often free, factory visits can be informative, delicious and fun.
By: Debra Cummings,
Special to the Star
August 18, 2001- Ever wonder how a fortune gets curled up in a crispy
fortune cookie? Tea into a tea bag? Or, how sheet metal gets welded onto a
jumbo jet, or how wood is shaped into baseball bats and curved hockey
blades? If so, then maybe you should take a behind-the-scenes factory tour
which often ends with a bagful of freebies or a sample of the goods. Besides
being cheap (many are actually free), typical factory tours often include a
movie, a tour of the plant and a pile of propaganda.
Here are some you can visit in Canada:
FORT MCMURRAY: This province's biggie, which has snared all sorts of
international tourism awards, is a sophisticated visit to the sprawling oil
sands. The tour of Syncrude includes a visit to Crane Lake, the humongous
reclamation sites for each mine, and a visit of the Oil Sands Discovery
Centre. Cost is $15 per person and tours run throughout the summer. Call
BALZAC: Alta Genetics: They've recently stopped their popular tours
in Balzac (15 minutes north of Calgary) due to foot and mouth disease, but
they're hoping it's just a temporary suspension. Hundreds of people, from
international groups seeking reproductive strategies, to local 4-H clubs,
take these free tours where they can view the bulls, tour labs where frozen
semen is stored, and so on. Call 403-266-0666.
CALGARY: Bernard Callebaut Chocolate: During a 25-minute tour, you'll
discover how pralines, passion fruit and marrion berries get squeezed into
the dreamy Belgian recipe wonders, whipped up by world-renowned chocolatier
Bernard Callebaut, in his downtown Calgary plant. Tours both independent and
guided are free, should be booked ahead, and include wonderfully decadent
freebies at the end. Call: 403-265-5777.
Big Rock Brewery: On the
tour visitors see the whole brewing process. Click on the link for
VANCOUVER: Capilano Salmon Hatchery: After you've tottered along the
Capilano Suspension Bridge in north Van, head to this fascinating respite in
the heart of a rainforest where you can watch thousands of salmon battle
their way over ladders, en route to their birthing place, where they'll lay
their eggs and eventually die. Some 26 km of well-marked trails fan out from
the hatchery making it an easy spot to while away half a day. Call
604-666-1790 for details. Steveston Cannery Row: Located in Richmond, this
heritage site tells the story of how 100 years ago Steveston was the soul of
the sockeye salmon industry. Known internationally as "salmon city",
Steveston supported 15 canneries and was a port of call for some of the
largest and fastest clippers in the world.
VICTORIA: Rogers Chocolates offers tours (ending in a shop loaded
with half-price morsels) as does a decommissioned Russian sub and the
Vancouver Island Brewery.
VANCOUVER ISLAND: Toodle around vineyards in Duncan, Nanaimo and
Cobble Hill. Or, get inside the very belly of a monstrous cave and see what
they're made of in Parksville. Then there are mill tours in Campbell River
and hatchery visits in Courtenay, Campbell River and Qualicum Beach as well
as an historic dockyard tour in Esquimalt.
WHISTLER: One of the coolest finds we came across was a tour of Prior
Snowboards Manufactory on Alpha Lake Road on the outskirts of Whistler. See
how a snowboard is made, from start of finish, by legendary snowboard
shaper, Chris Prior, right here at the factory. Call in advance for a tour
at 1-877-93-PRIOR. Visit their Web site at
VERNON: This is a semi-precious find in itself the Klinker Opal Mine,
40 km from Vernon. Poke around the store in downtown Vernon or fork out $30
for a day-long dig in the mountains. Day digs at Canada's only opal mine run
during the summer (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and include guided services, lots of
geological information, safety equipment and the chance to haul out to 2.5
kilos of material (opal, agate, rock, etc.) from the open pit mine. Visit
ARMSTRONG: An award-winning micro-cheese factory, the Village Cheese
Co. famous for its Stilton and cheddars offers plant tours, displays of
century-old artifacts and informal chats and demos with their master
cheesemaker, Ivan Matte, who still makes cheese the old-fashioned way. Visit
SUMMERLAND: What began as a fruit-based candy factory in the early
'60s now produces jams, jellies, syrups and spreads using local produce.
