Got a sweet tooth, or are you traveling with someone who does? Looking for an unusual side trip from San Francisco or Napa? Try the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, where you can watch Jelly Belly candies being made. Located about one hour north of San Francisco on I-80, the Jelly Belly Factory is near the route to Napa Valley or Vallejo's Marine World.
The Jelly Belly Factory Tour
Unlike other factories that only give tours on weekdays when the factory is working, Jelly Belly offers tours seven days a week, every day except major holidays. No reservations are needed, but almost a half million people visit each year, and if you arrive early the place will be less crowded. The tour lasts forty minutes, but expect to stay sixty to ninety minutes, depending on tour frequency.
On weekdays when the factory is working, visitors view the live action from enclosed walkways above the factory floor. On weekends, holidays, and during the annual plant shutdown at the end of June, guides rely on videos showing the factory in action.
As the guides lead you above a rainbow-colored sea of trays and bins, they gush information and trivia, relating that it takes seven to ten days to make each of the 1.25 million beans finished each day. With steam baths, sugar showers and lots of rest, the process sounds more like a spa than a factory, but at the end, all the Jelly Bellies wind up in the "engrossing pan," a copper clothes dryer-like contraption, where they get four flavored syrup and sugar coats. After they're polished, a printer emblazons the Jelly Belly logo on every one.
The tour's sweetest part is at the end, when guides hand out samples, and everyone heads for the shop to buy "Belly Flops," imperfect candies sold at a discount.
We rate the factory tour 4 out of 4 for a fun look a how a favorite treat is made. Others may have a different opinion.
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Jelly Belly Facts
Jelly beans appeared in the United States during the Civil War, but the Herman Goelitz Company, a fifth-generation confectioner now called the Jelly Belly Candy Company, started making the official "Jelly Belly" candies in 1976. A California entrepreneur asked for a jelly bean with "natural" ingredients, and the Jelly Belly was born, candies distinct from all other jelly beans because of their natural-flavored centers.
- People consume 14 billion Jelly Belly candies every year.
- There are fifty "official" flavors at any time. New flavors debut as "Rookies."
- The most popular flavors in the United States are buttered popcorn, very cherry, licorice, juicy pear and watermelon.
- Ronald Reagan ordered 3.5 tons of Jelly Belly candies for his presidential inauguration, and the company invented the now-popular blueberry flavor so he could serve candies in red, white and blue.
- The Jelly Belly factory also makes more than a hundred other confections including candy corn, and they made the first gummi candies in the United States.
Can't make it to the Jelly Belly factory? Take the virtual Jelly Belly Factory tour.
Visiting the Jelly Belly Factory
Jelly Belly Factory Tour
One Jelly Belly Lane
The Jelly Belly Factory is about an hour's drive north of San Francisco, east of the San Francisco Bay. The best route to get there is by taking I-80 across the Bay Bridge toward Oakland and Sacramento, staying on it as it turns north. Following this route, you will pay a toll at the Carquinez Bridge and on the Bay Bridge as you return to San Francisco. The factory is off CA Hwy 12.