Enjoying a savory snack like cheese or a sweet treat like chocolate is great, but seeing how it’s made, that’s the cool part. In North Carolina, various factory tours offer you an inside peek into the behind-the-scenes working of the creation of some of your favorite snacks or products. Looking for something different to fill a Saturday? Try these four factory tours.
1. Ashe County Cheese Factory, West Jefferson
You scream, I scream, we all scream for - cheese! Well, that's my rendition at least. As a fellow cheese lover, I can say visiting a cheese factory will give you an entirely new insight into how this savory snack is created (and hello, free samples). Ashe County Cheese Factory has been in business since 1930 when it was started by Kraft to help consolidate small community cheese plants in the area. In 1981, it was sold to Jerry Glick and Doug Rudersdorf, two notable Wisconsin cheese connoisseurs, and quickly became one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Carolina.
While today the factory is under new ownership by Mike Everhart and Tom Torkelson (Torkelson is regarded as one of the finest cheese makers in America) it's still known for its famous old style cheddar daisy wheels and its notable Sienna Cheese. The store received a serious makeover in 2007 allowing visitors to see how the cheese is made and shop around for more than cheese but also local provisions. For the best time to plan a visit, check the cheese making schedule on their website. For cheese lovers like myself, this is the trip of a lifetime!
For more information on Ashe County Cheese Factory,
read our guide here.
106 E Main St
West Jefferson, North Carolina
2. Black Mountain Chocolate Factory, Winston-Salem
On the complete other end of the spectrum, those more on the sweet tooth side will love a visit to Black Mountain Chocolate Shop. While the namesake reflects the small town outside of Asheville, Black Mountain was bought by longtime banker Brent Peters and relocated to Winston-Salem's vibrant arts district along Trade St. You might have seen Black Mountain Chocolate bars at other retailers across the state, but for a wide variety of chocolate treats, visiting the brick and mortar factory is your best bet.
The factory is open daily for self-guided tours allowing visitors to see a behind-the-glass-scene of how the chocolate is made. On select Saturdays, guided tours allow you to witness the true inner workings of what it means to be 'bean to bar.' The 40-minute tour covers the entire process from roasting the beans to creating the chocolate bar. Tickets go on sale prior to the tour with many selling out before Saturday. It's best to stay up-to-date with their social media to find out when a tour will take place and reserve your spot. For a unique option, Black Mountain also offers private group tours that can be scheduled W-F at 11 a.m.
For more information on Black Mountain Chocolate Factory,
read our guide here.
732 Trade St NW, Winston-Salem, NC 27101
3. Homeland Creamery, Julian
We've covered cheese and chocolate, so of course, our next factory tour is somewhere in the middle or maybe complete left field....ice cream! Not only does Homeland Creamery make delectable homemade ice cream, they're also open for fun, interactive tours around the farm that include a 20-minute hayride, meet and greet with the cows, and visiting the milking parlor.
While other factory tours sometimes require a bit of adult appreciation, Homeland Creamery tour is geared towards all ages and especially fun for little ones. The hayride allows you to see the behind the scenes of the farm and meet some of the milking cows.
Children are also allowed to pet the cows and will love seeing baby calfs (and possibly bottle feeding them!) There's also the simulated Miss Betty that teaches you how milk makes its way from the cow to the grocery store. While Homeland Creamery is known for its ice cream, their chocolate milk has been deemed 'addictive,' and visitors can pick up farm fresh goodies like local cheese, sausage and eggs from the store. For a family-friendly activity with a sweet end, Homeland Creamery is a unique tour!
For more information on Homeland Creamery
read our guide here.
6506 Bowman Dairy Rd, Julian, NC 27283
4. Mrs. Hanes Moravian Cookies, Clemmons
Winston-Salem is known for its rich Moravian heritage, and with that comes quality Moravian Cookies. The thin cookies with ginger and cinnamon notes are popular come Christmas, but in Winston, are found year-round. Each cookie here is rolled and cut by hand and come in five flavors including Ginger, Sugar, Lemon, Chocolate, Butterscotch, and Black Walnut.
Mrs. Hanes isn't just a simple little place making Moravian cookies, it's the largest hand-made cookie company in the world. For a small fee, tours are given January-September allowing you to see the final process from mixing the dough to sampling the finished product. While tours end in September, there's a special viewing area available year-round to see the cookie chronicles. For teachers or schools, one option is a field trip. Children love to witness the process (and go home with some cookies) while teachers love the unique option that isn't your 'cookie-cutter' day away. While plenty have visited Mrs. Hanes, a few famous faces have also tasted the hand-made cookies, including Lauren Bacall, Barbara Walters, Doris Day and Katherine Hepburn.
4643 Friedberg Church Road
Clemmons, NC 27012
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