“Follow that Utz truck,” I called to the front of the car. I was an impatient eight year-old, sick of sitting in the car with family and eager to visit a real-live potato chip factory. After a moment’s thought, my mom agreed to abandon the confusing instructions received from a passerby and try it my way. “It’s worth a shot,” she said. After several rights and lefts I spied a great stone building sporting the familiar ‘little Utz girl’ and an outcropping of semis. Sighs of relief spread throughout the car. “Sometimes the solution is driving right in front of you,” my dad said with a chuckle. Utz Potato Chip Factory is a fun place for kids to visit in Pennsylvania.
Information about the Utz Factory Tour in Hanover, Pennsylvania:
Utz Quality Foods, LLC.
900 High Street
Hanover, PA 17331
Entry to the short tour is free during normal business hours.
From Spud to Shelf
This story has been a family joke ever since, and—more importantly—began a family tradition. Thankfully, modern technology (i.e. internet and GPS) makes Utz Potato Chip Factory much easier to find. However, the delight I get from each visit is the same as the day I first stepped into the tour gallery.
At Utz, the self-guided tour looks directly onto the working factory, giving children a bird’s-eye view of how chips are made. Kids see every step of the process, from the potatoes rolling off the truck, to the forklifts taking boxes out of the warehouse. Eleven audio stations explain what is happening to the chips in each area. Each recording activates at the push of a button, giving kids the ability to act as tour guide and letting families the freedom to progress at their own pace.
Looking for more things to do with the family in Pennsylvania? Check out our updated guide to Philly here!
Visitors also receive a complimentary bag of potato chips at the exit. At first, this gesture seems purely complimentary. However, you soon understand that it’s a serious necessity—from the moment you pass through the gallery’s double doors, the smell of potato chips is overpowering. Even the stoutest health nuts find themselves craving America’s most notoriously unhealthy snack food—I firmly believe that the company is forced to provide samples to prevent rioting tourists.
The Chips’ Hometown
The Utz Factory tour is located at the edge of Hanover, Pennsylvania, a quiet little city near the state’s southern border. It is a perfect picture of small town America with its neatly spaced houses, surrounding farmland and bustling Main Street.
To get to Hanover, the easiest way is to fly to Baltimore, about an hour’s drive away. Check Skyscanner for the best deals on flights to the area, or Expedia for car rental rates.
Like much of Pennsylvania, Hanover lies at the center of a strong farming community, making it the perfect place for a homegrown meal. Tuck into some regional comfort food in one of the many family-owned diners, such as Dutch Country Restaurant on Baltimore Street, or grab some street food at the Hanover Farmer’s Market, open every Wednesday June to October from 3:00pm to 6:00pm.
Compared to other parts of Pennsylvania, the city of Hanover is a food industry empire. Along with Utz, the area is home to Hanover Foods canning facility and Snyder’s of Hanover, another factory that offers tours of their pretzel factory. Thirty minute, guided tours run three times a day Tuesday through Thursday, showing visitors how Snyder’s pretzels are made. Like Utz, the tour leads visitors through a windowed gallery that looks directly onto the bustle of the factory (which is significantly bigger than the Utz facility). Though the room doesn’t smell nearly as delectable, visitors witness every part of the pretzel-making process: from dough to packaging. Kids will watch dough plop into pretzel shapes onto the conveyor belt, feel the heat of the massive ovens in the baking room and (of course) nibble a complimentary bag of pretzels at the end of the tour.
Information about the Snyder’s of Hanover Bakery Tour in Pennsylvania:
1350 York Street
Hanover, PA 17331
Tour hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10, 10:30, 11, 11:30, 1, 1:30, and 2 year round.
Call 1-800-233-7125 Ext. 28592 to make a reservation in advance for the tour.
Kids Take Away More Than Empty Calories
Despite Utz’s blatant barrage on healthy eating the tour (and those like it) retains the ability to interest and excite a wide age range. Small children can enjoy watching chips rotate in the frying kettles and waving to friendly employees, while older kids may enjoy the audio tour’s fun facts, such as potatoes turn green when they are sunburned, and the packing machine can fill 80 chip bags per minute.
Over the years, our family has returned with young friends and relatives in tow. Not one of our guests has been disappointed (or left their free sample un-nibbled). Beyond the excitement of going behind the scenes, I think the tour imparts something more. It helps kids to understand the “big picture” of what we eat and to realize that things like potato chips don’t simply grow on trees.
Susan Johnson is a recent graduate, currently residing in Annapolis, MD. Though she has no children of her own, she firmly believes in the educational and experiential value of travel for all ages, as well as its ability to bring people closer together.