While touring in the Southeast, groups can connect with a number of iconic brands, through visitor centers, experiences and museums dedicated to sharing their stories.
World of Coca-Cola
For over 25 years, the World of Coca-Cola has been a part of the Atlanta community to honor and share the iconic beverage’s history. First located at Underground Atlanta, World of Coca-Cola moved to the city’s downtown at Pemberton Place, named for the brand’s inventor, in 2007.
Visitors walk through The Loft, a sort of museum of nearly 200 Coca-Cola artifacts from over the last 125 years before going into the Coca-Cola Theater to see the brand film Moments of Happiness, though the theater is temporarily closed. Next, guests enter the Vault of the Secret Formula, an immersive multimedia experience that brings them close to where the brand’s secret recipe is held. At the Milestones of Refreshment, guests walk through the brand’s history before taking an up-close look into the bottling process at Bottle Works. Before visitors leave, they meet the Coca-Cola Polar Bear and take photos with the brand’s beloved character.
Jack Daniel Distillery
Experience Lynchburg by visiting the landmark Jack Daniel Distillery. The folks at Jack Daniel aim to share the whole town in addition to their whiskey, pointing guests to the Lynchburg Hardware General Store, which has the brand’s memorabilia and merchandise, and Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and Restaurant for meals.
“[We] think of the experience as welcoming guests into our home,” said Erik Brown, director of Jack Daniel’s Homeplace. “These grounds and this place are so special. There are a million different distilleries, but when you come here, you can just fall in love.”
Brown credits the “wow” factor to seeing where all of the brand’s whiskey has been made since 1866. The process has remained consistent, and he said no matter the tour or guide telling the brand’s history and process, passion for Jack Daniel’s comes through.
Tabasco Brand Factory Tour & Museum
Avery Island, Louisiana
Walk through the history of the world-famous Tabasco Brand hot sauce on Avery Island, where it was invented by the McIlhenny family, and where they continue to make it five generations later.
Tours are self-guided, so visitors can go at their own pace learning about the hot sauce’s history on the Brand Factory Tour & Museum. Guests can also walk through the Jungle Gardens — 170 acres of greenery in the bayou — or eat at the TABASCO® Restaurant 1868! —which serves genuine Cajun dishes and Southern food that features TABASCO.
The site also includes the Pepper Greenhouse, Barrel Warehouse, Avery Island Conservation, Salt Mine diorama and TABASCO Country Store.
Chestnut Hill, Tennessee
Bush’s Beans’ headquarters are in the picturesque foothills of the Smoky Mountains, where the company has a museum that details the 110-year journey of the bean brand.
“The museum is an opportunity to learn about the company history and how it evolved from a small tomato cannery to a national brand known for its famous baked bean recipe … and for spokesdog, Duke, who tries to ‘spill the beans’ on the Secret Family Recipe,” said Susan Merrell, store manager at Bush’s Visitor Center. “Get a behind-the-scenes tour of how our products are processed and shipped to your local grocer.”
The Visitor Center includes the General Store, which has the complete lineup of Bush’s products, including regional items visitors may not have seen, as well as housewares, vintage items and merchandise. The center also includes Bush’s Family Café, with specialty, home-cooked meals like the infamous pinto bean pie, a visitor favorite. The museum re-opened in June after a renovation.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
Learn about the bat that baseball legends like Babe Ruth and Roberto Clemente used at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
In the production factory, visitors can walk through the process of making the bat, seeing the wood transformed into its iconic shape. Visitors will also view the production of the fan-favorite mini bats, getting to keep one at the end as a souvenir.
In the brand’s museum, there are galleries of historic baseball memorabilia and interactive exhibits. Outside is the Big Bat, the world’s largest bat at 68,000 pounds and towering 120 feet in the air, made to replicate Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger. Along with the Big Bat, the museum has the Big Glove, a baseball glove sculpture made of Kentucky limestone that weighs 17 tons. The Great Wall features legendary players’ signatures burned into wood, and the Bat Vault features 3,000 unique bats.
Article by Kristen Nichols
Main photo: Vintage vending machines, World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, Georgia; credit: Coca-Cola Company