One-Tank Trips: Jelly Belly Warehouse Tours

June 20, 2008 7:53:56 AM PDT
A train ride, animated dancing chorus line and candy stacked to the rafters are some of the sweet delights drawing candy fans to the Jelly Belly Center near Kenosha. The famous jelly bean maker, Jelly Belly Candy Company, opened the doors of its Wisconsin warehouse to the public seven years ago and the tours continue to set attendance records. This last year a quarter of a million visitors took tours at the Jelly Belly Center. It has become a popular destination for locals entertaining family and friends from out of town. Located about 15 minutes north of Six Flags Great America and not far from factory outlet shopping, the Jelly Belly Center is a sweet stop off Interstate 94. Tours are free, and of course there are samples of Jelly Belly jelly beans.

Visitors begin their confectionery adventure in the large, candy-filled store where tours start at Jelly Belly Junction. While waiting for the next train to arrive at the station, visitors can see some of the company's family photos from their 134 years in candy making. Then it's time to hop on board the Jelly Belly Express, a four-car train that travels through the ware-house at top speeds of 5 miles an hour. The ride takes about 30 minutes as the train's engineer narrates the tour and makes seven stops at large video screens.

Along the way, some surprising bits of candy trivia and video of the jelly bean making process initiate tour takers into the confectionery world. The company made its mark in the 1800s with one of its first successful products, candy corn. Three generations later, the Jelly Belly jelly bean ended up in the White House during Ronald Reagan's presidency and the media spotlight brought the company worldwide attention.

Other "eye candy" sights are large scale portraits of famous people made from thousands of Jelly Belly beans, Candy Alley with its six-foot jelly beans suspended from the ceiling and an animated line of the company's jelly bean mascots in a chorus line.

New flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans lend grist for the engineer's trivia mill. On a recent tour visitors learned one of the newest is Pomegranate flavor. Couple that with a new 7Up flavor for a Pomegranate Punch.

Today billions of Jelly Belly jelly beans will be eaten around the world and millions are shipped from this warehouse. While visitors don't see the manufacturing firsthand, the entertaining videos show the process close up and antique candy making equipment is on display.

When the tour ends, the candy extravaganza doesn't stop there. Inside the store a sample bar beckons visitors to taste any of the 100 different candies the company makes. Chocolate almonds your passion? They are here, along with fruit-flavored jells, sour gummies, licorice, chocolates, sweets for Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. And 75 flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans. Also a snack bar that offers hot dogs, drinks, and ice cream.

Tours operate daily all day long. During major holidays, the warehouse and store are decked out with gigantic decorations. Special events and entertainment are also scheduled during the Easter, Halloween and Christmas holidays.

The Jelly Belly Visitor Center welcomes small children in strollers, and tours are wheel chair accessible. Tours are free and no reservations are necessary.

The Jelly Belly Center is located at 10100 Jelly Belly Lane and is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours operate 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information and directions call the 24-hour recorded line (866) 868-7522, or go to JellyBelly.com, click on Free Tours on the home page, and select Wisconsin Warehouse tour.


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