Why, I’d like nothing better
than to achieve some bold adventure,
worthy of our trip.
-Aristophanes, The Frogs
So, the second stop on our #visitlancaster tour was the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm, which we’d had a sneak preview of during our train ride on the Strasburg Rail Road. Holy carp, we loved this place. So much so, that we had to return the first chance we got, to hit all the bits we missed the first time around (that’s why you’re going to see my kids in different outfits in these photos). As a happy coincidence, that second trip happened to be the day they were holding their Sweet Corn Festival:
(Obviously, I missed the magic moment here with the high-five, but I think the resulting photo is hilarious.)
Looking for a full day of old-fashioned, unplugged, outdoor family fun that will delight your kids and COMPLETELY wear them out by bedtime?
Man oh man, this is the place.
First and foremost, we need to talk about the Amazing Maize Maze™ with its five acres of corn and 2.5 miles of paths. I had a half dozen ADULTS yell at me when they found out I had done this without them, it’s one of those things you hear about every year and never get around to doing. DO IT. Without the map. The kids love that you are totally on their level, every bit as clueless as they are. There is this thrilling air of “We are never going to get out here” adventure, augmented by the huge flag they give you to carry and wave in case of emergency.
They supply you with a placemat sized activity page when you start; there are stations all around the maze where you can claim a small piece of the maze and tape it onto your page (like a jigsaw puzzle. When you’re done you have a complete map). There’s also a crossword puzzle on your page, and answers can be found at various points. Water stations are thankfully scattered around, as are benches and little fun bits like a zipcord run and slides. So even if (ahem) you have no innate sense of direction and get completely lost, you don’t feel like your time was wasted- you just say you were trying to find all the clues and game pieces! At the end you can have your picture taken and added to your page, and the whole shebang laminated as a nice souvenir.
It took us about an hour to get out- and that was with help (oh yeah, there are also nice worker people in the maze to offer help if you want it). You could easily wander for many hours, I think. The best part is that they do NIGHTTIME MAZES by flashlight Fridays & Saturdays in October & early November. A great Halloween-season activity in my book!
The farm has all kinds of fun activities for kids that are just as enjoyable for adults. I think the big winner was the “jumping pillows”- think moonbounce only much bigger and not enclosed. I went on this for a few minutes, and let me tell you, what a workout. Holy carp. My calves were burning and I drank about a gallon of water once I stepped off.
Close runners-up were the giant slingshots and the huge slide (it was a little heartstopping even for me, it’s REALLY LONG!).
I got to show off my hoops skillz in an area with football, basketball and baseball play. I don’t have a picture of that, but I just wanted to let you know that watching kids were impressed. Not my kids, who find my pride embarrassing. The more shots I make in a row, the more they pretend they don’t know who I am. WHATEVER. Mama’s still got it.
There’s also a playground for smaller kids, log cabin building, “mechanical” bulls (you do the bucking yourself to suit the kid), an animatronic chicken show, volleyball with an ENORMOUS fabric ball… what am I forgetting?
Oh. Jacob was all excited to channel his inner Napoleon Dynamite with some tetherball.
Every so often the Strasburg train would go by and you’d feel compelled to wave at everyone on the train. I’m not sure why this happens, but it brought a big smile to my face every time.
Then it was over to the farm proper, where we fed goats and llamas, pigs and sheep. And then cuddled baby chicks. I have never been so tempted to secret something away in my pocket in my life. Baby chicks are CUTE, people.
While we were there I let Cass Make-A-Friend: an Amish doll (20 bucks). This is an activity with several learning stations. First you choose your doll, an outfit, and a name. Then you do a “lesson” in a corner that resembles an Amish schoolhouse. Cass did a matching activity, but she could have done a calligraphy lesson (she did receive one to take home). It reminded me of elementary school field trips, I guess to Hagley (maybe Winterthur?) where we did the same thing.
The next step involved learning a quilting stitch, and then we learned about the significance of the different items the Amish wear. It was fun and I really like the doll, it’s hard to find nice soft good-size dolls anymore that don’t cost a fortune. She’s sleeping with it now, as I type this.
If you have little boys, don’t despair: there are wooden trains, tractors and barns to make instead of dolls. (There are also boy dolls.)
We ended our day with some roasted sweet corn. I don’t know whether it was just really really sweet corn, or whether the roasting process makes it supah tasty, or whether we were just starving, but we were wolfing that stuff down while it was still crazy piping hot.
All in all, the Cherry Crest Adventure Farm was a hugely satisfying experience, and definitely a new tradition for our family.
Even with two trips, there were some things we didn’t get to- an old-fashioned playground with seesaws and merry-go-round (the ones where you spin your friends sick), shuffleboard, a farm wagon ride, go-karts of some sort. The farm offered a “Boomerang” special this year where, if you purchased admission and had a souvenir photo taken after the maze, those people in the photo could come back as often as they liked through September 18th. It’s a deal we will DEFINITELY take advantage of if they offer it again next year.
A few tips:
SUNSCREEN. You need it. Reapply as it sweats off. While there are plenty of places to catch some shade, most of the fun is in the sun.
WATER. Bring as much as you’re willing to carry. The kids are running around and bouncing and whatnot and it’s dusty. They will drink gallons. While the farm offers a souvenir cup that you can refill at the soda fountain for a decent price, the food court is at the entrance and you’re not going to feel like hiking back and forth. They’re smart and sell drinks at the jumping pillows too, but they are those little bottles of water and the environmentalist in me was just cringing.
TIME. This is an all-day adventure. Pack a lunch, get there when it opens and plan to close it up. Get your money’s worth. For me it’s not too bad of a drive, but if it’s a hike for you, you’ll want to get it all in without feeling rushed.
COMPANY. Ask if any of your friends want to go! I kid you not when I say I took a lot of heat for not inviting some of mine. (They can come when we go back for the flashlight maze, the big crybabies.)
SHOES. Wear sneaks. You’re on your feet a lot, and the corn maze is dusty. Our feet were FILTHY. If your kids insist on sandals or Crocs, there is a rinsing area that we didn’t notice the first time around. You’ll have to look for it because I can’t remember where it was. Close to the maze, I suppose.
FUDGE. They sell it. You want it. It’s mighty good. I’m telling you right here and now, factor $10 of fudge into your budget. You will not regret it.
CAMERA. Don’t leave home without it! Fun photo ops abound.
Our family received free admission to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm as part of our #visitlancaster Blogger Meetup. However, all 1,375 words of this post are totally my own glowing opinion.