This is a list of industrial and commercial companies with brand museums, visitor centres or factory tours open to the public (that I’m aware of).
|Airbus||Toulouse & St. Nazaire, France||Airbus aircraft are built in factories all over Europe but in France there are two that can be visited – in St. Nazaire and Toulouse. Tours of the St Nazaire facilities can be organised by St. Nazaire Tourism.
In Toulouse, a local company, Manatour operate a tour of the Airbus A380 super jumbo assembly plant.
|Airstream||Jackson Center, Ohio, USA||A chance to see the style icon of the caravan world in production. Daily tours Mon – Fri.|
|Anheuser-Busch||Various, USA||The Budweiser brewer has complimentary tours at five of its 12 U.S. Breweries.|
|BMW Motorcycles||Berlin||Daily tours of the BMW motorcycle factory, monday – friday.|
|Boeing||Seattle||Boeing offer the hugely popular tour of their Everett assembly plant (the largest building in the world by volume) where they assemble Boeing 747, 767, 777 and 787 airliners. They also have an Aerospace History exhibit in St. Louis.|
|Bushmills||County Antrim, N. Ireland||The Old Bushmills Distillery is open to visitors 7 days a week, who get a guided tour of the 400-yr-old distillery, a sample of their whiskey, and a chance to buy some.|
|Cadbury World||Birmingham||Visitor centre for chocolate-lovers.|
|Carlsberg Brewery||Copenhagen||There’s a free self-guided tour, which also includes 2 tickets for free drinks (beer or soda) at the end of the tour. Well worthwhile, especially on a hot day.|
|Chevrolet Corvette||Bowling Green, Kentucky||There’s a Corvette Museum AND a factory tour at the nearby General Motors Corvette assembly plant. Note: There’s a new Corvette on the way and they have announced the factory tours will be stopped between 16 June 2017 & Jan 2019 while they ‘tool up’ for it.|
|Cornings Museum of Glass||New York State||Cornings are probably best known in the UK for glass cookware. The Corning Museum of Glass traces the 3500 year-old history of glass and glass blowing through its thousands of exhibits (from ancient glass beads to fibre-optics), interactive displays and factory floor glass blowing demonstrations.|
|Crayola Factory||Easton, Pennsylvania||Not really the factory where the actual crayons get made in their billions, but a family visitor centre where the process is explained with lots of hands-on opportunites for kids.|
|Christian Dior museum||Normandy, France||The museum in Granville, Normandy, is housed in Christian Dior’s childhood home overlooking the sea and features 60 years of the Dior fashion house.|
|Cumberland Pencil Museum||Keswick, Lake District, UK||Small but active museum about the history and uses of pencils run by the Cumberland Pencil company. It has the world’s longest pencil at nearly 8m.|
|Dartington Crystal||Great Torrington, North Devon||Watch the glassblowers in action at the visitors centre.|
|Ducati||Bologna||Ducati offer free guided tours of their museum and factory lasting approx 1 hour and 15 minutes to groups who have booked in advance (email). There is one morning, and one afternoon slot each weekday for groups up to 10 people. On Saturday mornings there are slots for groups of up to 40 people.|
|Enzo Ferrari Museum||Modena, Italy||Opened March 2014 on the site of the house where driver/car-maker, Enzo Ferrari was born in 1898. The original dwelling has been preserved together with the workshop and it has been merged with the futuristic new gallery (5,000 sq m / €18m) exhibiting the history of Enzo Ferrari and Italian racing car design in Modena.|
|Ferrari Museum||Maranello, Italy||The Galleria Ferrari was opened in 1992 next to the Ferrari factory in Maranello near Moderna. It contains cars and engines from 55 years of Ferrari history starting with the very first car to have the prancing horse logo. Many of Ferraris most famous Formula One cars are in the collection. They also operate factory and test track tours, that need to be pre-booked, and there are strict rules about photography!|
|Ferrari World||Abu Dhabi||A Ferrari theme park that opened in 2010 with a range of displays and driving experiences, plus the world’s fastest roller coaster reaching speeds of 125mph (200kph). More info|
|Ford||Michigan, USA||There are several Ford experiences: The Henry Ford Museum is his collection of Americana. There are tours of the assembly line at the vast Baton Rouge plant, which dates back to 1917 and was once the largest industrial facility in the world. And there is Greenfield village… Henry Ford’s birthplace which he saved from destruction when a new road was built through the location by moving it to a new site and preserving the original buildings!|
