To help teachers looking for ways to spice up their student domestic trips, the editors and writers of Student Travel Planning Guide have compiled lists of top attractions in various categories, from factory tours to shopping malls. We’re not ranking these attractions in any order, but wanted to showcase some of the best ones out there, always with a geographical spread in mind.
We had a good time putting together our “top” lists and hope these quick glimpses will provide both inspiration and fun reading. Maybe you’ll want to come up with your own “top” lists.
10 Top Factory Tours for Student Groups
Some of the best field trips are to factories where students have an opportunity to see what goes into making a product. Happily for school budgets, many factory tours are free. Of the thousands of factories in the U.S., a few stand out for their tours. Here are 10 winners:
Ben and Jerry’s, Waterbury, Vermont
Learn about Ben and Jerry’s through a video about the history of the ice cream company, a tour of the production room and sampling the flavor of the day.
Jelly Belly, Fairfield, California
Students can view the production room, see art made out of jelly beans and receive free samples.
Steinway, Long Island City, New York
Learn the intricate process it takes to create a Steinway piano, 160 years in the making.
Boeing, Mukilteo, Washington
Visit the airplane manufacturer’s behind-the-scenes tour, a virtual jet Airplane Design Zone and other exhibits showcasing the complexity of aviation.
The Crayola Factory, Easton, Pennsylvania
Boasting 120 crayon color names, the Crayola Factory has live demonstrations on how its crayons and markers are made, plus interactive exhibits and crafts; receive a complimentary four-pack of crayons when the experience is over.
Ford Rouge, Dearborn Michigan
This factory tour of the car company that started it all includes movies about the history and manufacturing, F-150 models on the assembly line, vehicles in a gallery showcasing the models over the years and plants on the world’s largest living roof.
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing, Montgomery, Alabama
View the process of making these vehicles while riding in a tour tram through five sections, including the stamping shop, welding shop, paint shop, engine shops and general assembly.
Hammond’s Candies, Denver, Colorado
Visitors get a look at how Hammond’s hard candies – candy canes, lollipops, chocolates and caramels – are made by hand (just as they were in the 1920s).
McIlhenny Company, Avery Island, Louisiana
Learn the ins and outs of this famous hot sauce by seeing how the sauce is made, learning the degrees of hotness (mild to habanero) and getting free samples and recipes.
Nokona Baseball Glove Factory, Nokona, Texas
Learn about the national pastime’s most important accessory by watching the leather selection process and the cutting, stamping, embroidery, stitching and lacing it takes to make each glove unique.
Best Sports Halls of Fame for Student Groups
In a culture where athletes are idolized like heroes and celebrities, it’s only appropriate that every major sport have its own hall of fame. Exceptional athletes are honored and immortalized in museums that showcase the history of the sport. Below are some of the nation’s best halls of fame for student groups to visit:
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York
Honoring players and preserving baseball memorabilia with over 40,000 artifacts, this shrine to America’s pastime consists of a museum, Hall of Fame and research library.
NASCAR Hall of Fame, Charlotte, North Carolina
To cater to every NASCAR enthusiast’s dream, the hall features a video on NASCAR history, a banked ramp modeled after Talladega Superspeedway, a 360-degree Hall of Honor, a collection of artifacts from stock car history and a tour of local racetracks.
International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum, Newport, Rhode Island
Set in the historic Newport Casino, the museum features artifacts and equipment dating back to the 12th century as well as video highlights of the greatest matches; its 13 tennis courts are open to the public.
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield, Massachusetts
Interactive exhibits, skills challenges, clinics, shooting contests, decades of basketball history and special events await fans.
Hockey Hall of Fame, Eveleth, Minnesota
The “Capital of American Hockey” includes the Wall of Fame, famous artifacts, antique equipment, the Herb Brooks exhibit, an art section and the world’s largest hockey stick at 10,000 pounds.
International Swimming Hall of Fame, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
This museum contains the world’s largest collection of aquatic memorabilia, including Olympic medals and uniforms, honoring athletes in competitive outdoor and indoor swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming, as well as lifeguards and U.S. presidents who swam.
Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio
This football heaven features the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery, which shows video kiosks from every Super Bowl, and the Super Bowl Theater, which highlights footage from the most recent Super Bowl, as well as seasonal exhibits honoring famous NFL players.
NCAA Hall of Champions, Indianapolis, Indiana
This hall recognizes athletes who excelled in college sports, including those who went on to the Olympics or professional play.
National Track and Field Hall of Fame, Washington Heights, New York
Honoring marathon runners and professional athletes alike, the hall features several floors of galleries, an atrium, the Fred Levow Marathon Hall, a 40-foot glass Wall of Fame and an arena where some of the world’s largest collegiate and high school events are held.
