Sticker heaven

On the tour.

On the tour.

My kids, like just about every kids under the age of 6 (or, maybe even 10), REALLY like stickers. They’ll stick the things just about anywhere. On the inside of the backseat windows in my truck. On our furniture. On each other. On me.

Sometimes, if L and R are feeling particularly creative, they’ll use the stickers as characters in make-believe worlds, and move the stickers from spot to spot as if they were alive.

It’s cool to watch. It’s even cooler to encourage. That’s why I’ve been jonesing to visit Mrs. Grossman’s.

Mrs. Grossman’s, as in, the last remaining sticker factory here in the U.S. The place is located in Petaluma, California, (next to Camelbak world headquarters and) just about an hour from our front door. And they host four tours every day between Monday and Thursday. So, last week, on a day when R didn’t have preschool, I took her. And we loved it.

The $7 tour ran about 45 minutes. I give a light-hearted narrative rundown of the experience in my latest family travel column for the San Francisco Chronicle (the story will be published in Thursday’s paper), and you can read more about it there. The highlights:

  • A 5-minute introductory video in which we learned the staggering fact that, if all of the equipment in the factory were operational at once, Mrs. Grossman’s could churn out 5 million stickers a day.
  • A detailed explanation of how stickers are cut, painted, and packaged.
  • A stroll down an entire aisle of giant rolls of stickers. In a matter of minutes, we spotted everything from horses to wizards to sparkly frogs and princesses. R was in her glory, pawing at each of the rolls like a cat might paw at a hair tie.
  • A free, sticker-based arts-and-crafts project at the end of the tour.

Along the way, our tour guide gave us free stickers at each of six stops. She also pointed out some of the business-to-business work Mrs. Grossman’s does, noting that a significant percentage of the factory’s work at this time of year comprises labels for local wineries. (We saw lots of labels for Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in Geyserville, California.)

When our tour was over, when R had had enough of her arts-and-crafts project, we perused the modest on-site store and bought a bunch of other stickers to take home for L (and just to add to the stash). Part of this take: Two sealed (and $3.99) “Mystery Boxes” that comprised $20 worth of stickers apiece.

We took the tour more than a week ago and R still talks about it every day. This morning, as she was playing with a sheet of hibiscus stickers we bought that day, she asked if we could go back.

Based upon this assessment alone, I’d rate Mrs. Grossman’s as one of the greatest kid-oriented tours in the entire Bay Area. Throw in easy parking, friendly tour guides, all those free stickers, and proximity to an In-N-Out Burger restaurant for post-tour lunch, and the tour is a perfect activity around which to build an afternoon. Maybe we’ll even see you there.

What are some of the best kid-friendly tours you’ve encountered in your travels?

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