Friday, September 30, 2016

Fall family fun on the farms of Northern Virginia

Autumn is a special time of year in Virginia. The weather can be quite unpredictable where it feels like a brisk November’s day or the temps can soar to summer-like conditions. All of which make for fantastic days out on the many farms to be found in Northern Virginia. 

Many of the farms in the region put together a nice festival spread. Most of the festivals opened within the last two weeks. Here is a run-down of some of the fun farms to take the kids this month:

Corn Maze in The Plains

This is one my family usually visits every year. Conveniently located off I-66 (about 20-30 minutes west of Fairfax County), Corn Maze in The Plains offers lots to do. The main event, of course, is the corn maze. Each year the farm comes out with a new theme for 5 acres of fun. We always have so much fun here. Opening around the third weekend in September, and there is lots to do. The festival includes a play area for the kids, pumpkin slingshots, mini-mazes, hayrides, farm animals and more. There are day and night tickets available for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout October. The farm is also open for day tickets only on Columbus Day (Oct. 10). The fun typically runs until the week after Halloween (around Election Day). Also be sure to stop by the fab farmer’s market next door if you visit on a Sunday. 

Amazing Farm Fun @ Ticonderoga 

If racing down a giant slide on a burlap bag is your thing, Ticonderoga Farms in Chantilly offers this and much more. A great place to take the kids, Ticonderoga has several play areas, a large jump and bounce pillow, a really long and wobbly swinging bridge over a pond, go-carts, hayrides and a pumpkin patch, to name a few. There are also fire pits (to roast marshmallows and make s’mores – in the past they’ve offered kits for purchase, or you can bring your own). This farm is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. You also get a free mini pumpkin with your admission purchase. The festival usually runs until early November.

Cox Farms

Out in western Fairfax County in Centreville, one of
the season’s biggest events take places at Cox Farms. Every year the farm throws a huge fall bash that has so many things, it’s hard to list them all. Fun for all ages during the day (open daily), the farm also hosts its famous “Fields of Fear” on the weekend nights (not for young kids – this is an age 12 and up kind of thing and the 12 and 13 year-olds must be accompanied by an adult). In 2017 "Foamhenge" debuted in its new home from Natural Bridge (If you're wondering what this is all about, see this post as I visited "Foamhenge" just before the big move). 

The festival runs until just after Halloween. There is also an extra weekend of fun in the first weekend of November as the farm wraps things up for the season. 

Burnside Farms

Burnside, located in Haymarket off of I-66,  is one of my favorite “go to” places in the spring and summer with its fabulous tulip and sunflower festivals. This year I realized they also offer a fall event too. There are fresh farm market items, such as cider, apples, pumpkins and gourds available. 

As customary with the rest of the year, there is usually a pick-your-own flower option in one of their production fields. The barnyard is usually opened for a meet and greet with the furry and feathered friends. Open daily through October, this one is probably better suited for the little ones. The farm advertises itself as not having the “bells and whistles” of some of the others, but there are a few fun things for the kids. Burnside is open daily, Sunday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cows ‘n Corn

A corn maze, pumpkin picking, narrated Hayride tour, annual barn dance and dinner, and lots of other family fun farm fall activities take place at Corn-n-Cows dairy farm in Midland, Va. 

Ever make your own butter? If not, you’ll learn it here. The staff gives a great tour of the farm and lots of information. There are many things to see and do on the farm, and while many of the events are designed for younger kids, the older ones have fun too, especially with the go-carts. I haven't been down this way since 2009, but we had a good time. The farm is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The evening hours have limited activities as I’m guessing the focus is on the evening corn maze event. 

Great Country Farms

Located in western Loudoun County in Bluemont, this is a nice day outing. This one is located a good 90 minutes from Washington, but it’s got a lot to offer. There are plenty of activities for the kids, a pumpkin patch (yes, you actually pick your own here!) and pick your own apples. This is another one I haven’t been to in several years, but talking to friends and neighbors, they’ve had a great time. I see on their website they also have a corn maze too. One thing I remember the kids getting a big giggle out of is the P-Rex pumpkin munching dino. The fun runs until around Halloween with an additional weekend in early November for pumpkin chunkin’.

There are lots more farms in the D.C. metro region (take a look at Maryland - still working my way up there), but these are the ones I’ve been to. 

Happy fall!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Photos on Friday: Burnside Farms wrapping up 'Summer of Sunflowers'

Burnside Farms is one of my favorite spring and summer outings. In the spring is "Holland in Haymarket" with beautiful tulip and daffodil displays and in July or August (depending on previous weather conditions) is the gorgeous "Summer of Sunflowers".

Usually I make it out during peak times, but this year missed the window. I did get to go during the final week and, while I knew it would be slim pickings and didn't have high expectations, I wanted to see it anyway. While the sunflowers are not in their glory anymore, I still find it so pretty as the sunflowers go to sleep.

Here are a few shots I took on Tuesday. 

Looking up, these were reaching high in the sky.

Lots of wonderful bees and bugs were spotted

There were still a few cosmos left too. I caught this bee flower hopping

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Foamhenge moves to Cox Farms in Fairfax

Earlier this year some of my family members stumbled upon "Foamhenge". A unique attraction that is a life-size foam reproduction of Stonehenge in England, it's located a hop, skip and a jump from the Natural Bridge

I did a drive by in March, but didn't stop to go up the hill to see it, but could see distant pieces of it from the road since the trees hadn't filled in yet. In the summer months, unless you knew to look for it, you probably wouldn't even know it was there unless you were looking for it. The attraction is unmarked.
It's an intriguing attraction though, built as an April Fool's stunt in 2004 by Rockbridge County-based artist Mark Cline. A few months after my family discovered it, we heard Foamhenge was going to be dismantled due to the Natural Bridge becoming a state park. The land it currently sits on is a part of the park's land and, reportedly, the state said it didn't really "fit" with the new park.

Last week I was traveling through the area down I-81 and I asked the family if they wanted to see if Foamhenge was still there; they said "yes"! So we pulled off the road and went up the path to see Foamhenge. Since I'd never been up there, I was glad to get the chance. It was still there! A quick Google search before I walked up the hill said it was going to be removed on Sept. 5 (edit: according to photos viewed on Twitter, it appears the takedown occurred on August 30), so we were happy to get to see it during the last few days it was in its original location.

Yesterday, my family member called me said, "You'll NEVER believe where Foamhenge is going!". Not a clue, said I.
I was surprised to find out Fairfax County's Cox Farms will be the new home for Foamhenge. Reports say it won't be reassembled until after the farm's fall festival (Cox's fall festival and "Fields of Fear" is hugely popular around here). It will be ready to go on public view fall 2017. Stay tuned!