Here in the metro Detroit region, “the line” goes way back. This is the Motor City, after all. And, from amazing autos to tasty treats, we know a thing or two about kicking out quality products from respected, long-standing companies. Why not take your kids behind-the-scenes and see how the magic happens with a factory tour? Watch the gears turn and crank out some hometown goods in person, and get a taste of history (and, in one case, chocolate!).
- Address: 400 N. Main St., Chelsea
- Phone: 734-433-5499
- Hours: public: 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Saturdays; private: can be scheduled Monday-Friday for groups of 10-plus (call ahead for details)
- Cost: free
It’s a bona fide plushy lover’s heaven. This 35,000-square-foot facility, set in the historic Clock Tower Complex, is a great place for kids to learn how stuffed pals are designed, developed, made and distributed. If you’ve ever wondered what 100,000 teddy bears looks like, this is a can’t-miss experience. Stop by the retail store and take home a new BFF, too.
- Address: departs from The Henry Ford, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn
- Phone: 313-982-6001
- Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday (last tour leaves at 3 p.m.; check here for closure dates and plant non-production dates)
- Cost: $15/adults, $11/kids, $14/seniors, free/2 and under (note: prices are slightly less for members of The Henry Ford)
Where else can you see fresh Ford F-150 pickup trucks being built in a real auto factory? This five-part experience includes historic footage of Henry Ford and Co. at the Legacy Theater, a multi-sensory experience at the Art of Manufacturing Theater (with seven screens and seats that pivot 360 degrees), a trek to “the world’s largest living roof,” chance to see five iconic vehicles in the Legacy Gallery (like a 1929 Model A and 1965 Mustang) and, of course, an assembly plant walking tour.
- Address: Chelsea Milling Company, 201 W. North St., Chelsea
- Phone: 734-475-1361 (ask for the tour department)
- Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday (by reservation only, same-day requests accommodated as space allows); closed holidays
- Cost: free
In 1930, the Chelsea Milling Co. debuted its “little blue boxes” of ready-made baking mixes. Today, the family-run brand still churns out 20 products, from cakes and muffins to pancakes. In this one-hour tour, you and your kids (those in first grade or older welcome) stroll a full city block. It includes an educational film, refreshments (product samples!) and a guide-led glimpse of the packing plant.
- Address: 23770 Hall Road (M-59), Clinton Township
- Phone: 800-682-2760
- Hours: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays (call ahead for reservations)
- Cost: free
Ever wonder where Sanders’ delicious desserts are made? It’s right here in southeast Michigan! In what must be the sweetest 45-minute tour in town, you can peep at a brief video all about the history of Sanders and Morley Candy Makers, check out the line in action a 100-foot observation walkway (see candy made right before your eyes), pick up a free chocolate sample, and top it off at the candy and gift shop, featuring oodles of products to take home.
- Address: College for Creative Studies, 485 W. Milwaukee St., Suite 501, Detroit
- Phone: 844-744-6652
- Hours: One tour every two weeks, usually 2-3 p.m. (space is limited; email email@example.com)
- Cost: free
This Detroit watch manufacturer is known for its beautiful timepieces (built the old-fashioned way), as well as handcrafted bicycles and leather goods. At their College for Creative Studies factory, kids ages 12-plus can see watchmakers at work doing what they do best. Tour space is limited, so be sure to schedule ahead. Tours are all booked up through December 2014, but reach out to start booking for 2015. Groups up to 10.
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