Bureau of Engraving and Printing – Western Currency Facility
9000 Blue Mound Rd., Fort Worth
Hours: The Tour and Visitor Center is open 8:30am–5:30pm Tuesday–Friday. Last tour at 4:30pm.
Once your kids learn to count, the door is opened to teach them even greater lessons about basic money principles that will (hopefully) stick with them for the rest of their lives: the value of a hard-earned dollar and how to budget for what you need and for what you want. (Cue their negotiations for a higher allowance.)
However, with drive-thru ATMs and debit cards, the more tangible aspects of money management can be difficult to instill. So check out our guide to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing—Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth where you’ll find that creating the money itself is part technology, part history and part biology. The visitor center is open year-round, and for a special family-fun trip that fits the bill, don’t miss the Employee Craft Demonstrations when kids can experience the process for themselves and even make their own money. The demonstrations are during Fort Worth school district spring break and the last full weeks in June and July. Go to the special events page for the Western Currency Facility for more information.
Employee Craft Demonstrations Activities
See the new hue for the new era
The latest example of how currency stays current and ahead of counterfeiting is the redesigned $100 bill, which entered circulation on October 8, 2013. You can see it on display during the Employee Craft Demonstrations. Get a close look at the most notable of the new features—the orange color, the bell in the inkwell, the 3D security ribbon—and touch a few of the working plates used to make the new bill. If you come across a $100 bill months from now, look for “FW” in the corner and you’ll know it was printed here.
Meet the professionals at work
Do you know whose face is on the $10,000 bill? (Did you know the $10,000 bill exists?) You’ll discover even more fun facts about money and learn exactly what the printers and engravers at the facility do. They’ll have booths set out in the aisles of the two-story center to show you all about offset, intaglio and overprinting. There’s also a working Spider Press circa 1910 and you can get a closer look at the $2 note.
Make your own money at the Kid$ Corral
During the Employee Craft Demonstrations, kids can create their own dollar bill at the Kid$ Corral, by far the younger crowd’s favorite activity. Have a seat at one of the craft tables and you’ll get a design packet to begin. Pick up the sheet of tracing paper and draw your own design or trace stars, longhorns and other images to create a unique design. Use the stylus (it’s sharp so the activity is recommended for kids 8 and older) to engrave the acrylic plate and then take the plate to the artisan at the spider press. Choose your ink color and voilà! You have your very own bill.
What you can do anytime
Follow the paper trail
Your first stop should be the self-guided tour of the production floor. The elevated hallways with glass windows give you a full view of the high-tech equipment and workers down below. The Fort Worth facility is one of only two in the U.S.—the other is in Washington, D.C. Five billion notes per year are produced at the 100-acre facility and shipped overseas and to the U.S.’s 12 Federal Reserve Banks. One of the most impressive stops along the way is the mechanical “eye,” which compares each bill to a perfect image and rejects imperfect sheets.
For a clearer understanding of the process, get a quick overview via the 15-minute video in the theater before the tour. To keep the kids involved, grab an audio tour device or a treasure hunt sheet with different versions according to age level.
Take note of the details
For more family fun, check out the interactive exhibits on the second floor. You can assemble a oversized puzzle of the $1 bill, light up a bill’s security strip and embedded watermark with the touch of a button and see the three types of printing by viewing bills through a magnifying glass that moves up and down. Still not clear on what offset, intaglio and overprinting are? Take a look at the giant glass version of a $20 bill to see 3D-type images light up.
Mind your manners
At this government-run facility, money is tight and so is security. Police officers are walking around everywhere so remind the kids to be on their best behavior. When you arrive, park at the visitors’ lot to go through security and take the shuttle to the visitor center. You’ll have to leave your electronics (cellphones, smartwatches, cameras, iPods) in the car. The shuttle and the entire visitor center is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
Published July 2013. Updated January 2020.