Central Pennsylvania is the mecca of snack food factory tours. Whether popcorn, pretzels, or chips are your favorite, you will have the chance to see them made. There is nothing better than a behind-the-scenes peek at how products are produced. If you are lucky, you may even get to taste your favorite snack food fresh off the line.
Below are the highlights of the best tours that put central Pennsylvania on the map. Make sure to call ahead and check the company website for specific tour availability.
Julius Sturgis Pretzel Tour — 219 East Main Street in Lititz, Pa., (717) 626-4354
Founded in 1861, the Julius Sturgis Pretzel Company is one of the country’s oldest pretzel making companies. This tour is a unique, hands-on experience that is handicapped accessible. Cost is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for children and kids under 4 are free.
Once you walk in the backroom, you are instantly transported into the original days of pretzel making. The entire process is explained and you will be given dough to roll out, shape and twist into a pretzel like they did before modern machinery.
Due to health concerns, the company is no longer allowed to let you bake your own pretzel, but you can see them baking soft pretzels and can purchase one in the gift shop for only $1. They were delicious! Free parking is available on the street or in a small lot behind the building. www.juliussturgis.com/grouptours.html
Wilbur Chocolate Company — 48 N. Broad St. in Lititz, Pa., (717) 626-3249
Just down the street from Julius Sturgis is Wilbur Chocolate, and you don’t want to miss the free Wilbur Bud samples! Visit the museum and view the candy makers creating fudge and hear the sounds of the manufacturing plant directly above the store. You will see thousands of antiques that have evolved into the modern day chocolate making process. The video tour will teach you the ins and outs of the world of chocolate. The museum and gift shop are both free and give you ample opportunities to ensure you taste buds are happy. www.wilburbuds.com/visit/Our-Candy-Store.html
Martin’s Potato Chips — 5847 Lincoln Highway (Route 90) in Thomasville, Pa., (717) 792-3565
The Martin’s Chips factory tour lasts 45 to 60 minutes and takes you through the whole process from how the potato enters the plant to the finished bag of chips being loaded on a delivery truck. You will be just feet away from the fryers and can almost hear the crunch of the kettle chip cooking.
Even better than the smells and sounds of the facility are the fresh warm chips and popcorn you can sample right off the line. Plan ahead for this tour because the firm only offer tours on Tuesdays at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. This is one you won’t want to miss. Just call ahead to reserve your spot for this free tour. www.martinschips.com
Snyder’s Pretzels — 1350 York St. in Hanover, Pa., (800) 233-7125, Ext. 28592
Stared as a small family company in the early 1900’s, Synder’s of Hanover has grown into a leader in the pretzel industry. At the York facility, customers have a chance to see the entire pretzel making process from up above. Peer through the glass windows and watch the different formations of pretzels transform into the snack bags that you pick off your grocers shelves. Tours are offered free of charge on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays at 10 and 11 a.m. plus 1 p.m. You must call ahead to reserve a spot. There is no photography allowed on the 30-minute tour, but there were plenty of interesting insights into the production of Snyder’s products. www.snydersofhanover.com
Utz Snack Company — 900 High St. in Hanover, Pa., (800) 367-7629
The Utz Snack Company free, self-guided tour is offered Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The tour offers views of the entire potato chip making process. We saw trucks loading potatoes right into the sorter and then saw them washed, sliced, soaked in the salt bath, fried and packaged. All of the tour takes place behind observation glass, but there are speakers on the wall to explain each process and step stools for young kids to see over the ledge. The Utz Factory Outlet is just down the street and worth a visit. We left with a few bags full of goodies for only $7. www.utzsnacks.com
Revonah Pretzel — 507 Baltimore Street in Hanover, Pa., (717) 630-2883
Renovah Pretzels are made from the original sourdough recipe and still rolled and twisted by hand. The heated kiln creates the perfect crunch and leaves you yearning for more. Soft pretzels are also available for purchase at the bakery. Free factory tours of Revonah Pretzels are available on a limited basis and are handicapped accessible. revonahpretzel.com/factory-tours.