About an hour outside of San Francisco lies the small city of Fairfield, California. Its claim to fame: the Jelly Belly factory.
For candy connoisseurs, many of them children, this has long been a popular tourist destination, or a day trip stop for Bay Area families. But is it worth the visit?
The view from the second floor tour route
The free factory tour is an at-your-own-pace walk along the second floor of the factory, with large windows overlooking the action, and videos explaining what you are looking at. If one watched all of the videos, the tour can last well over an hour, as members of the executive team discuss the minutiae of creating the little explosions of sugary flavor known as Jelly Belly candies, and the history of the company (much of which is before it ever made jelly beans, let alone what we know of today). The tour also includes games for kids, ranging from guess the flavor based on smell to video games, and jelly bean artwork, some of which is really spectacular.
Jelly bean Death Vader
The highlight, though, is watching the candies be made. I assume these are cherry.
It’s hypnotic to watch!
The tour concludes with each participant receiving a free package of Jelly Belly assorted flavors which is pretty awesome considering to this point you likely haven’t spent any money. It then drops you off in the gift shop, and this is where that plan would probably fall off.
That’s a lot of flavors!
Each person can taste three different beans of choice from the tasting bar, and then you are released into a maze of Jelly Belly goodness. Prices are not cheap, so beware when filling up the bags with flavors you didn’t know existed, like chili-mango or kiwi. (Both of these are quite good.)
There is also a fudge stand (not spectacular) and a cafeteria with overpriced, under-performing Jelly Belly shaped pizza and the other usual suspects.
I spent about an hour at the factory, and didn’t spend a dime. It was a worthwhile diversion given that I was driving directly past the place on my drive from Medford to San Jose. However, as a destination in itself, I wouldn’t recommend going much out of your way to visit the Jelly Belly factory, unless you are a jelly bean fanatic, in which case it might be your nirvana.