Part VIII: Off the Beaten Path

Note: This will be my last post in current format for the "Off the Beaten Path” series. I have covered all of the interesting and unique places that I have personally visited and wanted to discuss, but I still enjoy talking about US travel. As a result and for future posts, I’ll continue the series with a different perspective--I’ll talk about places that I have not yet visited, but that still interest me.

To date, my featured travel spots, with the exception of Hana, HI, are best visited in the spring and summer. In contrast, today’s destination would not be open(well, only the store would be) if you stopped by in June or July. This location is best visited in the fall—when football season is blossoming and there is just a hint of coolness in the air.

Our family, at least once per fall, will make the drive west of Lewisburg, PA (for those following the Ray Gricar Missing Person posts, Lewisburg is also the town where he was last seen and his car was recovered) for a visit to Ard’s Farm Market*. Year-round, the market is a nice place to buy locally grown produce. But in the fall, the location is transformed into a little-known adventure gem for all ages.

Every September, Ard’s opens its 5 acre corn maze and activities area. The maze has an annual theme, three different games to play while in it, and more than fifty markers to hunt for while wandering the seemingly endless corn rows (related to finding letters that decode words and phrases).

The oldest kid and I, now that he has much more walking energy, can just about finish the challenges in corn maze in one trip (a few hours in the corn) to Lewisburg. Usually though, we will miss one or two markers, and I let him make the call on whether we try to finish the course depending on how much his stomach is grumbling and how hot it is.

Here is a drawing of the 2008 maze:

As much as he likes to finish everything in one attempt, he really doesn’t mind hearing that we will have to make a return visit either to complete the maze challenges.

Not only is there a big maze, but also a smaller one for young children. The smaller maze challenges youngsters to locate four markers that are assigned different colors. Once all of the colored markers are located, the children can then return to the start and check there “fortune” by comparing the order the colors were found using a large results board. Our little ones did this maze three times, and were so excited to find what each future prediction revealed.

In addition to the traditional corn walks, there is a neat rope maze. This is set on about forty yards of land and can be tricky to solve—there is only one secret way to the cowbell for a winning celebration. If you keep missing the secret row, it can involve plenty of walking.

One of the more shockingly fun activities at Ard’s is the tube slide. Built using plenty of PVC pipe on a large hill on the property, the slide is 95 ft. long that includes a surprisingly steep vertical drop. I think my son was three years old the first time we rode the chute--and I am glad I was gripping him tightly as that drop snuck up on us. Fortunately, he was excited and not scared, and immediately asked to go again.

Other things to do on the farm include a corn cannon that shoots cobs high into the air, sand boxes filled with corn or beans, swings hooked to pulleys that allow the kids to hold on for a ride, a barn filled with educational activities, and lots of animals to feed (it is a farm of course).

The elevated goat pen that features a bucket and pulley system is a huge hit with the kids—being able to wheel a bucket of goat feed up about 25 feet into a food tray for the critters is lots of fun to watch.

I could not find a picture of Ard's goat structure, but here is one from a farm in California that looks very similar:

Fortunately after hours of playing with the kids, Ard’s has a great eatery that includes a variety of foods including sandwiches, chicken pot pie, and even beer-battered onion rings. It is wise to also save room for dessert as the ice cream flows freely here as well.

For us, the annual trek to the corn maze and other activities at Ard’s Farm Market is certainly the highlight of our fall season.

One additional thing: Maize Quest is the firm that designs these wonderful corn mazes likes Ard's—-you look to see if there is one closer to you by going here.

*Note: You would think Ard’s would update their website so that it is not still showing as December, considering all this free publicity that I am giving them.

Previous tour stops in this Off the Beaten Path Series are:

--Lynchburg, TN

--Centralia, PA

--Murfreesboro, AR

--Washington, DC

--Hana, HI

--Corolla, NC

--Mammoth Cave, KY


The Queen Mommy said...

We have a local (smaller) corn maze that is such a great adventure! What creative genius - and a great family event! Thanks for sharing this!