The free bag of jelly beans is only the beginning of what’s sweet about touring the Jelly Belly Visitor Center and warehouse near Kenosha.
Visitors to the warehouse and distribution center also learn how the famous jelly beans are made, get a lesson in company history and can gaze upon the stacks and stacks of sweet treats ready to be shipped all across the country.
The Jelly Belly Candy Co., which first became known for its candy corn in the 1800s, has been making candy for more than 100 years. Becoming known as a favorite treat of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s put the company on the map and brought it worldwide attention, according to a Jelly Belly news release.
The Pleasant Prairie warehouse and distribution center opened in 2001, and about 180,000 people tour the facility each year.
“It’s one of our top attractions for sure,” said Meridith Jumisko, spokesperson with the Kenosha Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s very fun.”
To get the full Jelly Belly story, visitors to the Pleasant Prairie warehouse start by hopping aboard the four-car Jelly Belly Express and donning a paper hat. While waiting for the tram, guests can check out family photos from the company’s century-plus in the candy business.
Once aboard, the tram stops at a number of stations throughout the warehouse where visitors learn about the Jelly Belly manufacturing process, said Bill Kelley, vice chairman with the Jelly Belly Candy Co. Because this is the warehouse, visitors won’t actually see any Jelly Belly candies being made.
“(The tour) is more about the manufacturing and how it’s done,” Kelley said.
Along the route, monitors show visitors the bean-making process. The tram also passes through a gallery of artwork created with Jelly Belly beans, including a replica of the Mona Lisa, and displays of old-fashioned and modern candy-making machines.
Just before the tour ends, visitors pass through the “Candy Fashion Couture” section — a collection of dresses made completely with Jelly Belly jelly beans.
The tram ride takes about a half-hour and drops everyone off, naturally, in the store, Kelley said. There, people can likely find “every product we sell,” he said.
A sample bar offers tastes of 100 different jelly bean flavors, ranging from favorites such as “Buttered Popcorn” and “Sizzling Cinnamon,” to new flavors out for a limited trial such as “Tabasco” and “Candy Corn.”
Guests also can sample other candies the company makes, such as chocolate almonds, fruit-flavored jells, sour gummies and licorice.
The gift store also offers Jelly Belly merchandise such as T-shirts, baseballs and school accessories. For a deal, visitors can buy a bag of “Belly Flops” — slightly misshapen (but just as tasty) jelly beans that are sold at a discount.
If you’re looking for sustenance beyond beans, a snack bar inside the gift shop offers various lunch items, including hot dogs, chips and soda, Kelley said.
If you’re looking for another stop on your trip, other popular attractions around Kenosha this summer include the nearby Bristol Renaissance Faire that runs every weekend through Labor Day, Jumisko said. Downtown Kenosha also boasts an electric streetcar system, museums, beaches and ice cream shops, she added.