Tillamook ice cream

Visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory with Kids

Just an hour south of the Cannon Beach and Seaside area is Tillamook Cheese Factory—a veritable paradise filled with dairy goodness. If you’ve been before, but not again after 2018, you’re in for a treat as a recent remodel seriously upped the ante on this place. Everything is bigger and better!

If you haven’t heard of Tillamook, then you’re missing out. The factory produces cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy products that are something special. You may have tried their products from the grocery store, but visiting the factory is a fun way not only to eat all kinds of Tillamook products, but also for kids to learn more about where their food comes from.

Tillamook Cheese Factory
Tillamook Cheese Factory is all new as of 2018 and it’s gorgeous!

Getting There

If you’re driving down from Cannon Beach or Seaside, you’re in for a treat. The one-hour drive is majestic with a couple stellar photo ops and viewpoints along the way. There’s even a tunnel going under a mountain.

You can drive straight down or easily make a half-day or day adventure out of your pilgrimage to Tillamook. Tiny towns like Wheeler and Rockaway Beach are good for lunch stops, and there are a few bonus activities on the way too. Namely, Oregon Coast Rail Riders and the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway.

Tillamook sign
Take photos with the sign (it says Tillamook and not Tillamoo, I promise) and Morning Star (ship that ferried Tillamook cheese up the coast in days gone by).

The Oregon Coast Rail Riders are unique pedal-operated cars that sit right on top of railroad track. There are four riders per car who pedal together on these 1.5-2 hour excursions. It’s great for older kids, but probably not so great for toddlers so I’ll be back later to give it a try. You do have to plan out your arrival time as groups go out together at set times each day. Excursions take you along the coast, as well as past dairy farms and pastures, so it’s the perfect way to warm up to your cheese adventure at Tillamook. Plus, kids will likely get a kick out of pedaling along a railroad track.

The Oregon Coast Scenic Railway operates from May to September, and is just what it sounds like—enjoy a ride in a vintage train along the coast. Trains leave from Wheeler and, just like the Rail Riders, you’ll need to plan in advance for this one.

There are also plenty of places to stop and fish, if that’s your thing. If not, look for little shops selling crabs and oysters and other seafood.

Tillamook cheese samples
Free cheese!

What to do at Tillamook Cheese Factory

First and foremost, if you visit Tillamook, you should eat. When you enter the main building, you’ll find the food hall in and to your right, and there you can choose whether you want a meal (they don’t all feature cheese…but come on!), ice cream, yogurt (you can build your own yogurt parfait), or coffee. The food menu includes pizzas, mac and cheese varieties, sandwiches, yummy appetizers, and more.

Yes, you will likely see lines at the food counters, but they move quickly. These dairy slingers have their act down. There is tons of seating, indoors and out.

Tillamook food hall
Don’t let the lines stop you.

After you eat, take the self-guided tour upstairs. Plaques and displays explain the cheese-making process and windows down to the production floor offer a view of cheese-making in action. The production line isn’t always operating, but it’s still neat to see when it’s not. Most importantly, the cheese samples are located upstairs. There’s no real fanfare about this part. You stand in line and then grab one or all (you should always get all!) of the cheeses available to sample that day.

Then make your way back downstairs and visit the store to buy some cheese to take home with you or back to your hotel. In fact, this is one of our favorite traditions—buying some cheese and making it part of our hotel food for our coastal trips. You’ll also find souvenirs and other merchandise in spades.

Tillamook factory floor
Peep down onto the factory floor.