What to Expect at the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Being native to Indiana, I'm no stranger to agritourism in the dairy industry, so when I relocated to Oregon I was eager to visit the Tillamook Creamery.
Sheradan Hill

I'd heard about the creamery for months from Tyler (especially about the white cheddar cheese curds) and I was excited to experience firsthand what a visit to Tillamook was like. I knew it wouldn't be like Fair Oaks or Kelsay Farms back home; unfortunately, there wouldn't be dairy cattle, but there would be cheesemaking and plenty of ice cream for sale. Plus, not long before moving to Oregon, Tillamook dairy products became available at my local Kroger store! Eating Tillamook cheese is almost a right of passage to become an Oregonian, so it felt wrong not to have my first taste directly from the source (but I definitely got a carton of ice cream in Indiana, first).

I was slightly surprised when we arrived. The parking lots were completely full, so we had to park in overflow parking. To be fair, it was the weekend after the 4th of July, so crowds were likely heavier than usual. Our walk across the street and to the main area wasn't far and luckily there was a very pedestrian-friendly crosswalk available.

When we got to the visitor's building, it seemed smaller than I expected and focused more on retail than education, but once we got further through the double doors, I noticed a timeline to my immediate left taking me through the history of the company and the farmers who still own it. I was intrigued by the Morning Star and the unfolding of a company name so well-known today. The next room we entered offered an interactive exhibit showcasing the top milking breeds, a calf hutch with the chance to practice bottle feeding, a rotary brush displaying a common tool for environment enrichment and finally a place for people to attach a milking machine to plastic udders - this part was extremely kid-friendly, but still fun for Tyler and I, as we will always be kids at heart and love all things cows!

The second level of the building provides a self-guided tour of the factory itself. We were too impatient to fight the large crowd and walk the perimeter like you're supposed to, but we were still able to see the employees and machinery working below from the glass-windowed balcony. We could watch as they made delicious Tillamook cheese products.

Unfortunately, factory floor tours are no longer offered, but I think the self-guided viewing does a great job of showcasing the process while simultaneously emphasizing food safety. And while I prefer the production side of agritourism, I genuinely appreciated the way the visitor's facilities helped visitors explore animal production, food processing and the farming lifestyle.

The educational aspect of our trip was great, but I was ready to meander around the gift shop and eat some ice cream. Tyler bee-lined it to the refrigerated section for cheese curds, while I fell in love with a blush pink cropped sweater with a geometric cow print on the front – literally, it matches my personal brand and I had to have it! After our initial purchases, we went back outside to stand in line for ice cream (note there are also indoor options for purchasing ice cream, food and beverages). I settled on a mix of dark chocolate cherry and "udderly" chocolate. It was definitely the perfect way to end our trip to the creamery, and on the drive along the Oregon coast, we continued to enjoy the amazing taste of Tillamook cheese curds.

Overall, our visit to the Tillamook factory and creamery was enjoyable but crowded. I appreciated the amount of information the exhibits provided; the layout is perfect for having a quick visit or an extended look around. I would absolutely recommend adding this stop to your itinerary if you are planning a trip to the area, even if it's just for a bite of ice cream!

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Have you been to Tillamook or planning a trip? Let me know what you look forward to the most!


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