|Greyhound Bus Museum||Minnesota, USA||Now, almost a century after the iconic Greyhound bus company was founded in the depth of rural America, the (British-owned) brand has arrived in the UK, which makes this museum a little more relevant to British visitors. The collection has a large number of artifacts and displays, plus thirteen historical buses, including the futuristic 1956 aluminium ‘Scenicruiser’.|
|Guinness Brewery||Dublin||A tour of the old Guinness brewery which has been converted into an exhibition of Guinness history with films and exhibits of old posters, bottles, beer cans and brewery equipment. There’s a rather impressive bar on the roof (The Gravity Bar) with views over Dublin and a souvenir shop.|
|Harley-Davidson Factory Tour||Pennsylvania||There are actually three factory tours. You can visit the Powertrain engine plant in Wisconsin and the Sportster bike assembly plant in Kansas City, but the most popular is the ‘Harley-Davidson Vehicle Operations’ plant in York County, Pensylvannia where roughly half the company’s production workforce assemble the Touring, Softail® and custom motorbikes. Click on the USA region website to find the Factory Tours.|
|Heineken Experience||Amsterdam||The Heineken Experience is located in the original brewery building in Amsterdam and opened in 2001. Visitors take a 45-min tour through malt silos, mash tuns and learn how the brewing process works. There are AV experiences, exhibits and a bar at the end.|
|IMZ – Irbit Motorcycle Works||Urals, Russia||Visits to the famous Ural motorcycle & sidecar company plant are offered by Ural Expeditions & Tours who also operate motorbike tours in the Ural Mountains.|
|Jack Daniels||Lynchburg, Tennessee||Visitors centre and continuous guided tours of the historic distillery.|
|Jaguar Cars||Solihull/Castle Bromwich, UK||A choice. You can see the new Jaguar XE being built in their state-of-the-art production plant in Solihull, and/or the main plant at Castle Bromwich.|
|John Deere Pavilion||Moline, Illinois||The famous American tractor, plant & agricultural equipment manufacturer has a brand museum with exhibits from the company’s past. Also some of the company’s other plants are open to the public for tours, including the combine harvester factory in Waterloo, Iowa, and the seeding equipment facility in Davenport. There is also the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour just outside Moline where visitors can see a replica of the blacksmith shop where Deere first fashioned a self-scouring plow.|
|KFC||Corbyn, Kentucky||Colonel Sanders’ original cafe and birthplace of the worldwide Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. There’s a small museum there too. (He was never a military colonel by the way. Kentucky Colonel is an honorary titled awarded to cafe-owner, Sanders by the State Governor for ‘services to cuisine’.) The cafe/museum doesn’t have dedicated website.|
|Leica Camera AG factory||Wetzlar, Germany||In early 2014, Leica moved its factory in Solms to its new HQ & campus in Wetzlar, and with it, the factory tours & visitor centre.|
|Levi Strauss & Co. Visitors Center||San Francisco||Opened on 1st May 2003 in the lobby of Levi Strauss’ HQ to celebrate the 150th anniversary. (24-year-old Bavarian immigrant, Levi Strauss, started his dry-goods business at the height of the Gold Rush in 1853) The new installation traces the history of the man, brand and company.|
|Morgan||Malvern, Worcestershire, UK||Pre-booked, guided tours of the classic hand-built sports car factory are available daily monday – friday.|
|Louisville Slugger||Louisville, Kentucky, USA||Baseball fans can see historic memorabilia and how bats are made.|
|Mack Trucks Historical Museum||Allentown, Pennsylvania||Brand museum of the iconic American trucks, dating back to the early 1900s.|
|Maerklin Museum||Goeppingen, Germany||The world-famous model railway manufacturer has a museum in Goeppingen (nr Stuttgart) of over a 1,000 products including historic toy trains, steam engines, dolls houses and sheet metal toys dating back to 1859 when Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Maerklin and his wife Caroline set up the company. Model railway enthusiasts were horrified in Jan 05 when robbers got away with a significant and valuable part of the collection, but the stolen exhibits have since been recovered.|
|Mercedes Benz Museum||Stuttgart, Germany||A stylish museum stuffed with stunningly elegant historic cars (and other exhibits such as engines) laid out in chronological order, starting with a replica of the very first car that Carl Daimler built and which his wife promptly took for a spin! (Course, there weren’t any garages in 1881 so she had to fill up with ether from chemists.) Guides will periodically spin the huge flywheel and start her up.|
