Photograph by Damian Dovarganes, AP
Supreme Court of the United States
Watch an oral argument before the highest court in the land by lining up early for first-come, first-seated access to Supreme Court sessions. The courtroom and building are also open to self-guided tours (when court is adjourned), and expert courtroom lecturers explain the judiciary, the court's history, and the courtroom's architecture.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab
The famed NASA facility at the California Institute of Technology offers “out of this world” tours, though advance reservations are required. Visitors get an overview of JPL's wide mission and many accomplishments and can visit the Space Flight Operations Facility as well as the Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
Celebrate suds at America's oldest brewery, home to Yuengling lager and a handful of other styles. See how the beers are made and hear the history that allowed this family-operated brewery to survive Prohibition and become one of the largest American-owned brewers. For those in the sunny south, Yuengling's new brewery in Tampa, Florida, also offers free tours.
The Denver Mint
If the penny in your pocket has a “D” under the date it's one of billions of coins produced at the United States Mint in Denver. Tour the mint to watch the incredible process of countless coins being struck and explore the facility's long history. Reservations are required and can be made online. Philadelphia's mint also offers tours.
John Deere Factory Tours
East Moline, Illinois, and Waterloo, Iowa
See skilled workers build the machinery that has powered American farming for 175 years by touring a John Deere factory. The Harvester Works is in East Moline, Illinois, while both the Tractor Works and Engine Works are located in Waterloo, Iowa. The world headquarters in Moline, Illinois, also features a display floor filled with historic and modern John Deere machines.
Napa Valley, California
It's easy to spend money in California's wine country—but dozens of vineyards across the state still offer free tours and/or tastings. CaliforniaWineryAdvisor.com, an independent winery guide, makes it easy to explore them with their regional Taste for Free Wine Maps.
Kohler Factory Tours
See the story of that most humble but essential home fixture—the toilet. Kohler tours reveal how liquid clay is turned into toilets and sinks at this Wisconsin facility. You'll be surprised at how much of the process still involves expert hand-shaping, and marvel as it's carried through glazing and baking steps to the final flush tests.
U.S. Olympic Training Center
Chula Vista, California
This sunny San Diego County facility is the first U.S. Olympic Committee training center to be planned, constructed, and dedicated to the development of American Olympians. Free tours of the complex reveal where bobsledders and biathletes, swimmers, runners, jumpers, and many more train to become the best in the world. You can't join them in the pool or on the track, but you can climb atop the medal platform and dream.
Hershey's Great American Chocolate Tour
Willa Wonka, eat your heart out—no “golden ticket” is required for the free chocoholic tour that takes visitors from a simulated tropical rainforest, home of the cocoa bean, through a chocolate factory that makes them into milk chocolate. You won't be sorry when it ends—that's when the free samples arrive.
Harley-Davidson Factory Tours
Looking for a good Harley ride destination? Why not road-trip to one of four factories where the legendary bikes are built—in York, Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Missouri; Tomahawk, Wisconsin; or Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. The free tours show you what it takes to build a legend, but beware—they also might convince you that you need a Harley.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.