Who says America doesn't make stuff anymore? From cars to coffee, hot sauce to jumbo jets, we've got ten great places to see how the proverbial sausage is made.
—Ford Rouge Factory, Dearborn, Mich.
One of the most important sites in the history of the automobile, this city unto itself just 10 minutes from downtown Detroit is where you'll now find the F-150 pickup truck in production. Besides the chance to see the action on the factory floor below you, visitors are also given a crash course (through the magic of multimedia) in the history of the site, the Ford Motor Company and the industry at large. (Also check out the top of the building, the world's largest green roof, at 10.4 acres.) All tours begin at the nearby Henry Ford museum complex, a destination unto itself (thehenryford.org).
—Martin Guitar, Nazareth, Penn.
The choice of sensitive rockers everywhere was around long before rock 'n' roll was invented. Martin's history of manufacturing some of the world's greatest acoustic guitars begins back in the 1700s, when Christian Frederick Martin Sr. left his German home at age 15 to apprentice with a Viennese guitar maker. Martin has been a presence in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley since 1833; one-hour tours of the plant are complemented by an on-site museum and a Pickin' Parlor, where visitors are welcome to play high-end and limited edition models (martinguitar.com).
—Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago, Ill.
One of the most popular roasters in the country — now served in some of the most popular cafes and restaurants in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles — offers its fans (or just the merely curious) this easy-going and fun tour at their main roasting facility in the Windy City. You'll learn the most correct, scientific methods for the perfect cup of coffee, find out how they go about finding the very best beans in countries you forgot existed, how to roast them correctly and — most importantly — you'll get all the freshly-brewed coffee you can drink (intelligentsiacoffee.com).
—Boeing, Everett, Wash.
Go inside the world's largest building by volume — 472,000,000 cubic feet —- for the chance to glimpse Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner in production, then head to the Future of Flight Aviation Center and get strapped into The Innovator, a seven-seat simulator that puts you in the cockpit for the ride of your life. Tip: The weak-stomached may want to sit this one out (boeing.com).
—Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Louisville, Ky.
You've seen them in the hands of countless baseball greats, here's your chance to get right on the factory floor and see how the official bat of Major League Baseball is made. Each tour participant gets a mini-Slugger to take home as a souvenir; afterwards, stick around for the museum, a fun and informative look at the history of America's best-known bat (sluggermuseum.org).
—Harley Davidson, Menomonee Falls, Wis.
It may not be the sexiest bit of the hog, but you can't have a Harley without a proper powertrain, right? Visitors are welcomed in to observe operations at the 849,000 square-foot plant northwest of downtown Milwaukee, but that's just one stop on the grand tour here in the hometown of the Harley. Make sure to pay a visit to the company's fun and interactive downtown museum; also consider checking into the handsome, museum-adjacent Iron Horse Hotel, which has been the coolest place to stay in town ever since it opened a few years back (harley-davidson.com).
—Dogfish Head, Milton, Del.
What was once a small Delaware brewery has grown to become one of the best on the East Coast. At heart, though, Dogfish Head is still the fun-loving little guy it was when it started out, so tours are casual and cool, samples are (but of course) offered. Make sure to check out the curious, on-premises Steampunk Treehouse, rescued from a recent Burning Man festival; this rather curious piece of functional sculpture is where the brewers are said to do their most creative thinking. If you didn't get enough to drink on the tour, check out their popular brewpub and restaurant in nearby Rehoboth Beach (dogfish.com).
—Tabasco Factory, Avery Island, La.
That familiar smell fills the air as you drive on to 2,200-acre Avery Island; there's no mistaking that you've arrived in the home of America's favorite hot sauce. (Tip: A visit is highly recommended for those with blocked sinuses.) But a tour through Tabasco's factory operation is just part of the experience here; the company-owned Jungle Gardens and Bird City — a beautiful, company-owned botanical garden and bird sanctuary, respectively — make a visit to the island a fun day out from either New Orleans or Cajun Country (tabasco.com).
—Mack Trucks, Macungie, Penn.
Are you an admirer of the mighty Mack? Put on your comfortable shoes and embark on a 1.5-mile walking tour of the famed truck's mighty manufacturing plant. (At this location, you'll see mostly construction vehicles being produced). Visitors to the site are also invited to visit the Mack Museum, featuring a wide range of vintage vehicles dating from the early 1900s up to 1979 (macktrucks.com).
—Airstream Factory, Jackson Center, Ohio
A tiny town set amid the central Ohio farm fields is the setting for the factory that produces those iconic silver travel trailers. It's a pilgrimage site for owners, who bring their houses on wheels here to be serviced, camping out at the on-site RV park. Whether you're curious about joining this elite group of nomads or not, the free, daily factory tour is good fun, even if just to see one of the country's most stubbornly unchanged companies in action (airstream.com).
George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing site Airfarewatchdog.com.