by Terence Baker | January 01, 2005

Scharffen Berger chocolate factory
Taster’s choice: Scharffen Berger chocolate factory

The idea of a factory tour might not seem too compelling, but who wouldn’t enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at how musical instruments, motorcycles or mouth-watering chocolates are made? Following are a few manufacturers of people-pleasing commodities that welcome group tours, often free of charge.
    The Gibson Bluegrass Showcase ( crafts mandolins and banjos in its Nashville factory in the Opry Mills mall complex, across from the Grand Ole Opry. Groups of 35 to 250 can tour the facility, inspect each stage of production and enjoy a reception featuring a live concert. There’s no charge for tours, but reservations must be made at least 30 days in advance.
    Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker ( has a factory in Berkeley, Calif., owned by a former wine producer and a doctor who studied the art of chocolate making in France. Tours reveal how the chocolates are produced and, most importantly, include samples of the delectable confections. Guided tours cost $35 per group of up to 30, but everyone gets a $1 gift certificate, redeemable in the gift shop.
    Harley-Davidson ( offers free morning tours at its Wauwatosa, Wis., motorcycle plant. The hourlong journey through “hog heaven” reveals how the Buell and Sportster models come to life. Groups of 10 or more must make reservations at least 14 days in advance.
    For other interesting tours around the country, visit