Tucked away on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin, the Jelly Belly Visitor Center is a hidden treasure for all fanatics of jelly beans and people seeking the best of a sugar rush. But it’s also much more than that. Take a trip to this jelly bean heaven and learn the history of this iconic candy throughout the decades.
Located in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, the Jelly Belly Visitor Center is less than 30 miles from Milwaukee and only 90 miles north of Chicago. We visited on a recent trip to Chicago and it was an easy drive north to the visitor center.
Tour the Jelly Belly Warehouse
Tours of the warehouse are conducted daily from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm CST, except for select holidays. Best thing about the tour? It is free! Yes, free, and even better? At the end of the tour everyone gets a free bag of jelly beans!
Tours are conducted via the Jelly Belly Express Train. Everyone gets a Jelly Belly hat to wear throughout the tour (FDA mandated) as the train travels around the warehouse and through the history of the Jelly Belly Candy Company. The tour lasts approximately 20-30 minutes. No pictures of the tour are allowed, but trust me when I say, I was never so interested in the history of a jelly bean as I was on this tour.
History of the Jelly Belly Candy Company
One of the most interesting facts I learned during the tour? The company’s first product was not jelly beans! No, in fact, the company started as a butter cream/candy corn company, and still makes candy corn today. Founded in 1869 by Gustav Goelitz in Belleville, Illinois, the original product was a mellow creme/butter cream candy, from which candy corn was born. Gustav’s son, Herman, moved out west to California in the 1920’s, and opened his own candy company, Herman Goelitz Candy Company. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that jelly beans were introduced. What makes Jelly Belly jelly beans so special? They have a flavor infused center. Most jelly bean companies just flavor the outer shell. Who knew, right?
Other interesting facts discovered during the tour? President Ronald Reagan was a huge jelly bean fan. He began eating the confection in 1966, and when he moved into the White House in 1980, almost 3.5 million tons of Jelly Belly jelly beans were shipped to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. Known as Mini Jelly Beans until the 1970’s, in 1976 the first eight flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans were introduced: Root Beer, Green Apple, Licorice, Cream Soda, Lemon, Tangerine, Very Cherry, and Grape. The company was known as the Herman Goelitz Candy Company until 2001 when it was officially renamed the Jelly Belly Candy Company. Today there are over 50 different flavors of Jelly Belly jelly beans. In total, the Jelly Belly Candy Company makes over 150 different candy confections.
Another interesting fact? You know its an authentic Jelly Belly jelly bean if the name is stamped on each and every bean. The Jelly Belly Candy Company is so particular about having its jelly beans stamped that unstamped jelly beans are set aside and sold as “Belly Flops“, along with jelly beans that have an irregular size, shape and color. Sold at about half the price of regular Jelly Belly jelly beans, “Belly Flops” are an inexpensive way to treat yourself to Jelly Belly jelly beans.
Tip: This is a great free activity for kids. Who doesn’t love a ride on a train, especially through a candy warehouse, that ends with free jelly beans? It’s educational and fun at the same time. Arrive early or late to avoid crowds.
The Jelly Belly Retail Store
The tour exits through the retail store, although this is no ordinary retail store. Here you can buy everything from branded t-shirts to stuffed animals and more. And of course lots and lots and lots of jelly beans!
The main attraction of the store is the Sample Bar. Here you can sample every single current flavor of Jelly Belly jelly beans. For jelly bean fanatics like me, this is a golden opportunity to taste all those flavors you are otherwise hesitant to purchase.
In case you get a little hungry and need something a little more substantive than jelly beans, there is a snack bar in the retail store. In addition, there is a counter to purchase fudge by the pound.
Have you ever tried the BeanBoozled line of Jelly Belly jelly beans? Personally, I am not that much of a risk taker to risk eating a Moldy Cheese jelly bean instead of a Caramel Corn jelly bean, or a Stinky Sock jelly bean instead of a Tutti-Frutti jelly bean. BeanBoozled jelly beans were introduced in 2008 and have flavors that mimic the colors of regular jelly beans. Many a fun game of trying BeanBoozled jelly beans has been played by my tween and her friends over the past few years. At the retail store you can buy the flavors in bulk, although I’m not quite sure who would want to buy a pound of Baby Wipe flavored jelly beans.
Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, based on a product from the Harry Potter series, also are available at the retail store. This collection of Jelly Belly jelly beans contains some of the regular flavors of Jelly Belly, as well as some of the flavors from the Harry Potter series, including black pepper, booger, earthworm, rotten egg and vomit, among others. Here you can buy them mixed (as they normally come packaged) or in individual flavors.
For me, the best area was the Clearance Items. Most all products were $1.00 and were either discontinued flavors or flavors and products that need to be moved out to make room for new inventory. My youngest particularly liked all of the Hello Kitty items.
There were some flavors I just couldn’t go for – even at $1.00 a bag. Tabasco flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans? No, I am just not that much of a risk taker to try those.
There were some other great finds in the Clearance Items though. Peas & Carrots candy corn anyone? Giant Cinnamon Candy Corn? Or maybe some Chewy Fish? There definitely were some bargains to be found here.
TIP: In addition to the free tour of the warehouse, the Sample Bar is a free experience. Make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to try flavors you normally would not purchase. And to keep this a low cost adventure? Hit the Clearance Items area. You can pick up a lot of candy to take home for $1.00 each.
Allergen and Special Diets
Jelly Belly jelly beans hold a special place in our family as my peanut/tree nut allergic children can eat the jelly beans produced by the Jelly Belly Candy Company. All Jelly Belly jelly beans are made in peanut-free facilities. Any products manufactured in the same facility with tree nuts are labelled accordingly. Jelly Belly jelly beans also are fat free, gluten free, dairy free and egg free, and are kosher. However, tree nuts are processed in their manufacturing facilities so always check the labels and make any decisions regarding allergies accordingly. For this reason, our visit to the Jelly Belly Visitor Center was a particularly special experience for us.
I highly recommend a visit to the Jelly Belly Visitor Center. For a free experience, the tour was fun and informative, and no one can complain about a free bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans. The retail store itself was worth a visit, both for the Sample Bar and the Clearance Items area, and for the opportunity to buy certain flavors in bulk. I would return in the future just for the retail store.
In addition to the visitor center in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, there is a visitor center at 1 Jelly Bean Lane in Fairfield, California. The California Visitors Center also offers a Factory Tour, a Chocolate & Wine Experience, a Chocolate Shoppe, and a Jelly Belly University! Personally I am hoping to make it out to California one day to try the Chocolate and Wine Experience. What could be better than chocolate, wine and jelly beans?
One of our favorite souvenirs? This Jelly Belly jelly bean shaped Cotton Candy lollipop. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor? I like to mix Chocolate Pudding and Toasted Marshmallow, but with 50 regular flavors plus seasonal flavors, the possibilities are endless.