Wholesome Family Fall Fun
As the rich colors start to take hold of the leaves and the air begins to take on that comfortable chill of Autumn, what could be a more idyllic setting than heading out to the country in search of pumpkins for Halloween. Memories of childhood trips to the pumpkin patch in search of the Great Pumpkin abound.
Okay, to be honest, I don’t recall ever visiting a pumpkin patch as a child, and am pretty sure that is because we never made such a journey. However, that’s not to say that I can’t appreciate the joy and wonder that such a journey and memory can be. And after all, part of a parent’s job is to give our children the memories that we never had.
This year we decided to take a nice drive up to Spring Grove to visit Richardson Farm. As is the case, it would seem these days the pumpkin patch is so much more than that. The current versions bring a whole days worth of activities and attractions for all ages, and with that, an admission charge. While not “extreme,” admission can certainly add up quickly at $13 for 13 and up, $10 for ages 4-12, and under 4 is free. Fortunately there’s no fee for parking and there’s lots of activities that are free…however, that’s not to say that everything inside is free by any means.
Once inside the entrance, we were greeted and given the general lay of the land. There’s also a big map posted on a board of the grounds, which we somehow missed initially, as well as the giant corn maze. It’s definitely worth checking this if you’ve never been here before.
The alternative to this is to head to the observation tower. At 50′, the tower will give you a great view out over the farm and pretty much as far as the eye can see. It is from the tower that you get a much better impression of how large the farm is, even beyond the corn maze. On the ground, the view is very open and uncluttered, to the point that it may seem like there isn’t much here or that it isn’t very large. Don’t be fooled and definitely don’t forget to wear your comfortable shoes.
The tower is also where you can zipline your way across the grounds. However, that will run you another $15.
World’s Largest Corn Maze
The tower is also about the only way you can fully take in and appreciate the expansive corn maze. At 33 acres, they claim it to be the world’s largest corn maze, or should that be mazes. The corn maze is actually 5 mazes combined, featuring a graphic design. Each year a new design is created and I can’t help but say that it truly is amazing. The individual mazes vary in size and difficulty, and if that wasn’t enough, there are various “maze games” that are incorporated as well. If you are into corn mazes and games, this may be reason enough to make the trip.
More than Pumpkins and Corn
You can take a free wagon ride out to the pumpkin patch, or just to take a ride. The more traditional hayride is actually a group, scheduled event, so you may have to rely on the wagon ride to get your fix, however it is a bit of a rough ride. You can also get a glimpse of the trees being grown for Christmas and perhaps find one to come back for in December.
Every farm needs animals and you can certainly find some here…though perhaps a few different ones than Old MacDonald has. The little ones will enjoy watching the bunnies and chickens, perhaps petting some goats, watching pigs race (they don’t start until noon though), but then it gets taken up a notch at the newly added exotic animal petting zoo (additional fee).
If you prefer the less exotic animals, they’ve also introduced a carousel for 2014. While we thought we saw it operating when we pulled in, unfortunately it wasn’t running while we were there.
There is an assortment of other activities from jumping pillows, which are like inflatable trampolines, slides made from plastic sheeting going down the hills, swings made from barrels, pedal cars, and more. What we appreciated the most was that there were varying levels to the slides and jumping pillows so that all ages can have fun. Kiddie Country is in fact made for the youngsters with a height limit to make sure the smallest ones can safely have fun too.
If you’ve ever wanted to roll around in a giant inflatable ball, then perhaps Zorbing is for you. This will however also set you back a good $20 a ride, $30 for two riders. Or if you’ve ever desired to shoot corn cobs out of a canon, now’s your chance, and fortunately, that comes at no charge.
Working Up an Appetite
With this much fun to be had, you’ll quickly work up an appetite. Fortunately, there is the onsite Cornfield Concessions to address your needs. The menu may be fairly simple as one would expect, but the selection provided enough variety to cover most tastes. The selection was actually greater than I would have expected and the prices were fairly reasonable, all things considered. Unfortunately however, the dining experience itself ended up being one of the few truly negative experiences.
Apparently on the day we were there, they were short a cashier. While there were less than 20 people ahead of us, what should have been a modest wait turned into a considerably longer wait. We didn’t actually time it, but I don’t think we’d be too far off by saying it was 30-45 minutes at least, perhaps even longer. While I appreciate that the owner stepped up to man the order counter, that really was not enough. Food prep can’t be handled by just anyone and trying to work a cash register without any prior experience would be quite challenging, but certainly one or two other staff members could be brought in to simply take the orders. This may have been a rare incident and hopefully plans like this have been implemented to address and prevent this in the future.
As for the food itself, fortunately this was a better experience than the ordering process. Apparently we were so hungry that we realized afterward that we didn’t take any pictures to share, so you’ll have to use your imagination. The chili, cheese hot dogs were just what we needed. Given the wait, we probably should have doubled our order, but at least it helped to ease the hunger. They were very good. I wouldn’t say great or exceptional, but I would say they were at least on par with what I would have expected and perhaps a little better. Definitely go for the combo though as the fries were exceptional, again, at least to expectations. Personally, I’m not into the “overly potatoey” fries. I have never cared for the big fat wavy/crinkle cut fries with the mushy potatoe insides. These fries were more like a beer-batter fry with a thicker, crunchier though not quite crunchy outside, with just enough fry “insides” to qualify as a french fry. Definitely a better fry than I would expect from a concession stand.
Of course, no trip to the pumpkin farm would be complete without an order of apple cider donuts. By order of course I mean at least 1/2 dozen, more if you actually intend to leave with any. While it may be said that there is no such thing as a bad donut, some donuts are definitely better than others. The apple cider donuts at Richardson Farm are definitely a treat to be had and will leave a smile on your face.
Far From Perfect
Our trip to Richardson Farm was, like the gravel road we came in, not without its bumps. The excessive wait for food and the carousel wasn’t running, detracted from an otherwise delightful experience. Perhaps everything was running smoother after we left and one could certainly spend an entire day there if desired. With an 18 month old however, that isn’t feasible and we often have to work within the windows of time we have.
However, if you are looking for fun, family time filled with wholesome, low-tech activities, then you can’t go wrong. While some of the “add-on” activity pricing, in my opinion, is a bit much, there is a wide array of other activities that are included in the admission charge. They’ve done a great job making sure that there is fun to be had for all ages and the staff that we experienced were all welcoming. They’ve done a nice job on the Richardson Farm website calling out the various activities they have, including which carry additional fees, so you can make up your own mind.
Be sure to share your own Richardson Farm experience.