|Mercedes-Benz USA||Tuscaloosa County, Alabama||The giant Mercedes plant, the only one in the USA, has a visitor centre, museum and daily factory tours (all temporarily closed for renovation & upgrade till summer 2014 as the plant refits for C-Class assembly).|
|Mercedes Benz World||Brooklands, UK||MBW opened in Oct 06 at the historic Brooklands racing circuit in Surrey with a selection of driving courses from serious racetrack and off-road instruction to driving experiences for young children (over 1.5m). There are 100+ Mercedes cars on exhibition in the centre (in addition to the historic vehicles in the adjacent Brooklands museum), family activities & learning zones, simulators & a cinema, restaurants & shops….and future plans include a 5-star hotel & spa.|
|Monaco Coach Corporation||Indiana & Oregon, USA||Not a well-known brand in the UK, but these guys make luxury RVs (motorhomes) and they allow the public to come and watch them doing it at their plants in Indiana and Oregon.|
|Outhwaite & Son Ropemakers||Hawes, Yorkshire||From the stuff mountaineers dangle from and boats tie-up with, to dog leads and bell rope – you can watch them making metres of rope in the traditional way.|
|Pagani||Moderna, Italy||Something for the ‘petrol-heads’; a chance to see some of Pagani’s supercars, such as Jeremy Clarkson’s favourite, the Zonda, or the Huayra, in production and their new factory & showroom.|
|Ping Golf||Phoenix, Arizona||PING Golf is the brand, but the factory that makes the famous clubs is Karsten Manufacturing. They do (popular and often booked up) small group guided tours three days a week.|
|Plymouth Gin||Plymouth, England||Plymouth Gin is the only gin distillery in Britain that runs visitor tours. They opened a visitor centre in Aug 04 in their historic distillery building (a former monastery dating back to 1431, and the building where in 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers spent their last night in England) in the centre of Plymouth.|
|Porsche||Stuttgart, Germany||Porsche have a museum with a small collection of 20 historic Porsche cars. However, in October 05 they announced that they had started work on a new replacement museum right next to the production plant. The new building will be a dramatic architectural focus for vistors to the plant and will house a range of exhibits, events and around 80 vehicles. It is expected to open in 2007. Porsche do operate tours to the factory. You need to approach them direct through the museum or via your local Porche dealer (helps if you own or want to own a Porsche!).|
|RNLI||Poole, Dorset, UK||The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has had a state-of-the-art training and lifeboat construction complex at its headquarters in Poole, Dorset, since 2015. They offer 90-min tours of the training facilities 6 days a week, and 60-min tours of their engineering, production and maintenance facilities on Wednesdays and Saturdays. They even have a hotel (for their crews during training) where you can stay! And… they also have a facility on the Isle of Wight where they build and maintain their inflatable Inshore Rescue Boats (IRBs), which you can visit by appointment.|
|Royal Worcester Porcelain||Worcester||Royal Worcester Porcelain are really on the ball when it comes to visitors. They have a dedicated vistors centre from which guided 1hr tours of the factory depart. There is a museum of their pieces and there’s a factory outlet where you can shop to your heart’s content. What’s more you can get a clear picture of what’s on offer from their website. A shining example of how a manufacturer can properly engage with the public.|
|Spode||Spode, Staffordshire||The 200-year old pottery has a visitors centre, museum, guided factory tour, a restaurant where you can eat off…well, Spode(!) and of course, a factory outlet!|
|Steinway Pianos||New York, USA||Steinway have a 2½hr tour of the factory where grand pianos are still handmade by craftsmen.|
|STX Europe||St. Nazaire, France||STX Europe (formerly Aker Yards, formerly Chantiers-Atlantique) in St Nazaire is a massive shipyard where STX build cruise ships. Past liners include Normandie (1935), France (1962), and Queen Mary II for Cunard. Tours organised through St. Nazaire Tourism.|
|Swarovski Crystal Worlds||Innsbruck, Austria||Swarovski, the costume jewelery & glass collectables manufacturer, have an underground crystal cave which doubles up as an art installation and visitor centre/shop.|
|Triumph Motorcycles||Hinckley, Leicestershire||
Triumph has just (Nov 17) opened its new £4 million Triumph visitor experience and factory tour. The museum collection (free) is open Weds – Sun each week and features some famous Triumph bikes ridden by the likes of David Beckham and Tom Cruise, plus land speed record holders from the 1960s and… THE actual bike – a fully restored 650cc Triumph TR6R – ridden by Steve McQueen in The Great Escape!
