FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Tillamook Cheese Factory Tour

Aug 11, 2018

Tillamook Cheese Factory visitor center entrance

During our recent trip to the Oregon Coast, we joined some of the one million people who tour the Tillamook Cheese Factory each year. If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, you probably grew up eating Tillamook grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream; the farmer-owned co-op has been producing dairy products, starting with cheddar cheese, since 1909. Plentiful rain and a temperate coastal climate provide the perfect growing conditions for plenty of sweet green grass . . . ideal for dairy cattle. Today Tillamook County boasts more cows than people, with more than 90 farm families here (some are fourth-generation).

Long before the co-op officially organized, local dairymen banded together to build a schooner in 1855 (the Morning Star is included in the Tillamook logo) to carry their milk to market in Portland, and in 1894 they hired a master cheesemaker to develop a cheddar cheese recipe still used today. More than 100 years later, the Tillamook factory produces 170,000 pounds of cheese and 18,000 gallons of ice cream per day (operating around the clock), along with butter, sour cream and yogurt. A sister plant in Eastern Oregon, opened in 2001, focuses solely on cheesemaking, producing 300,000 pounds of cheese a day. That’s a lot of cheese!

This June a brand-new visitor center opened, and we arrived on a sparkling day to check out the airy; bright; wood, glass and steel structure, filled with natural light. Tillamook Cheese Factory    Gotta love the front entrance! Tillamook Cheese Factory   It features a self-guided tour with plenty of interactive exhibits (see how fast you can hook up a [fake] cow to a milking machine!) filled with fascinating information about raising dairy cows and producing dairy products. The majority of the tour sits above the large production floor, and large windows allow guests to peer down onto various aspects of turning milk into cheese Tillamook Cheese Factory   and then observe the cutting and packaging of the final product. Tillamook Cheese Factory   Tillamook Cheese Factory






The reward at the end of the tour comes in getting to sample a variety of the cheeses Tillamook produces,  Tillamook Cheese Factory            and then visitors are funneled downstairs to the large store. Tillamook Cheese Factory     Tillamook Cheese Factory

Here one can buy not only regular and smoked cheddars, jacks and Swiss in various-sized loafs and wedges but also special aged, vintage, white, extra-sharp cheddars. We succumbed and bought a “vertical” assortment dating back to 2013, planning to enjoy them with wine and friends this fall. Of course, Tillamook’s other products are available, along with sauces, crackers, breads, spreads and anything else you might serve with cheese (beverages, alcoholic and otherwise, too). Souvenirs from magnets to jackets abound, right alongside fancy cookware and cookbooks.

We wrapped up our visit with a stop at the enormous Creamery Café, with an ice cream counter stretching dozens of feet and offering an assortment of regularly available flavors (Tillamook Mudslide is my favorite) to “special batch” options (son-in-law Josh tried the Pendleton Whisky & Maple frozen custard; coffee addicts might go for Stumptown Cold Brew Coffee Extra Creamy ice cream). The ice cream counter is one part of the Food Hall, Tillamook Cheese Factory  offering large, picnic-style wooden tables and benches on an outside porch and a vast indoor space enclosed by window walls for those less-pleasant days. One can order breakfast items up to 10 a.m. and wood-fired pizzas, grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, mac ‘n’ cheese, local seafood, fresh-baked pastries, salads and other fare all day. Local brews and other beverages round out the offerings, so it is possible to enjoy a healthy, hearty meal here as well. But if you’re like me, you’ll start with dessert first!

— Patty Vanikiotis, associate editor/copy editor


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