More than 10,000 visitors come to Forest City, Iowa, each year to get the inside story of one of America’s most iconic brands, Winnebago, by taking a free factory tour offered by the builder.
Founded in 1958, “Winnebago” became a household word when the company became the first recreation vehicle manufacturer to build motorhomes in an automotive-style assembly line system. According to a press release, Winnebago Industries Inc. builds its Winnebago, Itasca, and Winnebago Touring Coach motorhome brands in one of the most technologically advanced RV manufacturing facilities in existence today.
“If you haven’t participated in our facilities tour – you are missing out,” said Winnebago Director of Marketing Chad Reece. “The tour not only shows you how our motorhomes are built from start to finish, but also highlights the technology and innovative designs that set our motorhomes apart from the rest.”
The tour starts at the Winnebago Visitors’ Center with a 20-minute video that offers a preview of the manufacturing process. After the video, the tour bus, manufactured by Winnebago, departs for a drive-through tour of the grounds. Tour goers are also able to do walk-in tours of three buildings: the chassis weld facility, where the raw chassis is prepared to become a home on wheels with the front cab and basement storage added; the stitchcraft facility that builds quality chairs, window valances, sofas and other innovative furniture pieces that are only found in our motorhomes; and the main production area named Big Bertha.
Equivalent in size to eight football fields, Big Bertha features three production lines. Visitors will see the magnitude of this building thanks to mezzanines that provide a bird’s eye view.
Before or after the tour, visitors can also visit the Winnebago Museum which is located in the upper level of the Visitors Center. The museum chronicles the company’s 57-year history, as well as the design and construction of the company’s motorhomes.
During the spring and summer months, the Visitors Center also features some of the latest models of the company’s Winnebago, Itasca, and Winnebago Touring Coach motorhomes, as well as Winnebago towables, right off the assembly lines. Visitors can also see one of the first motorhomes built by Winnebago, the classic 1967 Winnebago D22, as well as a 1959 trailer. The Visitors Center is also home to WIT Club, the company’s product owners club and Winnebago Outdoor Store, which offers a variety of Winnebago branded apparel, gifts, and gear.
Tours of Winnebago are free, and all ages are welcome. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The Visitors Center is accessible to those with disabilities, however the factory tour does include three staircases.
Tours, which last approximately two hours, are offered twice daily at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday from April through October, and at 1 p.m. in November. If your group is larger than six, reservations are recommended.