Going on a family vacation can be a great deal of fun. Even a weekend or overnight trip away somewhere is a welcome break from the daily grind. But then again, sometimes you don’t need to pay for airfaire or a hotel to enjoy some time together as a family. In fact, sometimes you don’t even need to leave your own local area to have a fun day together. 🙂
Every year since we’ve had kids, my family has gotten together with some friends of ours to do a trip to the ‘pumpkin patch’ during the fall. The specific pumpkin patch we go has changed over time as we’ve tried out a few different ones located either near our town or theirs, but it’s always been just a ‘day trip’ – even if we have to drive an hour away. After a few hours of running around, playing, jumping, picking out apples and/or pumpkins and enjoying a snack of donuts and cider – the kids are generally worn out anyway. The two families stop for dinner, and then head home our separate ways with tired kids in tow, ready for bed (ours often fall asleep in the van on the way home) – and full of good memories.
Two weekends ago, we all went to Lewis’ Farm Market & Petting Farm in New Era, Michigan for the third year in a row. What we like about this particular place is the variety of activities – from the Jumping Pillow and Pumpkin Moon Walk, to the Apple Express hayride out to the apple orchard to pick your own apples right off the tree, the Boo Train for the kids to ride in and the pedal cart racetrack for them to ride off a lot of steam. Along with goats, bunnies, miniature horses and donkeys, cats and sheep, the petting zoo includes animals not ordinarily found on your typical farm, such as a zebra, a camel, and even Zebus (a special breed of cattle with humps on their backs). The petting zoo is free – the other activities can be purchased either separately, or with a wristband that gives kids access to just about everything for one price.
Another fun activity that we’ve done once or twice while there is to try out their apple and pumpkin cannons or the Fruit Flinger – basically a giant slingshot with apples or other fruit as ammunition. This costs extra (and isn’t included in the wristband), but the kids have so much fun watching fruit splatter everywhere – from the painted targets, to the ground.
Lewis’ Farm Market also has just some simple pleasures for the kids to enjoy also – a pair of long tube slides where their voices echo down long before they arrive, a wooden tractor and trailer to climb on, a sandbox inside a giant tire, and of course, the pumpkin patch itself where the kids can choose their own pumpkins to buy and take home. During the autumn season, there are extra events and entertainment every weekend – this year there’s been everything from live music to elephant rides offered.
For the first time we skipped the apple picking on this trip and just let the kids have their run of the activities included in the wristband price. They rode the boo train, climbed, played, petted, jumped and rode to their hearts’ content. Between our two families we have five kids ranging in age from 4 up to 9 – they have boys and we have girls. The youngest ones were just toddlers on our first trip here, and there was plenty to keep them amused as well. This year it was even more fun to watch the kids all run around and playing together. In years to come, I expect that we’ll try out the 8-acre corn maze once the kids are old enough to walk for longer periods of time without begging to be carried. This year’s maze has a Breast Cancer theme and design – and Lewis’ Farm Market will donate $1.00 to the American Cancer Society if you print out and bring the coupon with you, and purchase either a corn maze ticket or a wristband before the end of October.
One thing we have noticed over the years that we’ve been going to Lewis’ Farm Market however – the secret is most definitely out! This year was the most crowded that we’ve ever seen the place, with lines for almost every activity. We came later in the day though, which left plenty of time to play, but much of the crowd had thinned after we’d been there for an hour or so, which was wonderful. We enjoyed our cider and donuts and then took off for dinner together and then the drive back home.
It really just doesn’t even feel like ‘fall’ until we’ve done our annual pumpkin patch trip! 🙂