THOMPSON/OKANAGAN COUNTRY: Also known as B.C.'s wine country, there are
scores of wineries to visit, and stay overnight. Simply follow the pretty
road signs of grape clusters and you'll know you're on the right track.
Visit web site
KITIMAT: Take your pick and visit the world's largest aluminum
smelter (Alcan), a pulp and paper mill (Eurocan) or a petrochemical facility
(Mathanex). All three offer tours.
HUDSON'S HOPE: Two canyon dam tours are offered here the North Peace
and the W.A.C. Bennett Dam. Guided tours of the power house at W.A.C.
Bennett take you down some 152 metres underground. Call North Peace Dam at
250-783-5211 or W.A.C. at 250-783-5211.
SPARWOOD AND ELKFORD: Coal mine tours that take you through actual
inky black shafts are offered in July and August. Both chambers of commerce
organize the tours. Visit
HALIFAX: Tour Canada's oldest brewery here. Alexander Keith's
Original Brewery is a massive ironstone and granite structure built in 1834
which still pumps out tall, frosty pints. It also delivers daily tours, run
by costumed guides full of Acadian pride. Also in Halifax is the Bedford
Institute of Oceanography, the world's third largest marine research centre.
Guides take visitors by labs where they're conducting actual experiments
from breeding fish to chipping away at parts of the Titanic. Also in
downtown Halifax is Nova Scotia's Crystal and Glass Factory as popular for
its glass-blowing and cutting tours as its deals. On the Dartmouth side of
the harbour is Esso's Oil refinery that offers two-hour tours of the
gargantuan operation where you'll see everything from liquid propane to
turbo jet fuels, kerosene, stove and furnace oils.
PICTOU: The world-famous producer of fine Grohmann Knives offers free
30-minute factory tours, from Monday to Friday. Call 902-485-4224 or visit
PUGWASH: Seagull Pewter, the renowned producer and exporter of
pewterware, offers daily tours of its plant and also has a great little
retail shop, often full of bargains. Call 902-243-2516.
CAPE BRETON: The Margaree Fish Culture Station offers tours of its
hatchery (full of small Atlantic fish such as salmon and speckled trout) as
well an interpretive centre. Also on Cape Breton, in the charming seaside
town of Cheticamp is Flora's famous for its rug-hooking demos and shop. Call
902-224-3139. There's also the Glenora Inn & Distillery North America's only
single malt whiskey distillery. Call 800-839-0491.
SMITH FALLS: Home to the Canadian plant of Hershey Chocolate, this
self-conducted free tour includes video explanations and open galleries
where you can watch the entire gooey process. There are free samples and the
best viewing times are before 2: 30 p.m. Call 613-283-3300.
COLLINGWOOD: The Candy Factory was established in the early '70s with
the aim of preserving the candy makers' art by sticking to traditional
recipes using fresh, pure ingredients without additives. Free tours run
year-round. Call 705-445-2400.
INGERSOLL: Sharing the same site is a cheese factory museum plus a
sports hall of fame. Some of the buildings from the cheese factory date back
to the 1860s plus there's also a small community museum jammed with
household and commercial artifacts depicting Ingersoll's history. For
details call 519-485-5510.
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE: A French perfume factory and museum demonstrates
19th-century techniques of perfume distilling. Brand-name perfumes are
available for purchase at factory prices. Visit
WINDSOR: Take A 45-minute tour of the Hiram Walker Canadian Club Distillery.
Debra Cummings is a freelance writer based in Calgary.
Photo - HMMM, THAT'S A LOT OF BEER: A visitor looks into one of the vats at
the Big Rock Brewery factory in Calgary.
Copyright © 2001 Toronto Star, All Rights Reserved.