Alabama-made: Places to see, touch and taste Alabama’s manufacturing
By Jacqueline Rosser
What do cars, cookies and bamboo bikes have in common? Like many other great products, they are all made here in Alabama. Take shopping local to a whole new level and head to the factories to see your favorite Alabama products in production. You’ll develop a brand new appreciation for “Made in Alabama” and have some great family fun too.
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama
Do you drive a Honda? Tour the Honda Manufacturing Plant in Alabama and see how your ride is made. Many of Honda’s vehicles are produced at their Lincoln plant. On the tour you’ll walk the production floor watching sparks fly as the weld robots assemble the Honda Odyssey, Ridgeline, the Honda Pilot SUV and more. From engines to paint colors and more, you’ll see what it takes to make an award-winning vehicle.
The free tour of the Honda plant is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Visitors must be at least 12 years old. Wear fully enclosed shoes and long pants.
Golden Flake Chips
Crunchy and delicious Golden Flake Chips are a lunchtime staple across Alabama. Pay a visit to the Golden Flake factory in Birmingham to watch plain potatoes transform into deep fried delights. One of the highlights of the tour is the fresh samples of warm chips, pork rinds, etc. shared with visitors along the way. If you can’t make it to the factory Golden Flake offers online tours on their website.
Tours are typically offered Monday-Thursday at set times each morning. Small groups (less than 10) generally don’t need a reservation, but you may want to call in advance (1-800-239-CHIP) to verify availability. Visitors must be at least 5 years old. Wear closed toe/heel shoes suitable for walking.
Golden Eagle Syrup
Since 1929 Alabamians have been enjoying Golden Eagle Syrup’s delightfully sweet flavor. If this is your favorite syrup, or even if it’s not, a tour of the production facility in Fayette is fascinating. You can visit any time, but it’s much more enjoyable when they’re in production (generally Tuesday-Thursday).
Call 205-932-5294 for more information about the tour.
Bud’s Best Cookies
Hop aboard the CookieLand Express and travel to a delicious world filled with cookies. Bud’s Best Cookies tour in Birmingham shows visitors how their signature bite-sized cookies are mixed, baked, packaged and shipped. Come with an appetite; you’ll enjoy samples on the tour and to take home.
Tours are free, but reservations are required. Set up your tour by calling their offices at 800-548-1504.
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama
Honda isn’t the only automotive manufacturer that calls Alabama home. If you’re in Montgomery, take the family over to the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama plant. This busy Alabama facility assembles almost 1,500 vehicles each business day.
The Hyundai plant tour is free for visitors age 6 and up. Reservations are required and can be made online up to a year ahead of your visit. This tour often fills up well in advance; book early if you want to go.
Have you ever wondered how a motorhome is made? Head to Red Bay and take a tour of Tiffin Motorhomes, home of some of the best motorhomes in the country. You’ll meet the expert craftsmen that help construct the beautiful homes on wheels and see production in action.
Tours are held Monday-Friday at 9:30 am. Appointments are not necessary for small groups. Large groups (10 or more) should call in advance to schedule an appointment. Full details are available on the Tiffin Motorhomes website.
Working Cows Dairy
Meet the farmers behind Working Cow Dairy when you stop by their Slocomb farm at milking time. Jonny de Jong, CEO of the family run farm, says, “We suggest people come by at 7 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon to see the cows being milked and things of that nature.” While you’re at the farm, stop by their store and pick up a bottle of fresh and delicious Alabama organic milk.
When you think of bikes, you probably don’t think of bamboo, but once you watch the bike making process at HERObike in Greensboro, you’ll likely associate the two forever. While HERObike doesn’t offer a formal tour, the studio is very open and visitors are welcome to come in and watch the production at any time. If you like what you see and want a bamboo (locally grown in Alabama) bike of your own, classes and kits are available for purchase.
Blue Bell Creamery
After enjoying an informational tour of Blue Bell Creamery in Sylacauga visitors are treated to a serving of their luscious ice cream. The tour features a video presentation and a walk overlooking the production area.
The Blue Bell Creamery tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and is offered Monday-Friday. There is a small charge for the tour which includes a serving of ice cream. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 256-249-6100.
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International has been producing vehicles at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Vance (Tuscaloosa County) since 1996. Visitors can tour the factory and check out the history of Daimler-Benz in the Mercedes-Benz Visitor Center’s Museum, the first of its kind outside Germany. Adjacent to Daimler’s only U.S. automobile manufacturing plant, the center exhibits propel people down a multimedia path through the past, present, and future of automotive technology.
Factory Tours are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. Tours typically last about two hours.
Cost is $5 per guest. Advance reservations are recommended. Call 205-507-2252 or 888- 286-8762. MBUSI recommends visitors download its Tour Guidelines and Requirements from its website at www.mbusi.com, and reading the Factory Tour FAQ guide before calling for reservations.
Back Forty Beer Co.
If you think a brewery tour and children don’t mix, think again. Back Forty Brewery’s Grains to Glass tour in Gadsden is fun for adults and children alike. Children will enjoy munching on freshly malted hops while adults indulge in local craft beers as they explore the brewing process. Brad Wilson and his brother Jason run the brewery (5th generation in the beer business) and seek to make this manufacturing facility family and community friendly. Speaking of the brewery Brad said, “We want to reach out to the community… we want to be a place where people can come and handle the business of their day and interact with the community.”
If you come in for a tour, don’t be surprised to see Brad’s almost two year old daughter Keller running around in her pink brewing boots. They do more than just make beer here; they foster family and community connections.
Tours are offered on Saturdays 3-9 pm. No reservation needed.
Back Forty Brewery- Photo credit: Eric Wright
Bud’s Best- Photo Credit: Kristie LaRochelle, KP Studios
Hero Bike- Photo Credit: HERO
Honda- Photo Credit: Honda
Hyundai- Photo Credit: Hyundai