7 factories and businesses that give great tours

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Touring factories and other businesses can be a great educational but fun experience and there are plenty of places to visit not far from the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area.

Whether it was tasting dozens of soda flavors from around the world at Atlanta's World of Coca-Cola or seeing hundreds of pretzels going into the oven at Snyder's of Hanover, summer wasn't complete for the Peck family of Elkridge without a trip to tour a factory.

When their son, now 19, was younger, they visited a different factory every year and often traveled to other cities to do so.

"Seeing how things are made is fascinating," says Susan Peck. "My son was just so thrilled with all the processes involved and amazed at how complex some things are."

Factory Tour OriolesWLori Ernest, of Gambrills, loves the educational aspect of factory tours, but more importantly, Ernest loves hands-on opportunities for her 8-year-old daughter, Caylee. The Turkey Hill Experience in Columbia, Pa., and the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lilitz, Pa., are their favorite tours.

"If it's 3-D and interactive and you get samples, it's a great tour," Ernest says. "I like to be engaged."

You don't have to travel far from Annapolis to tour some cool businesses and factories. We've found several tours less than three hours away, so pack the kids in the car and get ready for a family field trip.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore

Orioles staff claim this is the best tour in baseball. While meandering through the ballpark, visitors will learn about the history of Baltimore, as well as the history of Orioles baseball and the construction of Camden Yards — the first ballpark of its kind.

"They will get a little bit about the history of baseball, not just the Orioles," says Sue Ellen Hickman, tour coordinator. "They get to sit where the players sat or will sit. They get a good perspective of the whole baseball experience."

Along the tour, visitors will explore the club level and press suites and walk through the umpires' tunnel and onto the warning track and dugout. (No one is allowed on the field.) Tours are conducted March (weather depending) through November. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online.

Distance from Annapolis: About 35 minutes
Price: $9 adults, $6 seniors and children 2-14.
Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Times: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. and Sunday, noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tours are not offered on days with daytime games.
333 West Camden St., Baltimore
410-685-9800, baltimore.orioles.mlb.com

Turkey Hill, Columbia, Pa.

The Turkey Hill Experience, where tours are given, is about 10 minutes from the ice cream company's working factory. Learn about the history of Turkey Hill and how ice cream is made, sit in a milk truck, milk a mechanical cow and star in a Turkey Hill commercial. You also can sample all of the Turkey Hill flavors. In addition to the Experience, visit the Taste Lab where you can create your own ice cream, starting with vanilla and mixing in other flavors and toppings. Seating is limited so be sure to reserve a spot ahead of time..

Distance from Annapolis: About 2 hours
Price: $9.95 adults, $9.50 seniors, $9.50 ages 4 to 12, and free for ages 3 and younger. Tickets for admission plus the taste lab are $15.40 adults, $14.95 seniors, $14.95 ages 4 to 12 and $5.45 ages 3 and younger.
Length: 1 to 2 hours or more
Times: For most of the summer, Turkey Hill is open every day 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Check the website for details.
301 Linden St., Columbia, Pa.
844-847-4884, turkeyhillexperience.com

Click next below for more factory tours.

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, Lititz, Pa.

FactoryToursJuliusSturgisWTour an old-fashioned pretzel bakery and learn about the history of pretzel baking in America and the Julius Sturgis pretzel company. Visitors get a lesson in pretzel twisting and can take home their own pieces of dough. Samples are provided at the end of the tour.

Distance from Annapolis: About 2 hours and 15 minutes
Price: $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for children
Length: 30 minutes
Times: Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
219 East Main St., Lititz, Pa.
717-626-4354, juliussturgis.com

SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier, Gaithersburg

SPAGnVOLA is different from most chocolate companies because the owners grow their own cocoa beans in the Dominican Republic. Learn about cultivating and harvesting cocoa beans, then watch chocolate being made from cocoa beans in the "hot section." Next, wander over to the chocolatier section where chocolate is formed into candies that you find in the store, like truffles and bonbons. The best part? Samples are provided before you leave.

"You get to see firsthand how true, premium chocolate is made," says owner Eric Reid. "This is a true factory. ... We walk through the manufacturing process and the chocolatier process."

Distance from Annapolis: About 1 hour
Price: Free
Length: 30 minutes
Times: Saturday and Sunday, 2 to 5:30 p.m.
360 Main St., Gaithersburg
240-654-6972, spagnvola.com

Snyder's of Hanover, Hanover, Pa.

Follow the pretzel trail from oven to package at the Snyder's of Hanover factory. See the pretzels baking in the pretzel oven, watch as pretzel products are sorted and packed, and tour the multipurpose room where all the special Snyder's products are made, such as the gluten-free snacks. At the end of the tour, enjoy a free sample.

"You'll learn about our history and what's going on in each of the rooms," says Liz Wentz, representative from Snyder's of Hanover. "Almost everyone eats pretzels, and the tour is very family-oriented."

Distance from Annapolis: About 1 hour and 30 minutes
Price: Free
Length: 30 minutes
Times: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance. (The tour is not handicapped accessible.)
1350 York St., Hanover, Pa.
1-800-233-7125 ext. 28592, snydersofhanover.com

Zeke's Coffee, Baltimore

Coffee lovers will enjoy this tour the most, but kids will still learn a lot at Zeke's — which sources its beans from other countries.

"(Kids) learn about the process," says Brett Rhodes, customer relations specialist for Zeke's. "It's not necessarily something they would think about, but it's an overall introduction as to how people get products from different countries."

Throughout the tour, Rhodes talks about the history of coffee and how the beans are cultivated. A good portion of the tour is spent talking about how Zeke's roasts its coffee in small batches in a fluid bed roaster. Visitors watch coffee being roasted and packaged.

Distance from Annapolis: About 35 minutes
Price: Free
Length: One hour
Times: One Sunday a month arranged through the website
3003 Montebello Terrace, Baltimore
443-992-4388, zekescoffee.com

Paul Reed Smith Guitars, Stevensville

You don't have to be a music lover to enjoy a tour of Paul Reed Smith Guitars. Get a sneak peek at how electric guitars are manufactured. Walk through the electric guitar manufacturing line, amplifier department and acoustic shop, while learning the history of the company. At the end of the tour, test an assortment of guitars.

"We have a passion for building instruments and also for the music that these instruments help create. ... There is a special kind of pride and individual ownership surrounding our instruments," says Jack Higginbotham, president of Paul Reed Smith Guitars. "From our experience, there is no better way to see this unique aspect of PRS than to walk through the shop."

Children should be at least 10 years old due to the length and technical information offered during the tour, according to the Paul Reed Smith Guitars website.

Distance from Annapolis: About 15 minutes
Price: Free
Length: 90 minutes
Times: Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
380 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville
410-643-9970, prsguitars.com

By Kristy MacKaben

Click here for other fun educational day trips to take.

Updated June 2017

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