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Frugal Northwest Factory Tours

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Photo Credit: Tillamook Cheese Factory

I recently found the Northwest Camper blog & think this is a wonderful resource for those in the Northwest who not only love to camp, but just love to get out in the great outdoors, as she features many specific details about NW recreation & camping sites ! If you’re not from the NW, though, she still offers a number of great posts about ways to be a ‘thrifty’ camper!

Guest Post: Nicole from Northwest Camper

In the twentieth century, Henry Ford revolutionized factories, created the innovation known as mass production, and was awarded 161 patents.  And yet, he never visited Tillamook, Washougal, or Cashmere, the poor fellow. Today, you can take your family to many unique factories in some great Northwest places and observe airplanes, “hot off the press” newspapers, ice cream, cheese and goodies being made.  The tours are educational, and there is a potential for mass production of fun and enjoyment.

If your idea of a “factory” is the display of donuts being made at Krispy Kreme, it might just be time to visit one of the Northwest’s best factories!

Western Washington:

Boehms Candies Factory – Issaquah, Washington-

“If you seek perfection in sugar confection…..” then this tour is a must!  Visit the “Edelweiss Chalet” complete with a nearby Alpine Chapel and fountains.  Learn the unique history of this company, which includes the story of how an Austrian-born Olympic runner fled Hitler’s tyranny to move to Switzerland and then came to the Pacific Northwest in 1941 to eventually open a candy making business.  Today, the Boehms Candies company produces chocolate treats from truffles and turtles to caramels and creams.  Stop in during retail hours for a free self-guided “window tour.” Or, better yet, reserve a guided tour for $4 a person (free for children under 4) which lasts 35-45 minutes and includes samples.  The guided tours are only offered June through September, at scheduled times during the day.  Call (425) 392-6652 to schedule a tour.  For complete tour information or to request a reservation online visit the Boehms Candies website.

Microsoft Visitors’ Center – Redmond, Washington

Geeks (and aspiring geeks) take note!  A visit to the visitor’s center at the Microsoft Redmond Campus is free and hands-on fun.  Learn the history of the company.  See the cool stuff.  Learn about the Microsoft vision, culture and (ubiquitous) products.  Hours are typically weekdays from 9 am to 7 pm, but call ahead first to ensure it’s not closed for a private event, (425) 703-6214.  Visit theinformation page for a detailed map and directions, you’ll probably need it.

Seattle Times Printing Plant Tour – Bothell, Washington

Observe the printing presses in action, and follow newspapers “hot off the press” to their distribution.  Tours last about one hour, and are by appointment only.  The minimum age is 8 years old.  To schedule a tour call 425-489-7000.

Pendleton Washougal Weaving Mill – Washougal, Washington

The famous Pendleton Woolen Mills company is a family-owned, northwest-based business, going back six generations.  During this free mill tour, you will see Indian patterned blankets processed from dyed wool.  Observe spinning, weaving and finishing.  Learn about this legendary company that produces high-quality blankets, clothing and other textiles.  The company offers public tours daily on weekdays at 9am, 10am, 11am, and 1:30 pm and last 45 minutes.  Reservations are not required but it’s advisable to call ahead at 800-568-2480 to confirm availability.  Tours are also available at the Pendleton, Oregon Mill (20 minute duration); call the Pendleton Mill store for details at 541-276-6911.

Central and Eastern Washington:

Aplets and Cotlets Candies Tour – Cashmere, Washington

See how the Aplets and Cotlets candies are made by the Liberty Orchards company in Downtown Cashmere (near Wenatchee).  Sample free fruit-and-nut candies, freshly made.  Tours are offered daily throughout the year (closed on weekends, January through March).  Visit the Aplets & Cotlets website for more information.


Tillamook Cheese Factory – Tillamook, Oregon

Travelers to the Oregon Coast quickly learn that a trip to the Cheese Factory in Tillamook is a must.  In fact, over one million visits make their way through the self-guided tour every year and watch the production of cheese, ice cream and the wonderful “squeaky cheese” curd.  (Yes, it squeaks in your teeth when you eat it.  Funny and delicious!)  Learn about the business of farming, the work of cows, and the production of dairy foods.  “Cheesy” is a good thing, especially when you even enjoy the free samples.

Harry & David Factory – Medford, Oregon

This tour is not free: it will cost you $5 per person, but you will sample chocolate at the end of the tour.  Enjoy a behind-the-scenes view of the production of treats and confections at the Harry & David mail order company, which was founded in 1934 in Medford.  Call 1-877-322-8000 to reserve spaces on one of the tours, offered on weekdays.

What are your favorite factory tours in the Northwest?


Nicole provides travel advice, tips for camping in the Northwest, and campground reviews at The Northwest Camper. She loves to stay at public campgrounds in Washington, Oregon and Idaho with her family of pampered campers: a fun husband that cooks, a yellow Labrador retriever, and two preschool-aged girls. They are a family of redheads that buys sunscreen by the barrel-full for their summer adventures (with lots of coupons).



One Comment

  1. We love the Aplets and Cotlets Factory! We visit every year. :) One note about the tours – they are more interesting when there is actual candy making going on – Monday through Friday. The tours are still offered on summer weekends, but you only see the machinery and hear how it works. The tour takes about 15 minutes and start every half hour or so.

    Either way, the free samples are wonderful – as is the opportunity to buy some of their wonderful treats!

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