Fairfield, California, has long been known as being the place to stop halfway on your trip to San Francisco from Sacramento. However, there is a far sweeter reason to pull off. Everyone’s favorite jelly bean company, Jelly Belly, offers free tours of the factory.
Whether you’re a fan of a particular flavor or just love to learn how things are made, this is a great tour for any trip to the greater Bay Area. Best of all, the tour was recently updated to include better visual media and interactive exhibits.
Jelly Belly jelly beans are one of those products that feel like it’s just always been around. The company is actually an American standard, having been around since the late 1800s. Today, they produce 50 unique flavors of jelly beans, as well as a rotating roster of “rookie” flavors.
This household name draws inspiration from all over and frequently partners with other brands to create unique candy flavors. Whether you love their Cocktail Classics or are feeling brave enough for their Harry Potter Bertie Botts flavors, it can feel like anything can be made into a jelly bean.
(Almost) Daily Tours
The tours are offered almost daily, with seasonal and holiday closures to watch out for. In general, the tours can be enjoyed from 9 am to 4 pm; of course, as is usually the case, you’ll want to call ahead and make sure. This is an ideal activity for any occasion, be it a family trip or a weekend outing alone; if nothing else, it’s an indoor activity that doesn’t cost anything.
There is a surprising amount to see and do while touring the visitor center. The attraction is separated into two floors. The self-guided area stretching to about a quarter of a mile of walking. Here, you can see the process of how their famous candies are made. In addition, educational videos and other exhibits.
As is the case with many tours, free samples are given out along the way. Of course, if a handful of candies isn’t enough, you can always stop at the onsite restaurant, the Jelly Belly Café, for burgers, sandwiches, and other food offerings.
Chocolate & Wine Tastings
Unlike other candy tours, there are many things for guests to check out. You may just find yourself spending most, if not all, of your day here. This is a unique attraction destination and one that can offer itself as a memorable daytime date idea. Also, it might even be something fun to do as a local.
One of the unique exhibits is the Chocolate & Wine Experience. Each day, the company teams up with Suisun Valley to offer visitors a taste of California’s famous wine scene. Tastings are offered from 11 am to 4 pm. However, if you are deciding on participating, you’ll want to get there early. This is a first come, first serve attraction, although paid tickets with front-of-the-line access can be purchased as well.
Jelly Belly University
If the free tour doesn’t satiate your thirst for knowledge, or you’re looking for a different experience altogether, there is a premium tour that goes further in-depth. Jelly Belly University is a paid tour that takes visitors directly to the factory floor.
These tours are limited to six people at a time, and tickets are going to run around $50 a piece. But if you’re looking for an intimate tour that reveals more of the company’s details, this is the way to fly. If nothing else, you get to wear a lab coat and safety equipment, which always makes for a cool photo. If this is a tour that interests you, book it early – they release tour lots upwards of two months in advance.
Two Unique Shops
One of my favorite aspects of this attraction is that they offer two different shopping experiences. After the tour, guests will be able to find the more traditional gift shop experience at the Jelly Belly Candy Store, while those looking for something fancier will want to walk over to the Chocolate Shoppe and Fudge Counter.
The Jelly Belly Candy Store is equal parts convenient and fun. Not only will you find a great gift or souvenir to take home, but it’s just a fun place to walk through. The Sample Bar has every flavor available to try, as well as some lesser known and even experimental flavors.
The store isn’t just wall-to-wall jelly beans, either. You can find a variety of different candy products by the company, as well as gift sets, clothing items, and other merchandise choices.
If your sweet tooth favors quality over quantity, then the Chocolate Shoppe and Fudge Counter is for you. This smaller venue is closer to what you’d expect from a gourmet chocolate shop, and many handmade treats are available.
If you’re worried about these being a bunch of fancy jelly beans, fret not. There are many upscale goodies to choose from, and even unique seasonal choices as well. Whether you prefer a decadent truffle, milk chocolate clusters, homemade fudges, and more, they have them all in one glass case.
As you can imagine, this is a popular place to be. The tours usually take off about every 10 minutes, although this could be longer during the busier times of the year. Also, as it is a functioning factory, it’s never guaranteed that all of machines and processes are going to be running.
Weekend tours are available, but they are going to be video-heavy; the factory operates during the week, so the weekend tours aren’t going to have quite as much to experience. Even still, this would be a fun weekend activity.
Two final considerations would be to check out the event calendar before your visit, as well as ensure that you are going to be safe from a food allergen standpoint. Specialty events can impede on when tours can be offered, as well as what can be observed. Food allergies are a concern regarding the prepared foods, especially in the restaurant and chocolate counter.
If you are in the Bay Area and you need a break from cable cars, do yourself a favor and check out Fairfield’s sweetest adventure!