The Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, California is the rare attraction that appeals to all ages and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The Jelly Belly Factory is just a day-trip distance from Sacramento or San Francisco. It was named one of best factory tours for kids by Family Fun Magazine in 2014. This tour has long been a favorite outing for my family. I have taken my children and now my grandchildren on this tour and it never fails to enchant them. It’s cool and it’s free.
The daily free tours begin in the visitors’ center. While standing in line the visitors’ center always gives me the feel of a small theme park, with lots of historic references and memorabilia. Recently three of my three grandchildren – Zare, Elyza, and 2-year-old Logan – and I joined a group of 40 visitors, donned our paper hats, and followed our tour guide, Sam on a magical tour of the factory.
The first thing we did was have our photo taken with the plushy jelly bean mascot. Then we began our tour of the factory with Sam leading the way, teaching us about steam baths, sugar showers and lots of time for the jelly beans rest; the process sounds more like a spa than a factory.
On the 40-minute tour, the guide shares the secret of how the 50 official flavors of jelly beans are made. Along the way we get to sample the Jelly Bellies in the various stages of production–and eat as many jellies as would fit in our bellies. Best of all: At the end of the tour, we get a bag of Jelly Bellys to take home.
The free daily tours take visitors along suspended walkways over the rooms where the candy is manufactured, stopping from time to time to watch the manufacturing process (and to taste the candy at the various stages.) Elevated walkways provide excellent views of specialized machinery. Built with observers in mind, the walkways have floor-length windows just for the kids to look down at the machinery. Zare was fascinated with the robots used in the packaging department, especially when during our tour a large tray of beans was spilled. Humans rushed in to do the cleanup.
The Jelly Belly factory produces more than beans. We discovered more than 100 confections ranging from chocolate-covered anything to candies for every major season. At the end of the tour, each person is also given a small variety bag of Jelly Belly beans, plus ample opportunity to browse the gift shop.
My favorite? Belly Flops! These rejects are irregular jelly beans in peculiar shapes, sizes, and colors, sold in 2-pound bags for a reasonable price. They make great gifts. Take it from someone who buys them every time I go—they taste just as good as the beautiful ones, and they seem to vanish just as fast.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Tours are available weekdays and weekends except major holidays. To see the plant in action, go on a weekday. It doesn’t operate on the weekends. The tour still runs and videos tell the story.
- Plenty of free parking includes RV spaces; the factory is only five minutes from I-80.
- Tours go every 15 minutes and last 40 – 45 minutes. Depending on the day and time you go, the wait for the tour can range from five minutes to an hour.
- You’re given a paper hat to wear and keep, and special samples along the tour. Take little children because there’s a lot to look at and viewing matches their eye-level.
- The tour is handicap accessible and stroller-friendly.
- The café seemed pricey to me but the foods are kid-friendly — think bean-shaped hamburgers and bean-shaped pizza.
From all-you-can-eat free jelly beans to the very cool Belly Flops sold in the gift shop, there’s plenty of sugar and fun for everyone at a Jelly Belly Factory Tour.