Blue Bell Creameries, Brenham

In an era when “manufacturing” and “outsourcing” are nearly synonymous, approximately 900,000 Texans— a number that has grown by almost 10 percent in the past five years—are still busy constructing everything from computers to chemicals to corn chips. Texas has the most factory jobs outside of California, and it’s the largest exporter in the union, having sent more than $261 billion worth of manufactured products beyond our borders in 2013. So quick, before the goods get away, take the kids (or just yourself) on a factory tour or two to see how some of this stuff gets made. Of course, some homegrown products, like Blue Bell Ice Cream, are so splendid we try to keep all of them in Texas. It takes a full day for the Little Creamery in Brenham to transform milk, cream, sugar, and flavoring into a batch of Homemade Vanilla or Cookies ’n Cream. Luckily, visitors can get the inside scoop in half an hour, leaving plenty of time for product testing. An elevated walkway gives guests a bird’s-eye view of the machine that fills the spinning half-gallons. Flipped upside down to freeze the lids to the cartons, the finished products ride a conveyor belt into a blast freezer to firm up for five to seven hours. You’ll have your own chance to chill out in the minus-18-degree air of a walk-through freezer before choosing which flavor to sample in the ice cream parlor. 1101 South Blue Bell Rd, 800-327-8135,

SAS Shoes, San Antonio

In Shoemakers has been handcrafting footwear with supportive insoles for almost forty years, and many of its nimble-fingered employees have been operating their machines for at least half that time. Guests peek at each step of the process—cutting the leather, stitching, forming the heel, ironing, attaching the soles, checking for quality, and packing. If you can’t afford new shoes, the old-timey factory store sells popcorn for a nickel. 101 New Laredo Hwy, 210-921-8103,

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Fort Worth

More than half of America’s money is made in Fort Worth, where the only paper currency plant outside D.C. will print $135.5 billion this year. Sheets of a cotton-linen blend pass through complex printer processes before being cut, stacked, and shrink-wrapped into hefty cubes; 18.3 million notes are produced daily in all seven denominations—including, in 2015, the $2 bill. Sadly, there are no free samples. 9000 Blue Mound Rd, 866-865-1194, 

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, San Antonio

Visitors to the plant, which employs nearly six thousand Texans (including on-site parts manufacturers), witness trucks being built as they glide from one station to the next, with a giant robot nicknamed Godzilla effortlessly trans​ferring them between conveyor belts. Every 62 seconds an engine turns for the first time, and a Tacoma or Tundra truck is driven off the line. 1 Lone Star Pass, 210-263-4002, 

Nokona, Nocona

Though originally named after its home city, Nokona couldn’t trademark the name, so it changed the c to a k in the thirties. Decades later, the two hundred baseball and softball gloves Nokona produces every day are still cut, stitched, and laced mostly by hand. At the factory you can buy one that’s hot off the press. Note to southpaws: ask about the techniques used to make one out of every dozen gloves for lefties. 105 Clay, 940-825-3327,