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11 Plant Tours You'll Actually Like

See where your car was made. View Harleys or Airstreams in progress. Part of your complete vacation!
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auto factory tours Trying to think of fun yet stimulating things to do this summer? Suppose you took the kids on an educational tour where they could see cars being built, and maybe even the same kind that you own. Drive your Camry to the Camry plant, or your Ford truck to the Ford truck plant. With the high level of robotics in today’s auto plant, things probably look very different than what you might have seen on tours of your childhood, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Why not get out there with your kids (or without kids at all), and take advantage of the opportunity to see vehicles that are Made in America? Many automakers are offering free tours; try out one of these en route to your vacation destination, or as part of a staycation plan this summer. auto factory tours

1. Ford Rouge Factory Tour in Dearborn, Michigan

Ford has gone to great lengths to provide a classic plant tour experience at the historic Rouge River plant, where the F-150 pickup is made. The walking tour has interactive activities and takes about forty-five minutes. You can also take an eighty-foot elevator ride up to the Observation Deck, where there’s a panoramic view of the complex. Other educational activities include a 360-degree movie experience featuring a virtual tour of blast furnaces, paint shops, and other colorful parts of production, all set to an original Detroit Symphony Orchestra score. Tours cost $11 for kids, $15 for adults, and take place Monday through Saturday, with the last tour bus leaving at 3 p.m. The tour can be combined with an excursion to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village nearby. auto factory tours

2. Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations in York, Pennsylvania

The Harley-Davidson plant here builds the Touring, Softail, CVO, and Trike models and makes parts such as fuel tanks and fenders. There’s a Kids Corner exhibit at the tour center for children under the age of twelve. A free factory tour lasts about an hour and is available Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. For $35, you can opt for the more tourist-friendly Steel Toe Tour, which takes you to such areas as the paint and polish zones, plus gives you a commemorative pin, a group photo, a safety vest, and a $5 coupon toward a gift shop purchase. This tour lasts two hours and is offered at 9:30 a.m. and noon, Monday through Thursday. auto factory tours

3. Mack Truck Macungie Assembly Operations in Macungie, Pennsylvania

Any Mack Truck fans in your household? There’s a walking tour of the Mack Truck plant, which mainly builds construction trucks, plus a Mack Trucks Historical Museum and a killer gift shop. Tours are offered on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, on the hour between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Reservations are encouraged. auto factory tours

4. Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio

Airstream trailers are back in fashion, and this tour shows how they’re made. “We really do put every one of those rivets in by hand,” the company notes. Tours are Monday through Thursday at 2 p.m., with Friday tours offered after normal production hours end. No appointment is necessary, although you can make an online reservation. auto factory tours

5. Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette, Indiana

Subaru of America’s only U.S. plant. Its tours take you on an elevated catwalk through the facility that builds the Outback, Legacy, and Tribeca, as well as some Camrys under a deal with Toyota. The free tours are offered at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. No kids under age ten are permitted. auto factory tours

6. General Motors Fairfax Assembly and Stamping Plant in Kansas City, Kansas

General Motors’ Fairfax plant offers a free tour that shows you the full assembly process from metal being made into body panels all the way through the first time a completed car is started. Products, which include the Buick LaCrosse and the Chevrolet Malibu, roll off the line every fifty-eight seconds. auto factory tours

7. Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Georgetown, Kentucky

At Toyota's Georgetown plant, check out the first U.S.-built Camry (from 1988) in the Visitor Center, then climb into an electric tram for a 1.5-hour comprehensive visit through the plant, which builds 2,000 Camry, Avalon, and Venza vehicles each day. Expect to hear a lot about the vaunted Toyota Production System while you do. Tours are free. The center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and reservations are strongly encouraged. No children under first-grade age (approximately six years old) are permitted. auto factory tours

8. Chevrolet Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky

The Chevrolet Corvette is built here, and in addition to the National Corvette Museum nearby, there’s a walking plant tour (about a mile in all), during which you can watch the sports cars roll off the line. Cost is $7 per person, but if you’re a GM employee or retiree or an active military service member, you can take the tour for free. A $400 VIP tour of both the museum and the factory, which lasts up to four hours and gets you into the prep and delivery area, is also available. Reservations can be made online. Kids under seven are not allowed. Note: The tours, whether the cheap one or the pricey one, won’t be available again until late September as the facility gears up for the all-new 2014 Stingray. auto factory tours

9. Mercedes-Benz's only U.S. plant, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The Mercedes-Benz factory, which builds the GL-, M-, and R-Class vehicles, includes an “architectural showcase” of a museum with multimedia exhibits and a gift shop. Available on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 and 9:15 a.m. and 12:30 and 12:45 p.m., the tour costs $5 a head, and nobody under twelve is allowed on it. Reservations are recommended. auto factory tours

10. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing in Montgomery, Alabama

Hyundai Motor's Alabama plant, where the Sonata and Elantra are built, puts together 1,500 cars a day with the help of humans and “amazing robots.” The tram tour is free and kids over age six are allowed. Tours are available at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, by advance reservation only. auto factory tours

11. Nissan North America in Smyrna, Tennessee

Take Nissan’s motorized tour through all stages of production, from steel sheet cutting to carpet to the exterior paint shop. The Leaf is built here, along with the Altima and Maxima. Tours are free and held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. No kids under the age of ten are allowed.
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