Jelly beans that taste remarkably like buttered popcorn, cotton candy, toasted marshmallow, and wild blackberries are irresistible to the kiddos. As you take turns selecting colorful jelly beans from the pile and guessing their flavors, it may be hard to resist fighting your four-year-old for the entire bag. We’re lucky to live so close to the Fairfield factory where these distinctive morsels are made from scratch. Why not make a trip out of it, learn why it takes up to 20 days to make a single yummy bean, and stock up on a few bags on your way out?
Getting there: Located near Highway 12 in Fairfield, the Jelly Belly Factory is about an hour’s drive from most Bay Area locations. You’ll be traveling the I-80, so beware of heavy traffic during commuting hours.
When to go: Free factory tours are available daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, except on major holidays. On weekends, the candy machines won’t be in operation – something to keep in mind if you want to catch the candy-making in action.
What to see: The Jelly Belly Factory is a family-friendly tourist spot. There’s colorful art and jelly bean paraphernalia throughout the facility. On your free, 40-minute tour, the kids will don paper hats and get the opportunity to watch how the jelly beans are made, from the creation of their gooey centers to packaging. Afterwards, guests receive a small sample bag of jelly beans, and if that isn’t enough, you may taste any of the 50 jelly bean flavors that Jelly Belly makes at the Sampling Bar. There’s also more than just jelly beans to nibble – candy at the factory includes everything from chocolate-covered treats to jellies of every kind, available for purchase at the gift shop.
Possible lunch spots: There’s pizza and burgers – shaped like jelly beans – at the Visitor Center Café. Outdoor seating and picnic tables are available to get the most of your stretch break. There’s also a Java Bar for those much-needed caffeine breaks or sugar rushes, and an ice cream counter for dessert.
What to bring: Walking shoes and a stroller for the little one (no stroller rentals at the factory).
Need to know: The Jelly Belly Factory performs yearly maintenance for a few weeks during the summer. Be sure to check the website for those dates. As with the weekends, candy production will stop – but you may still take the tour and watch how it all happens through video presentations. Expect 10-15 minutes wait times, except for holidays and the summer season, when this stretches to about an hour.
— Renee Macalino Rutledge
photos courtesy of dospaz and Jelly Belly