Factory tours spotlight a range of products, from cars to teddy bears

We are all born with a natural curiosity to discover the world around us. We like learning about where things come from and how things are made. Touring factories allows us to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the goods and products we use and consume.

Industrious Michigan has been a leader in automotive, railroad, steam engine and furniture production throughout its history, manufacturing many staples that America has come to rely on. Factory tours allow visitors to experience the excitement of watching machines and people make the things that we use daily. Most factory tours are free, offering an economical option for your next group trip.

Groups may want to make a few of these factory stops on their next Great Lakes tour:

The Ford Rouge Factory in Dearborn, once the center of the Ford industrial empire, makes vehicles like the F-150 pickup truck. Visitors are driven on buses from the Henry Ford Museum to the Rouge plant, where a virtual-reality historical tour explains the production, painting and distribution process of a Ford

Groups learn the history of the Ford Motor Co. on a tour of the Ford Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan. is the curator of Chelsea Teddy Bear’s museum, a tour stop. The last stop on the tour brings visitors to the modern factory to watch the final assembly of a truck. (800-835-5237, hfmgv.org/rouge)

At the General Motors Truck Assembly Tour in Flint, the birthplace of GM, groups can see the production and assembly of three different models of one-ton trucks. For more history about General Motors, visit the Sloan Museum, on the Flint Cultural Campus, which features virtual tours and historical automobile information. (810-342-0862, visitflint.org)

“Hot biscuits will be ready in a Jiffy!” Chelsea Milling Company, where “Jiffy” Mix is made, offers free tours. Groups can spend about an hour walking through the packaging plant, watching vintage machinery at work, seeing an informative slide presentation and enjoying refreshments. Guests get to take home a box of “Jiffy” mix. (734-475-1361, jiffymix.com)

Constructing quality plush toys and lovable teddy bears, the Chelsea Teddy Bear Company, just across the railroad tracks from “Jiffy” in the town of Chelsea, offers fun factory tours of its 30,000-square-foot warehouse and assembly stations. Groups can see the world’s largest teddy bear, towering at 10 feet tall, and see antique teddies on the history tour. Visitors complete the tour with a trip to the retail store. (734-433-5499, chelseateddybear.com)

The Hoegh Pet Casket Factory in Gladstone is the pioneer in quality pet caskets and ships them all over the world, producing more than 30,000 caskets every year. Visitors can see the manufacturing process of pet caskets from beginning to end, including the finished product in the display room. Memorial plaques and cremation urns are also made here and displayed in the model pet cemetery. Tours are given to groups on weekdays. (906-428-2151, hoeghpetcaskets.com)

Tours at Morley Candy Factory in Clifton Township take visitors on a video journey through the history of chocolate and the Sanders family story. Groups watch candy makers create luscious treats like Pecan Torties® and Coconut Clusters on the 100-foot observation walkway. All tours conclude with a chocolaty sample and visit to the gift shop. (800-682-2760, sanderscandy.com)

DeKlomp Wooden Shoe Factory and Delft Factory in Holland makes recreations of Dutch wooden clogs and blue-and-white Delftware. On a tour, groups can meet artisans and learn about the production process, see the paint room and watch the imported machines shape the perfect pair of wooden shoes. The factory site is also home to Veldheer’s Tulip Garden, which glows every spring with millions of bright blooms. A retail store carries Dutch specialties. (616-399-1803, veldheer.com)

Ferris Coffee & Nut Company in Grand Rapids is a wholesale and retail supplier of coffee, chocolate and nuts to many of Western Michigan’s coffee houses, offices and individuals, sharing their passion for coffee with all. They offer group tours that include a walking tour of the nut roasting facilities, an informational slide show, a visit to the retail shop and, of course, hot coffee. (616-459-6257, ferriscoffee.com)