Things to do / Travel Guide
Milwaukee's top breweries open their doors to millions of beer lovers each year. You don't have to be Laverne or Shirley to swig some free samples either; just over the age of 21. But let's face the facts; the first thing you think when you hear “Wisconsin” is “cheese!” Indeed, the Metro Chicago and Southern Wisconsin region is stocked with cheese plants, cheese cellars, and even a cheesecake factory. Factory tours of these, and other “sweeter” establishments, like Honey Acres and Long Grove Confectionery Co. should leave you in no doubt as to which U.S. region is the big cheese.
Factory Tours in the Chicago Area
Right in the heart of Chicago you can stop by Eli's Cheesecake World, which offers a number of different factory tours for any visitor over the age of five. Walking through the 62,000-square foot bakery area you'll smell those delicious aromas that have attracted celebrities like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jay Leno, and Larry King. To top off your experience, you'll get a delicious slice of cheesecake at the end of the factory tour; yum!
Just to the north, in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, you can treat your sweet tooth to a factory tour at the Long Grove Confectionery Co. On this guided tour you'll learn how cacao is grown and processed into chocolate, as well as witness the production and packaging processes as well. You'll be amazed at the giant sculpted chocolate on display! After the tour you'll be able to buy some discounted chocolate for your own private consumption or to give as gifts.
Cheese Tours in Southern Wisconsin
In Theresa, Wisconsin, you can take a free guided factory tour of Widmer's Cheese Cellars. Watch as the factory workers employ the traditional cheese making techniques they've used over the last 70 years to make Wisconsin Brick cheese, the company's specialty. A very large variety of cheeses is on display out in La Valle, Wisconsin, at Carr Valley Cheese. While taking a free tour of this factory you'll be able to see a very large selection of cheeses and cheese products, including aged cheddar, Cocoa Cardona, Gran Canaria, and over 50 other types of cheeses. Note that cheesemaking begins very early in the morning.
Factory Tours in Southern Wisconsin
On a free factory tour of the Harley Davidson Vehicle and Powertrain, in Milwaukee, you can witness the birth of a brand new motorcycle. You'll view a short video about the manufacturing process, and then go to the factory floor where you'll see the assembly lines in action. On this factory tour, you'll learn all about the company's heritage and be able to sit in some of the coolest two-wheeled vehicles around. Advance reservations are required for this tour which is open to anyone over the age of 21.
Further west, in Waterloo, Wisconsin, you can take a factory tour of the Trek Bicycle Corporation. On this free guided tour you'll get a behind-the-scenes look at the corporate headquarters, sales offices, and frame factory of the world's largest producer of bicycle products and accessories.
Brewery Tours in the Milwaukee Area
Where better to learn about beer than at the Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee, or at Glendale, Wisconsin's Sprecher Brewing Company? During your factory tour you'll see employees performing each step of the brewing process, as well as walk through aging cellars, bottling lines, and huge storage warehouses. Guests over legal drinking age can sample some frothy, ice-cold beer for free at both establishments. Both tours are kid friendly too, so kids and teens can sample some great soft drinks on the house.
Behind-the-scenes and factory tours are typically family-friendly activities good for a short and interesting diversion from a region's mainstream tourist activities. Generally inexpensive, visitors are often given complimentary tastes and samples, like sweet chocolate treats at Long Grove Confectionery Co. Note that some tours have irregular hours and admission restrictions. Click on the individual icons for more practical information.
Behind-the-Scenes and Factory Tours in Chicago, Illinois, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Dells, Madison