Factory tours are always a ton of fun for the whole family. Watching all the parts (or ingredients) come together on conveyor belts and in machines to become the every day items we see in stores is always fascinating. With all those robotic arms lifting things, forklifts carrying boxes, conveyor belts conveying items around the factory floor, even the odd person or two, factory tours are full of fun sights and sounds. Sometimes even sweet smells! When it comes to sweet, factory tours don't come any sweeter than the Jelly Belly factory tour.
A visit to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield has long been a popular outing for Bay Area families. I mean, who wouldn't want to see how the world's favorite jelly beans are made? Visitors to the Jelly Belly factory are in for a treat with free tastings, a store filled with every jelly bean flavor you could possibly imagine (and some you couldn't even imagine – Fart or Stinky Socks, anyone?), jelly bean art on display, a cafe with jelly bean shaped burgers and pizzas, interactive games, and, of course, the factory tour.
Recently, a visit to the Jelly Belly Factory has become that little bit sweeter. In the past, visitors wanting to see jelly beans and other sweet treats being made took part in guided tours above the factory floor. While the tours were very informative there was a lot of waiting around, which as parents with young kids, we know can be a little hard at times.
What to expect at the Jelly Belly factory
Tours of the Jelly Belly factory are now self guided, which means that visitors can move through at their own pace. If your kids take a liking to particular robotic arm lifting trays of jelly beans, you can now stop and watch it for a little bit longer. Kids not so fussed about watching boxes of jelly beans being packed? You can move on to the next stop.
Another change to the Jelly Belly factory tour is that photography of the factory floor is now allowed. All those trays of colorful jelly beans make for a perfect selfie backdrop! While photography is now allowed, flash photography is still a no-no, so make sure to keep your camera's flash turned off.
Taking part in a tour of the Jelly Belly factory begins in much the same way it has in the past. Visitors still line up to join the tour, and depending on how busy it is that day, this may take a little while. We were lucky to only have a 10 minute wait the day of our visit. If you happen to visit on a busy day and have more than one adult in your group, it may be a good idea to let the kids check out the huge store or visit the tasting counter while one adult waits in the line. Upon reaching the front of the line each visitor will be given a Jelly Belly paper hat. These hats are adjustable to fit babies through to adults and must be worn throughout the tour at all times. Visitors are then taken upstairs in a group to begin the tour with a brief introductory video. Once the video has finished the doors are opened and visitors are left to tour the factory at their own pace.
The 1/4 mile factory tour takes place in enclosed corridors above the factory floor. The corridor walls have windows the whole way along the, with lower windows perfect for toddlers at intervals. The tour leads visitors through pretty much every section of the factory. You can see the whole process of jelly bean making starting with the raw ingredients and going through all the various steps such as polishing in what look like large cement mixers, drying in racks, sorting, packaging and being prepared to be shipped all over the world. There are robotic machines and conveyor belts throughout the factory, but there are also quite a large number of people involved in every step of the process, particularly in quality control. Every jelly bean is tested by machines and eagle eyed inspectors to make sure it's just right. Any jelly beans that don't make the cut can be bought by the bag in the factory store as Belly Flops!
Throughout the factory tour and the visitor center, large portraits of famous people can be seen on display. Upon closer inspection visitors will see that these portraits are in fact made from thousands of Jelly Belly jelly beans. They really are quite amazing. While most of these artworks are hanging out of reach, there are a few along the tour that visitors can touch – because you just know little hands need to touch them to check that they are indeed real jelly beans!
More interactive fun along the tour can be found in the form of video games that involve swiping at falling jelly beans – and looking rather silly in the process! As you can imagine, these were pretty popular with the kids. More interactive fun involves putting your nose to the test to guess the flavor of mystery jelly beans in a tube. By pressing a button the smell is released and the guessing begins. A written clue on top can be flip up to reveal the answer.
While these novelties along the tour are fun, the factory floor itself is still what will hold kids' attention the most. Watching the robotic arms lifting and pouring trays of jelly beans was hypnotic for my 3 year old. My older kids were amazed at the rows and rows of trays full of drying jelly beans stacked on top of each other. Just imagine how many jelly beans are in that one room alone!
At the end of the tour each visitor is given a pack jelly beans. If you had your photo taken at the start of the tour it can be purchased here too.
If you didn't check out the Jelly Belly Candy Store before going on the tour now is the time to do it. The store contains a large range of jelly beans and candy products of every flavor possibly imaginable, as well as Jelly Belly merchandise and souvenirs. The BeanBoozled range of jelly beans are sure to grab kids' attention with flavors such as Rotten Egg, Fart, Stinky Socks, Spoiled Milk, Barf and Canned Dog Food. A word of warning to all adults: your kids will try to trick you into eating some of these!
If you're feeling brave, the BeanBoozled flavors can be tried at the sample counter, along with every other flavor in the range. To keep things running smoothly at the sample counter you can choose just three flavors to try at a time. You can, however, rejoin the line if you'd like to try a few more – which, of course, you will because there are so many delicious flavors to choose from!
If you're feeling hungry for something other than candy, check out the Jelly Belly Cafe where a large range of food including jelly bean shaped burgers and pizzas are served along with quesadillas, salads, sandwiches, hot dogs and more.
Plan your visit to the Jelly Belly Factory
Location: The Jelly Belly factory and visitor center is located at 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield.
Hours: Open 9am – 5pm seven days a week (excluding New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas). Factory tours run from 9am to 4pm.
On weekdays visitors can generally see the factory in full operation. On weekends the factory does not operate however tours can still be taken. Videos throughout the tour show a close up of the activities that happen in the factory. Special production closures occur from time to time during the week and can be found on the events calendar.
Both the factory tour and visitor center are wheelchair and stroller friendly.
For more information visit the website >