Have you ever stopped to wonder about any of the places you often pass by? I’ll be honest—we’ve stopped in Fairfield to refuel many times, and we had no idea just how much there is to it.
We found out on a recent weekend trip. You could say that Fairfield is one of those “hidden gems,” a town with a rich history, thriving wine and arts scenes and attractions that will captivate people of all interests—much more than just a stop for fuel on a long journey.
My husband, Vic, our daughter, Bailey, my brother, Nate, and I arrived on a brisk autumn day, eager to experience what Fairfield has to offer. Here’s how our trip went:
One of the first things we learned about Fairfield is that it’s the home of an iconic American brand. Our first stop was a treat that Bailey was particularly looking forward to—the Jelly Belly Candy Company. As we drove up to the sugar-filled factory, we sniffed the sweet scent in the air.
Jelly Belly has been family-owned for multiple generations now, and it was interesting to see how they have evolved and how the younger family members are coming onboard. The factory is packed with memorabilia and interesting facts.
We were impressed to find that it’s free to tour the Jelly Belly factory. Visitors don specially provided paper hats and, after initial introductions, can take the interactive tour at their own pace. We observed every stage of the Jelly Belly-making process, including the vast factory floor, laid out with boxes of colored beans.. The tour had a good mix of informational videos and hands-on activities, keeping kids of all ages engaged. Bailey enjoyed their bean sorting game, a touch-screen setup that allows visitors to challenge one another.
My taste buds were pleased that we got to enjoy some samples along the way, too.
“Ugh, I got rotten egg!” Bailey exclaimed.
She had decided to try some of their playful BeanBoozled beans. You might get strawberry-banana smoothie, but it could also be dead fish! It’s a fun game to play if you’re up for the challenge (and risk).
We left the Jelly Belly factory with some favorites from the on-site shop and headed out to explore Fairfield’s natural beauty. A little-known fact is that this city boasts a thriving wine country in the Suisun and Green valleys with more than a dozen family-owned tasting rooms.
The Suisun Valley is an inviting outdoor paradise, where we took the “Valley Loop” to explore some of the vineyards. We planned on heading to Napa the following day, as Fairfield provided us with an affordable hotel and nearby home base from which to explore, but there’s something huge that Suisun Valley has over Napa—it’s less congested!
I should add that the wines we tasted were divine, too. We stopped by Vezér Family Vineyard’s beautiful Blue Victorian Winery for a delicious sampling of some bold reds. I couldn’t resist purchasing a couple of bottles to take home.
After that, we decided to check out the picturesque Wooden Valley Winery, where we tasted some gorgeous whites and reds. And yes, I picked up another bottle to take home! We found out that Wooden Valley is the Suisun Valley’s oldest winery, and it has operated as a family tradition since 1933. The winery hosts its popular Food Truck Friday and Wine & Song Sunday series every summer and fall, and I made a mental note to come back for these events next summer.
While we were out in the Suisun Valley, we decided we needed some outdoor time to burn off the sugar and set up an appetite for dinner. The Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in the Suisun Marsh provided the perfect venue to get some exercise. The idyllic wetlands are home to many species of wildlife that captivated our attention. We chose a shorter trail for a quick walk and slowed at several spots to watch the birds. With around 75 miles of roads and trails, this outdoor haven could easily take up a full day of exploration. I made another mental note to return here for a day of hiking and picnicking—it’s too beautiful to pass up!
Our day was drawing to a close, and we were hungry.
“I’m in the mood for something a bit different,” Vic said, which drew us to Sticky Rice Chinese Bistro, a restaurant and bar in Fairfield. We listened to live music as we enjoyed Eastern barbecue ribs, shrimp dumplings and a range of rice and noodle dishes that were big enough to share.
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel, reflecting on our day. Fairfield has so much more to offer than a whistle-stop. In fact, everyone had fun and found something to fit their interests, and we found out that a weekend getaway is just scratching the surface of Fairfield.