is free and open Monday through Saturday, though hours vary by season.
Golden Flake • Birmingham, AL
There’s just nothing like a chip. You can dunk them in dips, nestle them next to sandwiches or just pop them straight from the bag to your mouth. We love the crunch of fresh vegetables, but the salty, carb-y goodness that is a potato chip is hard to beat. A Birmingham favorite, Golden Flake Snacks offers one of the more comprehensive tours we’ve seen. Golden Flake welcomes patrons onto the floor of the factory to see the entire process, from fresh vegetable to crunchy chip. Tours are available Monday through Thursday at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12 p.m.
Tabasco Brand Pepper Sauce • Avery Island, LA
A trip to New Orleans is bound to include visits to Cafe Du Monde, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. If you’ve seen enough bead throwing (or its inevitable result), venture outside the city for a tour of the Tabasco Factory. Avery Island, roughly two-and-a-half hours west of NOLA, is home to the only Tabasco factory in the world. Learn how peppers are mashed and aged before being strained and mixed with vinegar to create this flavorful hot sauce. The tour is free after a $1 toll to cross the bridge onto the island, and they run Monday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though bottling only occurs Monday through Thursday. [SB TIP: Visit the Tabasco Country Store for loads of good gear, pepper sauce products and free samples. Be sure to try the Tabasco ice cream!]
Coca-Cola • Atlanta, GA
The snap of the tab through the aluminum can, the hiss of the carbonation bubbling up to the surface, that refreshing first sip that quenches your thirst and truly tastes like the nectar of the gods. Be it a Diet Coke, a Coke Zero or just the trusty red original, Coca-Cola does its soft drinks very well. A trip to the Coke plant in Atlanta reveals the story of the brand and its products. Various samples, a trip down the bottling line and the giant Coca-Cola Polar Bear are all a part of this multimedia experience. Coke tours cost $16 for adults and are available Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Nissan Plant • Smyrna, TN
We use them every day, take them for granted on a very regular basis and likely have little working knowledge of how they are built. Our cars take us from A to B, but how did they go from metal parts to motorized machine? A tour of the Nissan plant in Smyrna, TN, will reveal all that and more. Tours are available at no charge on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but must be reserved in advance.
The Mercedes Plant • Tuscaloosa, AL
We say Tuscaloosa, you say “Roll Tide” (or perhaps a different verb describing just where the Tide can go, depending on your SEC allegiance). What we (and maybe some of you) didn’t know is that the University of Alabama isn’t the only big brand nestled in this small Southern town. Mercedes-Benz established an international factory in Tuscaloosa almost 20 years ago and has manufactured more than a million luxury vehicles since. Close-up tours of the Mercedes production process provide insight into German manufacturing and car infrastructure as a whole. Tours are $5 per person and are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in both the morning and afternoon, though reservations are required.
With so many great factories across the South, there are plenty of opportunities to get the family together and engaged! And if you pass through one of our markets along the way, be sure to download the SB App for the best of where to shop and eat!