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 items we see in stores is fascinating. With robotic arms lifting things, forklifts carrying boxes, conveyor belts moving items around the factory floor, 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 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.
What to expect at the Jelly Belly factory
Tours of the Jelly Belly factory are self-guided so 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. Are kids not so fussed about watching boxes of jelly beans being packed? You can move on to the next stop.
The Jelly Belly factory tour allows photography of the factory floor as long as you don’t use a flash. All those trays of colorful jelly beans make for a perfect selfie backdrop!
Taking part in a tour of the Jelly Belly factory begins in the grand lobby. Visitors 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.
Pro tip: 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 gift shop while one adult waits in 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. Luckily most of these artworks are hanging out of reach because you can look but not touch!
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 flipped 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 of 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 shop 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 jelly beans aren’t your thing, the Visitor Center also features the Chocolate Shoppe with an assortment of freshly made fudge, gourmet caramel apples, truffles, and much more. Parul’s kids kept it simple and went for the Oreos doused in chocolate and sprinkles.
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.
The café has ice cream with various flavors served by the scoop. There is a separate room for a wine and chocolate tasting experience for the grown-ups (21 and up).
Pro Tip: One lucky parent can entertain the kids in the Visitor Center while the luckier parents can visit this “Very Cherry Room” for a wine flight paired with chocolate samplings for an additional $20.
Pro Tip: In addition to the discounted Belly Flops bag of jelly beans, there is also a designated area in the café with an assortment of apparel, chocolates, and seasonal jelly beans up to 75% off the retail price. Yes, we stocked up. This Christmas, many will be getting some Jelly Belly-themed goodies!
Plan your visit to the Jelly Belly Factory
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.
Location: The Jelly Belly factory and visitor center is located at 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield.
Hours: The factory is fully operational on non-holiday weekdays. You can tour it whether the factory is running, but it is way cooler to see the machines turned on. Open 9 am – 5 pm seven days a week (excluding New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Factory tours run from 9 am to 4 pm. Check the calendar for exceptions.
Fees: Tour tickets are $5 for adults; $2 for children 3 and up.
Both the factory tour and visitor center are wheelchair and stroller-friendly. On-site parking is free.
For more information visit the website >
While you’re in Fairfield
If you made the drive out here from the East Bay and wanted to venture out a bit, just down the road is the Sonoma Harvest Olive Oil and Winery featuring wine and olive oil tastings. Best of all, there is a separate kids’ play area as well. Families can also visit Scandia and dine at the Two60 Kitchen + Bar which has delicious food, indoor/outdoor seating, friendly service, and a kids menu.