- Industrial and factory tourism is a travel topic.
In some cases, one particular commodity may be closely identified to the identity of the community itself; mention Hershey, Pennsylvania and one thinks of candy, mention Churchill Falls and a close association to hydroelectric power immediately comes to light. What would Detroit and its suburbs be without their long historic association with the automobile?
There is a slight overlap with agrotourism in that many regions are closely tied to manufacture of distinctive foodstuffs. Wine tours in Niagara, the Napa Valley or France, visits to cheese makers in the Netherlands, Kentucky Bourbon Distilleries Tours in the United States all sport a distinctly regional flavor as an opportunity to see where a local product is made.
Industrial heritage and history
The history of steam power and the Industrial Revolution begins approximately where the colonial era artisanal handicraft of the pioneer villages end. The initial source of power was water to operate streamside mills; this gave way to steam and then to electricity.
Railroads were an important component of the Industrial Revolution, and heritage railways often reconstruct industrial technology of the steam era. On the other end of the time (and speed) scale, high speed rail has nothing museum-like to it but can also make the journey the destination. In some towns, a former mine site may be open for guided tours. Some former industrial sites are now museums.
A few locations have (or had) entire company towns built around a single industry or manufacturer. Some of these became ghost towns after the mine or factory closed.
Classic motorcars are a common theme for museums, along with rail travel and other transport infrastructure. Trains that used to carry kings and empresses have a particularly high chance of having been preserved and they are often centerpieces of their respective museums. Route 66 in particular is closely intertwined with nostalgia for the automotive manufacturers of yesteryear.
A few working industrial companies, as a promotional or public relations exercise, may operate visitors centers, conduct guided factory tours or provide opportunities to see products being manufactured.
An electric generating station may want to state its case as to the relative merits of splitting an atom or damming a mighty river. Manufacturers of handicrafts may wish to demonstrate how their products are locally hand-made. Some manufacturers of food or consumer goods operate a store on the factory site, inviting the voyager to watch cheese or candy actually being locally made before buying some to sample or take home.
- The town of 1 Toyota in Japan is closely associated with the motorcar manufacturer; there is a Toyota Automobile Museum and an art museum.
- The world heritage listed Tomioka silk mill, Japan's first modern silk production factory, has now been turned into a museum. It's also a chance to try operating a historical silk-reeling machine yourself.
- At the world heritage listed Verla groundwood and board mill, currently a museum, you can learn about 19th and early 20th century paper production.
- The 2 Ruhr has been the biggest heavy industries region in Continental Europe since the 19th century. There are dozens of disused cokeries, steel mills and other plants converted into museums, venues or parks along the Industrial Heritage Trail. Essen's Zollverein coal pit and cokery complex is a World Heritage site.
- The Fagus Factory in Alfeld (Leine) that has produced shoelasts since the 1910s (it is still operational) is one of the first works of modernist architecture in the world and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011.
- Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance, city associated with the development of zeppelin airships, has the Zeppelin Museum of technology and art and the Dornier Aviation and Aerospace Museum
- Herzogenaurach would be a perfectly unremarkable small town in Franconia like many others - if it hadn't been for brothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler who founded two of the biggest sports companies in the world: Adidas and Puma. Production has long since moved elsewhere, but both companies have several stores.
- Ludwigshafen, Visitor Center of BASF, the world's largest chemical producer
- The Deutsches Museum in Munich is a museum of very close to everything science and technology with its own rather interesting century-long history. Highlights include experiments with high voltage or a life-size V2 rocket on display.
- The BMW Welt and BMW Museum is in Munich, as well.
- 1 Sugar factory Oldisleben, Esperstedter Straße 9 (Oldisleben, Thuringia). tours (roughly 2.5 hours) upon request in the summer season hourly tours starting at 10 AM on the second Sunday in September. One of the oldest and longest serving sugar factories in Europe if not the world, this factory was shut down in 1990 upon the collapse of the GDR and after the last harvest had been converted to sugar. The factory still boasts original steam engines that had been in use for over a century and was in many ways a "working museum" even during its last decades of work. The factory was declared a monument in 1989 and preserved as a museum upon being shut down. Each tour begins with a twenty minute documentary movie on the last harvest of 1990.
- Stuttgart, centre of automotive industry, with the Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museum
- Autostadt Wolfsburg, extensive museum and theme park of Germany's biggest automotive producer Volkswagen.
- Chrysler in Auburn Hills used to operate a museum, which is now only open during specific annual events; Ford in Dearborn also devotes a museum to Michigan USA car culture. Oshawa, Ontario is home to a Canadian Automotive Museum and is closely tied to General Motors.
- The Cape Breton Miners' Museum in Nova Scotia offers mine tours, as does the former coal mine in Springhill.
- Davis (Oklahoma) offers a chance to see the manufacturing of Bedré Fine Chocolate, offering a free tour.
- In St. Stephen, New Brunswick, candy maker Ganong does not offer a modern factory tour, but their old factory is The Chocolate Museum with a guided tour and a chocolatier in a studio making gourmet hand-dipped chocolates.
- Fray Bentos, Uruguay, is home to the former Liebig's Extract of Meat Company, formerly a major producer of meat products that were exported around the world. Production has resumed on a smaller scale but the huge, nowadays world heritage listed facilities together with the museum, are more of an attraction.
- Industrial Britain and the Industrialization of the United States cover part of the history of the Industrial Revolution.
- Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution
- American Industry Tour through the US northeast, the former industrial heartland and "Rust Belt"
- Bertha Benz Memorial Route in Southwestern Germany – follow in the tracks of the first intercity automotive test pilot
- Industrial Heritage Trail (Route der Industriekultur) in Western Germany
- Motorcities Tour in and around Detroit
The openness of active industrial sites to tourism is, for the most part, very limited. While some manufacturers offer a tour or a description of what they do as a public relations exercise, much or most of the facility is likely to be off-limits to protect equipment and commercial trade secrets; restrictions are also applied for safety reasons. Many or most sites restrict or prohibit travel photography. The only access is usually as part of a strictly-controlled guided tour; one is not free to leave the group and wander around the production areas independently.
Restrictions often apply to protect product and process; a manufacturer will protect semiconductors from static electricity, valuables from theft or foodstuffs from all manner of contamination. The only opportunity to watch that cheese or candy being made often will be through a wall of glass windows from a visitors gallery if separating viewers from active production protects the quality or integrity of the finished product.
Museum sites are less restrictive as they are often purpose-built for tourism and visitors. The status of other former (or abandoned) manufacturing sites varies; various hazards may still be present and the leave-no-trace principle applies to protect the site.
A working factory, despite best efforts of workers, management and unions to build a safer workplace, is filled with powerful machinery, potentially hazardous materials and all manner of processes and equipment which may require specific precautions. Factory visits will be carefully organized, supervised tours and there will usually be a visible gap (ranging from a windowed permanent visitors' gallery to a simple yellow line on the factory floor) separating visitors from work in progress. Various protective devices (safety glasses, earplugs, hard hats, steel-toe boots, work gloves) will be needed and supplied, depending on the job site. A necktie quickly becomes a noose if caught in fast-moving industrial machinery; jewels and loose clothing may also be restricted for safety reasons. Most factory tours will impose a minimum age for visitors if safety hazards are present. Your hosts will inform you of any specific required precautions on arrival.