Editor’s Note: NEA Member Benefits understands how much you love to travel and how much you’ve missed it. As states begin to relax their regulations with regard to COVID-19 and more Americans become vaccinated, travel is opening up more and more. Before planning a trip, read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before booking and again before traveling.
Did you know that petting a baby goat can lower your blood pressure? Are you aware that even the most serious adults break down into fits of giggles as they try to beat the twists and turns in a corn maze? Have your kids been begging to go on a hayride? Those are just some of the fun activities you can do on a farm near you when the air gets crisp and temperatures start to fall.
This autumn, introduce your family to some wholesome entertainment in countrysides across the nation. Our selection of “agritainment” activities—such as apple picking and pumpkin chucking—promise fun for all ages. After enjoying an outdoor activity or two, end the day with a sip of hot cider or indulge in a freshly made doughnut or piece of apple pie. Find farm-focused activities near you that will help you make the most of the outdoors before temperatures start to drop and Old Man Winter arrives.
Nothing screams “fall” like apple picking, and you can do it on farms across America. At Riley’s Apple Farm in Oak Glen, California, the young ’uns can pick apples and then make a few corn husk dolls. Stir a giant copper kettle of apple butter during the Apple Butter Festival usually held over Columbus Day weekend, but moved to 2021 due to COVID-19, in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. If you’re a true apple gourmand, stop at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, to bite into fresh-picked apples and hand-dipped caramel apples. Make sure to ask for a taste of apple cider; many farms press their own.
Beat the corn maze
Think you have what it takes to make your way out of a corn maze, Field of Dreams-style? Sorry, but you can’t use your GPS. Sign up for the challenge at a farm near you. Check out Kroll’s Farm in Waukegan, Illinois, where human GPS routers will help you if you get terribly disoriented or need to take a break. Many farms host kiddie versions so the little ones don’t get overwhelmed and cranky. Among its many attractions, Swore Farms in Pocatello, Idaho, offers night walks through the corn maze—a fun activity especially under starry skies. Check out the fun September 19-November 1, 2020. Some farms, such as Conner’s A-Maize-ing Acres in Hilliard, Florida, offer school field trips, mom-and-me visits and birthday party packages. Purchase advanced timed tickets for when Conner’s opens back up October 3, 2020.
Visit a pumpkin patch
Gourd-ge yourself on all things pumpkin. The Great Jack ‘O Lantern Blaze in the Hudson Valley, within easy driving distance of New York City, easily squashes the competition with a stunning display of more than 7,000 carved pumpkins to create a fall wonderland. Visitors can watch a Pumpkin Carousel twirl and a Pumpkin Windmill whirl, as well as view a Statue of Liberty replica made completely from the round orange fruit. Feel like carving one of your own for the cause? The Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon, Massachusetts, hosts a pumpkin-carving event, and everyone’s creations can become part of the sanctuary’s annual kid-friendly Halloween Prowl.
Go on a hayride
Hayrides are just plain fun. You sit atop bundles of golden hay in the back of a truck or horse-drawn carriage for a lazy ride around a farm on a brisk fall day. Craven Farm in Snohomish, Washington, offers hayrides, which you can take on its 20-acre pumpkin patch and even enter the farm’s secret corn maze. The farm also has a pint-sized corn maze for kids and a 15-acre version for those who really want a go at it. Weston Red Barn Farm in Weston, Missouri, offers scenic tours of its farm, including the pumpkin patch, on a tractor-drawn hayride. Here you can also huddle around a campfire and roast marshmallows for a sweet treat to round off the day’s activities.
Say hello to the animals
Many farms host small petting zoos to delight kids of all ages. Moo-ove from the sheep and goats to maybe watch cows getting milked. Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, Maryland offers a petting zoo, pennant rope maze, fresh produce market and hay rides to its pumpkin patch. Stroll through the Enchanted Forest featuring figures from your favorite childhood nursery rhymes and fairy tales. At Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville, North Carolina, you can check out the petting zoo, feed animals for a small fee, take a ride on a mini train and even pan for gemstones. Maybe you’ll strike it rich!
Work a pumpkin chucker or corn cannon
Had enough of corn this year? Chuck a couple through a corn cannon at Yahoo Farm in Jasper, Georgia. While you’re there, carve pumpkins and even take part in a pumpkin hunt led by a pumpkin bunny every Sunday. Attend the annual Pumpkin Madness Festival at the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm in Ronks, Pennsylvania, to smash pumpkins with a rubber mallet and hurl your leftover pumpkin at dartboards to see which one sticks. A special Pumpkin Chucker at Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm in Homer Glen, Illinois, will rocket pumpkins through the air for a fun, messy view.