A few weeks ago we did a day trip to the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield. The Jelly Belly Factory is the home and headquarters of one of the most famous candy companies in the U.S.: Jelly Belly jelly beans. For the uninitiated, jelly beans are small, bean shaped sugar candies which come in many different colors & flavors. The Jelly Belly Factory is located only about an hour’s drive from San Francisco, in Fairfield, and is a great place for a quick visit, especially on a rainy day. And the best part is, that visiting it is completely free!
JELLY BEANS ARE BORN
The history of jelly beans go all the way back to year 1869 when young Gustav Goelitz opened his first candy store in Illinois. Jelly beans were born in the 1960s when Gustav’s grand kids were testing new candies and flavors. At the same time the famous Candy Corn candies were born which are especially eaten here in the U.S. at Halloween. In 1966 Ronald Reagan, who was the governor of California at the time, tasted their jelly beans and liked them very much. So much in fact, that he wrote a letter and mailed it to the factory, saying that they barely held a meeting without Jelly Bellies offered. Jelly Belly introduced some new flavours like Root beer, Licorice and many others in 1976, and they instantly become a hit. By 1980 they already had 40 official flavours which are all still sold today.
The climax of President Ronald Reagan’s love of Jelly Belly came when he ordered 3.5 tons of candies for his inauguration in 1981. Five years later the company started a major construction project, and built the candy factory in Fairfield; the one that we just visited. At that time the manufacturer was still known as Herman Goelitz Candy Co., but the name was later changed to Jelly Belly Candy Company. They also opened another candy factory to Wisconsin, on the other side of the country.
Today one can find their Jelly Bellies in most any store in the U.S.
THE FACTORY TOUR WITH KIDS
The factory tours are done in both factories; in Fairlfield and in Wisconsin. The Fairfield factory is also the company headquarters. Our visit to the factory was a great experience, and this was my 3rd time there. Right when you walk in, you will see the factory store and a waiting area for the tour. Tours go often, so we didn’t have to wait for long in line. The earlier you get there, the less people waiting and a shorter line.
In the beginning of the tour the guide is there to tell you how it works, and shows you a short video. You will also receive some samples of the candies. Then you are free to walk through the factory at your own pace. The tour starts with a group photo with the Jelly Belly mascot, and the photos can be purchased at the end of the tour. After that you will see what happens in the factory. They will do everything from candy making to coloring and packing them. On the walk you can stop and see videos about how the candy is made or about the history of Jelly Bellies. Or you can read all about it on the wall cards. They have also taken the smallest members of the family into consideration, and there are two sets of windows at different heights…and you can go in with a stroller if needed.
In my opinion the funnest part of the whole tour was the “Jelly Belly Smell Station”. Different jelly beans of course taste and smell differently, and one can challenge oneself here to match the right smell to the right flavor.
At the end of the tour everyone got a small bag of Jelly Bellies and a Bean Boozled box. Bean Boozled was a surprise for us since it was not one of the 40 flavors. There were a set of identical looking candies in the box, but with one a normal flavor and another some yucky flavor. We tried dead fish, tooth paste, dog food and Minion farts. Quite gross! Another similar candy box that they have is with a Harry Potter theme. Enjoy!
LUNCH AT JELLY BELLY STYLE AND THE GIFT SHOP
Since we left home early, we hadn’t had lunch yet. This time we decided to eat at the Jelly Belly Factory, since it was raining and we didn’t want to drive around finding a restaurant…and we were hungry already. I was surprised to see that they had a lot to choose from; everything from salads to sandwiches, soups and burgers. I was debating whether to get a salad or bean shaped pizza, but ended up ordering a burger after all. They had some nice, fresh condiments, so one could fill out the burger oneself, and everything looked fresh and tasty. Nice!
After eating we headed to the gift shop. One has to get some candy after all while in a candy factory! They also have a Sample Bar at the gift shop where you can taste different candy flavors. Everyone gets to choose three flavors they would like to try. I tried some more exotic flavors like Strawberry Daiquiri, Mojito and Peach Bellini. We also got some fresh fudge from the Chocolate Shop. So yummy!
We had a fun day at the Jelly Belly Factory, and the kids especially liked it. This place was actually on our older daughter’s wish list, but we all enjoyed the visit. So if you are visiting San Francisco or the Bay Area, this isn’t a bad way to spend a few hours!