Jelly Belly Factory Tour is a Sweet Treat
Who doesn't like Jelly Belly jelly beans? You probably knew that they come in practically every flavor imaginable, but did you know that they're made just up the road in the Solano County town of Fairfield? Did you know you can tour their factory for free? The Jelly Belly factory offers a fun, tasty, and informative tour daily that's a perfect outing for families and groups.
The Jelly Belly Visitor Center is open every day (except for New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas) from 9 am to 5 pm, and guided tours of the facility operate daily from 9 am to 4 pm. No reservations are required—just show up at the factory at 1 Jelly Belly Lane in Fairfield. Tours leave every 10 to 15 minutes and last about 40 minutes or so. Typically, you'll have to wait for about 15 minutes for a tour, but during really busy periods like holidays, spring break, and Christmas vacation, you can expect to wait for an hour or more.
When it's your time to go, you'll be handed a paper Jelly Belly cap (the wearing of which is mandatory, unless you brought your own cap or hair net) and your group will move upstairs to start the tour. No photos are allowed in the factory, but along the way you'll see just about every part of the plant, including the candy kitchen, the packing and shipping areas, and the place where they coat and polish the jelly beans as a final step in their manufacture. My kids were amazed by all the giant bags of sugar stacked on the factory floor. ("You mean they use all of that?!")
You'll also see some pretty amazing art made entirely from Jelly Belly jelly beans, including numerous portraits of Ronald Reagan (a noted Jelly Belly devotee), as well as John Wayne, Martin Luther King Jr., and other notables, and view informative videos about the history of the company and how jelly beans are made.
As an added bonus, your guide will periodically hand out jelly bean samples during the course of the tour. Note that on holidays and weekends the factory floor is quiet, as the workers have the day off. The tour is no less fun and interesting. I highly recommend trying to visit during the week when the workers are on the floor—it's much more exciting!
At the end of the tour everyone is given a free two-ounce bag of jelly beans, which is a nice touch. There's also a sample bar on the premises where you can taste some of the most popular flavors of Jelly Belly. You can even—if you dare—sample "BeanBoozled" flavors that look like popular Jelly Belly flavors but are in fact disgusting flavors like pencil shavings, barf, canned dog food, toothpaste, and worse. Needless to say, there's a sizeable gift shop selling just about every Jelly Belly product imaginable, as well as other candy creations made on site.
If you're hungry, the factory has an on-site Jelly Belly Café, a cafeteria offering treats such as jelly bean-shaped burgers and pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and more. It's located at the rear of the visitor center. The food's nothing to write home about, but it's convenient and fast, and it's a life-saver when all of a sudden it's lunchtime and you've got cranky and hungry little kids in tow.
Jelly Belly's free tour is a must-do outing for anyone in the Bay Area. The staff is friendly and informative, the place is clean and inviting, and you get free candy. How can it get any better? Kids of course will be entranced by the whole experience. It's kind of like getting the golden ticket to Wonka's factory, only without all those naughty children to get in the way of the fun. And no Oompa Loompas, of course.
If You Go
To get there, take Highway 101 to Highway 37 east, then pick up Interstate 80 east in Vallejo. Follow I-80 to Fairfield, then take the Highway 12 exit. Follow Highway 12 for a short distance and take the Chadbourne Road exit. Turn right onto Chadbourne Road, then left onto Courage Drive, left again on North Watney Way, then left onto Jelly Belly Lane. The factory is located at 1 Jelly Belly Lane (you can't miss it).
The parking area for the Jelly Belly factory and visitor center is located at the end of the road. Right nearby is the Anheuser-Busch brewery, which offers tours of another kind, but maybe that's the subject for a different article… It's about a 40-minute drive from central Marin, and it's a handy stop on the way to or from the Sierras or the Sacramento area.
The Jelly Belly Factory is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. It's closed New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Tours run from opening until 4 pm. For more information on the Jelly Belly factory tour, visit www.jellybelly.com or call 1 (800) 9-JELLYBEAN.