U. S. Soccer Hall of Fame, West End, New York
This hall honors over 300 inductees and displays thousands of artifacts, including the world’s oldest soccer ball.
Top State Capitol Buildings for Student Groups
In capital cities across the country, state capitol tours provide student groups an ideal orientation to state history and government. Many buildings, though large and beautiful, look pretty much the same. But these 10 capitols stand out for their architecture, art or unique memorabilia:
This Mile High City landmark has an observation deck on its gold dome looking over the Rocky Mountains and beautiful visuals inside, including murals, a gallery of oil portraits, a hall of fame depicted in stained-glass and bronze elevator doors portraying the history of Colorado.
One of America’s oldest capitol buildings has art depicting the state’s past, including portraits of Massachusetts governors, statues around the grounds, Nurses Hall, Hall of Flags, state seals on stained glass and a large golden dome.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Take a tour focusing on art, architecture, women’s history and the Civil War, admire hand-painted ceilings depicting Minnesota agriculture and eat in the Rathskeller Cafeteria, designed to resemble a German dining hall.
Second in size only to our nation’s capitol, Austin’s “sunset granite” state house offers beautiful views from atop its dome, plus monuments scattered throughout its 22 acres, including heroes of the Alamo, volunteer firemen and Confederate soldiers.
The marble interior includes art glass skylights in the rotunda, statues of famous Kentuckians and oil-painted lunettes above each staircase. The 34-foot-wide floral clock behind the building contains more than 10,000 plants.
Near Bushnell Park, this capitol was designed by a cathedral architect in a Victorian Gothic style. It’s made of Connecticut marble and Rhode Island granite with a gold dome featuring stained-glass windows and historical memorabilia inside.
Des Moines, Iowa
This 1886 capitol contains a glass floor on the first level, a gold dome, a grand staircase and ornate chandeliers in two of its chambers as well as doll replicas of each governor’s wife, battle flags from the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I, and a model of the battleship USS Iowa.
Charleston, West Virginia
Designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect who designed one of the first skyscrapers, this capitol’s dome is five feet higher than the U.S. Capitol’s and is gilded in 23.5-carat gold leaf.
Albany, New York
The style is a mix of Italian Renaissance, Romanesque and French Renaissance with three indoor staircases intricately carved from different types of stone.
Unique attributes include its “X” shape, location on an isthmus and the only granite dome in the U.S.
10 Super Shopping Malls for Student Groups
Shopping malls are some of the world’s greatest tour destinations. Whether it’s meant to be educational, for fun or to help students bond, make it a trip that no one in the group will forget. The following malls have plenty of appeal for student groups:
Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota
The country’s largest shopping and entertainment complex has more than 500 stores and restaurants as well as programs for student performance groups and a physics program at Nickelodeon Universe amusement park.
Potomac Mills Circle, Woodbridge, Virginia
Virginia’s largest outlet mall offers over 200 stores and a free coupon book for groups of 10 or more as well as a souvenir gift for group leaders and the chance to be a part of “Mills Means More…Music” program and perform at the mall.
King of Prussia Mall, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
With shops not found elsewhere in the area, the King of Prussia Mall features comfortable seating areas, Wi-Fi access, no tax on clothing or shoes and a group welcome package, which contains the latest coupons and discounts for each member.
Westfield San Francisco Centre, San Francisco, California
Besides shopping, the mall offers a cinema, seasonal events and personal appearances, and can cater to your group by organizing meet and greets and providing discount booklets.
Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois
As the largest shopping center in the Chicago area, Woodfield Mall has nearly 300 stores and restaurants and a free Signature Meet and Greet service that comes with a mall shopping bag and discount coupons.
Sawgrass Mills, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Sawgrass Mills claims to be the #2 tour location in Florida with more than 350 stores, two food courts and an entertainment venue along with complimentary coupon books for group travelers, meet and greets, convenient bag storage, motorcoach parking, and complimentary meal vouchers for drivers and tour guides.
Destiny U.S.A., Syracuse, New York
Destiny U.S.A. offers specialty stores and has entertainment such as bowling at Revolution’s Entertainment, Go-Karts at Pole Position Raceway, an 80-foot canyon on the Canyon Climb Adventure and Opti Golf.
Union Station, Washington D.C.
Originally a train station just blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Union Station offers a wide range of shops and a meal voucher program with discounted dining packages to 14 breakfast and over 30 lunch and dinner eateries in the lower-level Stations Food Court.
Fashion Valley Mall, San Diego, California
This beautiful outdoor shopping center has 200 stores and restaurants, an 18-screen movie theater and staff members who will meet your group with a mall directory and special offers.
Grapevine Mills, Grapevine, Texas
This Dallas-area mall contains more than 180 stores, an AMC cinema, Sea Life aquarium and Rainforest Cafe, and offers a coupon book for groups of 10 or more.
By Becky Neems