I’ve lived in San Antonio for five years now, and just recently learned that the SAS Shoe Factory does free tours every Monday through Thursday. I’m a fan of tours, free, and new experiences, so within 24 hours of hearing of the tours, I had my kids and me booked on the the next available tour.
My 11-year-old daughter was a little (okay, a lot) skeptical when I excitedly told her I was taking them to tour a shoe factory. There was some side-eye. My eight-year-old son, always game for anything, simply said “Cool. Maybe they’ll let me be a worker.”
We made the trek from the suburbs to the SAS Factory Store tour on a sunny Tuesday in October during Fall Break. The store was pretty quiet when we got there, and my kids loved checking out the toys and books as we waited for the tour. I tried on a few pairs of shoes and again acknowledged that I have securely entered the “sensible shoe” portion of my life.
The store is large, quirky, and quaint, and I found myself explaining the old-fashioned ads and slogans. There is a large antique Ex-Lax ad in the queuing area for the tour, and it’s always a good time to explain laxatives to your children in front of complete strangers. It’s especially delightful trying to get your eight-year-old to quit laughing at the word “constipated.”
Our tour started, mercifully cutting short our ExLax discussion, and we boarded a small shuttle bus. No cameras are permitted on the tour, thus I have no tour pictures to share. There are two factories, and the tour guides (who also work in the Factory Store) are longtime SAS employees who great each worker by name throughout the tour. The tour was incredibly interesting and both my kids were thoroughly engaged. The whole thing took about an hour, and in that time you essentially watch a piece of leather be turned into a shoe. The tour takes you through several stations; at most stations, a SAS employee pauses their work to allow the tour group to see and touch their in-progress work.
My daughter, who is learning to sew, was impressed with the heavy duty sewing machines and the skilled hands of the employees who were hand stitching. My son loved the hydraulic press leather cutters and the shoe-sole-gluing station. In my corporate world life several years ago, I worked closely with manufacturing teams and sites, and I didn’t realize how much I missed the hustle and efficiency of a well-organized factory until we walked into the SAS building.
I’m proud to say that my “let’s tour a shoe factory” enthusiasm was merited. Both my kids want to go back and take the tour next time we have visitors in town. We finished up the tour with some cheap refreshments.
I can’t think of anywhere else in San Antonio where you can take a tour and get snacks and drinks for three for the whopping price of $0.35.
For more information, visit the SAS Factory Store website.
If you want to visit more classic San Antonio sites before or after your SAS tour, check out Ashley’s post, Five No-Fail Midtown and Downtown San Antonio Excursions with Kids.