Preschool Friendly Vacation Destinations

If you have a preschooler, then you know how important it is to find vacation destinations that will hold his interest. Beaches, amusement parks, and children’s museums are great options for traveling preschoolers, but so are factory tours.

No kidding. My preschooler loves going on adventures at the following factories for two reasons: Hands-on fun and free samples.

Jelly Belly Factory Tour

Free factory tours are available at the company’s Fairfield, California location (situated about an hour north of San Francisco) and in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (located about 20 minutes from Milwaukee).

The mouth-watering tour begins when you hop onboard the Jelly Belly Express train, which winds through the warehouse and distribution center. During the 30-minute ride you get to see how the famous Jelly Belly is created, flavored, branded with the logo, and packaged. Kids also learn why it takes more than a week to make a single bean.

The ride then meanders down “Candy Alley” where six- foot giant jellybeans are suspended from the ceiling and riders are treated to a chorus line of Jelly Belly characters. As you chug through the factory, you are treated to the smells of popcorn, peanut butter and exotic fruits that give the candy its unique flavor. At the end of the tour you are given handfuls of free samples to munch on while you browse through the Jelly Belly retail store. The massive space is filled with everything from Jelly Belly music boxes to Jelly Belly belts.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory Tour

The next time you are in Hilo, Hawaii, treat your preschooler to a tour of the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory. Harvest season runs between August and April, and if you visit the factory during that time you can see workers gathering nuts as you drive to the factory.

The tour itself is hands-on and very educational. Kids learn that the macadamia is the hardest nut in the world to crack (it requires 300 pounds per square inch of pressure to break the shell). In addition, you and your child will get to watch as the nuts are passed between rotating steel rollers, precisely spaced to break the shell without disturbing its contents. Next, you get to see how the nuts are roasted and packaged. Finally, you are taken to the area where the nuts are made into candies. Children are allowed to follow along as the nuts ride a conveyor belt through a shower of sweet chocolate. Before you leave the factory you are also given the chance to watch workers hand dip macadamia nut shortbread cookies into pure milk chocolate. The smells of melting chocolate are amazing and free samples are waiting for you at the visitor’s center.

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.