The 90 minute factory tours cost £15 and are led by experts including members of the manufacturing teams.
|U.S. Mint||Philadelphia and Denver, USA||The United States Mint offers tours in its Philadelphia and Denver locations. They stopped for security reasons after ‘911’ but started again in May 05. At both facilities the tours are free and are operated on a ‘first come first served’ basis. You’ll need photo ID, and, along with cameras, there are a number of banned items such as penknives, etc. Tours cover the history of the Mint and present day manufacturing.|
|Volkswagen Autostadt & Factory Tour||Wolfsburg, Germany||Wolfsburg is the headquarters of the VW group which includes Audi, SEAT, Skoda and VW itself.
The Autostadt is an automobile theme park, which opened in June 2000. It includes the VW Auto Museum and numerous attractions for adults and children including various marque pavilions (Bentley, Lamborghini, Audi, Seat, & Skoda) and lernpark where kids aged 5-11 can drive mini-beetles at 4km/h. Visitors can combine a tour of the VW Wolfsburg factory (8 KmSq, the largest plant under one roof in the world) with a visit to the autostadt. The 2-hours factory tours are available every working day from Tuesday to Friday.
|Walt Disney Family Museum||San Francisco, USA||Not so much a brand museum as a ‘man behind the brand’ museum. Opened Oct 2009 with exhibits from Disney’s life from obscure childhood to global fame.|
|Waterford Crystal||Waterford, Ireland||The old Waterford factory was closed in Feb 09 pending a possible sale. A brand new factory and state-of-the-art visitor centre will be opening in June 2010. The House of Waterford Crystal is on the Mall in Waterford City, Ireland and will employ up to 130 staff at peak periods, including highly skilled craftsmen at the new Waterford Crystal Prestige Manufacturing Facility. Here, approximately 40,000 hand-crafted high end pieces will be produced using traditional methods for customers and tourists.|
|Whitechapel Bell Foundry||London||What do they do? Well, make bells actually. Any famous ones? Yes, as it happens. Only two of the world’s most famous icons: Big Ben and the original Liberty Bell! And you can visit? Yes. Their small museum is open on weekdays. There are too many dangerous, hot and heavy things about to take tours into the foundry when they are working, but they do operate small tours of the foundry itself on selected Saturdays when it is ‘offline’.|
|Wild Turkey Distillery||Kentucky, USA||The Wild Turkey bourbon distillery has a new (Apr 2014) visitor centre where visitors can gather before & after the hourly distillery tours.|
- The Model-T Automotive Heritage Complex (Tplex) in Detroit is not an official Ford brand, but the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant is where Henry Ford designed the Model T and built the first 12,000 “Tin Lizzies.”. It is the only example of an early Detroit auto factory open to visitors.
- Ferrari Tours operate tailor-made supercar tours for individuals and private groups including visits to the Ferrari collection in Maranello, Italy.
- The Rolls-Royce Museum in Dornbirn, Austria, is not Rolls-Royce’s official brand museum… but it’s stuffed full of them, and some with historic/famous “careful owners”!
- York County in Pennsylvannia (where Harley-Davidsons are made) bills itself as the ‘Factory Tour Capital of the World’ because there are a number of well-known American brands manufactured there. Most of the brands (such as Glatfelter and Martin’s Potato Chips) will be meaningless to British travellers, but if you like visiting factories…. this is a good place to go!
- Sadly Bugatti don’t have a factory tour (they should!) but the local Molsheim-Mutzig tourist office has a discovery trail map of the various historic Bugatti family & factory sites around the town of Molsheim in Alsace.
- Spaceport America, the new USA home for Branson & Rutan’s Virgin Galactica in New Mexico is offering preview tours of the site.
- ‘911’ et al put paid to the Glock factory tours in Austria. In these days of high security nobody is going to let the public into a gun factory! A pity because they used to be popular tours.