Perhaps because the native people of Lancaster County and the wider south-central PA area are such an industrious lot, many well-known products have long been made here. Hershey’s Chocolate is probably the most famous example of a product that was “born and raised” locally (Milton Hershey actually started his candy-making empire in Lancaster City), but there are many more examples, as well.
Are you curious to see “how it’s made” in Lancaster County and beyond? Today’s blog post offers a few options for factory tours and visits to sites where handmade products are created in the local region. Food tours are at the top of the list, but you can also discover how things like premium furniture and even motorcycles are built!
(Please note that some tours may be temporarily suspended or altered due to COVID-19. Visit the linked websites for each business to get updated information on their operations before visiting.)
Food Tours in Lancaster County, PA
If you have ever visited Lancaster County, your memories of this place probably revolve around food. It’s true that Lancaster County is world-famous for endless buffets and PA Dutch specialty foods and desserts—and more recently for fine dining in the City of Lancaster.
But did you know that our area has long been a major producer of snack foods and more? Chocolate and pretzels are probably the most notable products, though pickled and “canned” goods made from farm-fresh produce are also on the menu. And you can get a first-hand look at how many of these treats are made!
Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, Lititz
The small town of Lititz has been home to commercial pretzel baking operations for centuries. Even before Julius Sturgis opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in America along East Main Street in 1861, people had been enjoying the salty, doughy German treat also once known as “bretzels” since probably the first settling of Lititz in 1742—and at least since the first non-commercial pretzel bakery opened in 1784. Get a hands-on look at how pretzels have always been made at Sturgis with a small group tour!
Website for More Information: juliussturgis.com/group-tours
Kitchen Kettle Village Jam & Relish Kitchen, Intercourse
Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse is undoubtedly a foodie destination, with 42 shops and two restaurants. However, the Jam & Relish Kitchen might be considered the heart of the place. Not really a factory, but always busy churning out delicious food, local bakers and cooks create everything from salsa and pepper jam to apple butter and shoofly pie in an open demonstration kitchen. Free samples are plentiful and friendly conversation is always served up, too! And don’t forget to take home some goodies to share with family and friends.
Website for More Information: kitchenkettle.com/our-village/jam-relish-kitchen
Honorable mention: Wilbur Chocolate Store in Lititz Wilbur Chocolate has been made in Lititz since 1884, giving the community its reputation as a chocolate-making town. While the current factory facility—now owned by Cargill—is not open to the public, you can visit the Wilbur retail outlet to purchase some famous Wilbur Buds, watch other chocolate treats being made, and learn more about the history of chocolate manufacturing!
Website for More Information: wilburbuds.com/store
Food Tours Just Beyond Lancaster County’s Borders
One of Lancaster County’s most significant advantages is its proximity to unique communities throughout south-central Pennsylvania and beyond. Much of the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as NYC and our nation’s capital in Washington, DC, are just a day trip from Lancaster! Discover some of the delicious treats that are just a short drive away!
Herr’s Snack Factory Tour—Nottingham, PA
Herr Foods is a regional-favorite snack food brand headquartered in neighboring Chester County. See how their delicious potato chips and more are made—right before your eyes! The Herr’s Snack Factory Tour is somewhat rare among food tour experiences these days, as visitors can actually get a peek at real employees performing their real jobs, making chips and other snacks. A personal guide will lead you through the experience to answer all your questions.
Website for More Information: herrs.com/visit-us/what-to-expect
Martin’s Snacks Factory Tour—Thomasville, PA
Sure, you can take a video tour of regional snack food manufacturer Martin’s Snacks’ operations in Thomasville, York County, but why not get up close and personal on an in-person tour? See how Martin’s classic potato chips and popcorn, cheese curls, party mix, tortilla chips, and so much more are made!
Website for More Information: martinssnacks.com/contact-us
Honorable mention: Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey As we mentioned, Hershey’s Chocolate has long been made right up the road from Lancaster in neighboring Dauphin County. While tours of the actual candy making operations have not been available since the 1970s for safety reasons, Hershey’s Chocolate World provides a world-class (and still free) tour attraction with a ride that explains how chocolate is farmed, harvested, and produced!
Website for More Information: hersheys.com/chocolateworld
Other Factory Tours in Lancaster County
New Holland Haytools Plant Tour, New Holland
If you’re a tractor and farm equipment fan, you’re likely well aware that New Holland, PA, is the world headquarters of the New Holland Agriculture and Construction brands in North America, as well as the global Center of Excellence for Hay and Forage. Lancaster County’s farming heritage is on proud display as you witness workers making new hay tools for the agriculture industry around the globe.
Website for More Information: agriculture.newholland.com/nar/en-us/about-us/new-holland/nh-in-the-world/north-america/pennsylvania
George’s Furniture Factory Tour, Marietta
Do you consider yourself an amateur woodworker? If so, you won’t want to miss visiting George’s Furniture for a guided tour of their woodshop and showroom. Discover all of the hard work and skill that goes into producing high-quality, handcrafted wooden furniture. Somewhat of a “best-kept secret” just outside the historic Susquehanna River town of Marietta, George’s Furniture is worth the scenic drive to their proudly family-owned and operated business.
Website for More Information: georgesfurniturepa.com/take-a-tour
Other Factory Tours Just Beyond Lancaster County’s Borders
Harley Davidson Factory Tour—York, PA
Harley-Davidson has operated a manufacturing plant in York, PA, since 1973. Today, this facility assembles the Sportster®, Softail®, Touring, Trike, and CVO™ families of motorcycles and LiveWire™ electric motorcycles. They also perform various manufacturing operations—making parts like frames, fuel tanks, and fenders. If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast and have never visited, this classic American brand offers many different factory tour options at different price points, including a free tour.
Website for More Information: harley-davidson.com/us/en/about-us/visit-us/yorkpa
Bluett Brothers Violins Workshop Tour—York, PA
Musicians and classical or bluegrass music fans are in for a treat when they book a tour of Bluett Bros. Violins in York. Luthier Mark Bluett, who has been making and selling violins since 1984, walks visitors through the entire process of designing and building a violin from scratch. In this intimate tour experience, you will learn about everything from choosing the wood that a particular instrument is made from through to tap toning and finishing.
Website for More Information: bluettbros-violins.com/on-location-tours
Thinking About a Move to Lancaster County in Retirement?
Here in Lancaster, we work hard, but we play hard, too! This has made Lancaster, PA, a top retirement destination in the USA, and we’d love to tell you more. Discover our Explore Retirement Living blog, which regularly showcases Lancaster attractions and offers timely tips on making the most of your retirement experience.
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