Across the Illinois border lies the Jelly Belly Candy Company Tour and Visitor Center. Just 50 miles outside of Chicago, you can learn how the famous Jelly Belly candies are made and taste some for yourself. It's a a bit of confectionary heaven for all to enjoy - and the perfect place to take your family and friends.
All Aboard the Jelly Belly Candy Company Express
Visitors to the Jelly Belly Candy Company can hop aboard the Jelly Belly Express Train Tour for a free 35-minute video tour. While Jelly Belly candies aren't made on-site at the Pleasant Prairie location, the tour offers you the opportunity to find out how the famous candies are made and distributed across the globe via informative videos stationed throughout the warehouse.
Kids of all ages will love stepping into one of the awaiting train cars and donning a Jelly Belly-branded paper hat. The hats are a health department-mandated accessory, but everyone gladly wears one - and then gets to walk out with a fun souvenir.
During the tour, you'll find out little known facts about Goelitz brothers who founded the company, watch dancing Jelly Belly beans, and see reproductions of some of the unique works of mosaic art made entirely out of Jelly Belly beans. You'll also hear about former President Ronald Reagan's famous pension for the tiny candies, which helped put Jelly Belly on the confectionary map.
The tour will make you yearn to savor the Jelly Belly beans for yourself. But, not to worry, at the end of the tour, each passenger is awarded with a free bag of Jelly Belly beans. That means a family of four (like mine) can walk out with four bags, making each and every family member instantly happy.
Sample and Select Your Favorite Jelly Belly Confections
After disembarking from the Jelly Belly Candy Express Train Tour, you arrive into the larger Jelly Belly Candy Company Factory Store. If you're like me, you should be prepared to be overwhelmed by the all of the many, many colorful candies crammed into the brightly light space - and immediately drawn to the wall of Jelly Belly beans in every imaginable flavor.
The highlight of the factory store has to be the sample bar where you can try any of the candies the company sells there. It's a great way to select the ones you want to stock up on - and also indulge your children's (or your own) desire to try some of the more unappetizing flavors like lawn clippings, moldy cheese and booger, which my sons love to try and then spit out.
There's also a fudge table with tempting flavors like cherries jamboree, maple walnut and vanilla chocolate ship. The "free sample" sign beckons everyone over to try a little piece of confectionary heaven.
Another highlight are the "Belly Flops," or irregular jelly beans in peculiar shapes, sizes and colors, which you can buy in 2-pound bags. At one for $9 or three bags for $27 - and two bags free - it's hard to pass up the opportunity to stock up on these slightly imperfect, but still utterly delicious Jelly Belly beans. (There's a limit of 30 bags per day - in case you were wondering...)
I'm also partial to the bags of Hodgepodge, a completely random assortment of other imperfect candies produced by the Jelly Belly Candy Company. Whenever I've been there, the 2.5-pound Hodgepodge bags have been loaded up with candy corn - something that's practically impossible for my husband and I to pass up. That's why we walked out with four bags of it during our most recent visit, eagerly buying two bags and then getting another two free.
Of course, my two young Harry Potter fans begged and pleaded for Harry Potter Chocolate Frogs and Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. Given that they're nearly impossible to find anywhere outside of Honeydukes in Hogsmeade, we had to indulge them with a few of each kind. As in the movies, the chocolate frogs come packaged with cards featuring many of the wizards from the popular book and movie franchise. A big hit all the way around!
Make a Day of it with Food and Souvenirs
Since we can't get by on candy alone, it's good to know that you also can get a real meal or snack at the Jelly Belly Snack Bar located right in the Jelly Belly Candy Store. You can chose from a wide array of lunch items, snacks and beverages. And, there's plenty of room to take a seat, eat your meal, and plan which treat to eat for dessert first.
Jelly Belly fans also will be thrilled to be able to buy t-shirts, purses, hats, notebooks and more emblazoned with a smiling Jelly Belly. The bright, happy items always catch my eye. I'd probably be tempted to buy a few items - if I didn't want to spend all of our money on candy!
Savoring Each Trip to the Jelly Belly Candy Company
With a Jelly Belly Candy Company outpost so close to Chicago, it's hard not to make a trip there several times a year. And, even though my sons have been there many, many times, they joy of being so close to the confections never wears off. They love to ride the train, hear about how the candies are made, and then select the ones that best fit their current tastes and interests.
In fact, our sons bombarded us with pleas to go to there during our most recent visit to the nearby Bristol Renaissance Faire. We caved in and said yes - to indulge them and ourselves too. It was hard to resist the temptation of driving back across the Illinois state line with a car full of Jelly Belly candies. It always makes for a happy road trip back home to Chicago.
Parking: Plenty of free parking in easily accessible, convenient parking lot
Hours: Store is open daily from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. CT, with tours taking place from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. CT. It's closed on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and special events (check daily schedules at www.JellyBelly.com).
Have you been to the Jelly Belly Candy Company? If so, what was your favorite candy that you sampled there? Please share your thoughts - and your favorite Jelly Belly candies - in the comments below.
If you like exploring local candy companies, be sure to also read my recent blog post on the Ferrara Candy Company in Forest Park, Ill.
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