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“Grass!!!” my 2-year-old squealed as we got out of the car. There’s no question that my daughter is a city girl.
Every fall, like many families in Washington, we leave our house (and lack of a yard) on the Hill in an annual quest for greener pastures outside the Beltway.
Typically, we go to a nice family farm with a corn maze and a pumpkin patch and leave with a mum or two. This year, we made our first trip to Cox Farms in Centreville, Va. It’s called Fall Festival, but the name really doesn’t do the event justice.
Cox Farms is more like an amusement park, with an operation that’s been fine-tuned over the past 25 years. It’s also sufficiently commercialized to avoid making city folks too uncomfortable. You can buy Papa John’s pizza but still brag to your co-workers that your kid touched a live calf.
Cox Farms is only 30 miles from Capitol Hill, but since the adventure involves driving west on Interstate 66, the one-way trip can take anywhere from a half-hour to an hour and a half.
At $15 per person for everybody over 2 years old (on the weekends), the entrance fee isn’t cheap for a family, but at least they accept credit cards. For those people with flexible jobs, no job, or Democrats who realize their job might be ending soon anyway, it’s cheaper during the week ($9 per person).
Inside, the place is a sprawling array of free, no-collar fun: slides of varying elevations and speeds for young and old alike, rope swings and a village where you can pet goats (and feed them with an ice cream cone filled with food for $1), among many other activities.
Our 2-year-old often sat at the top of a slide, questioning the sanity of her parents. But time after time, she made it to the bottom and greeted us with a “Do it again?” We stayed for three hours and didn’t even come close to experiencing everything. The place is so large that we knew a half-dozen friends who were there at the same time and we never ran into them.
The Cornundrum Cornfield Adventure is definitely more of a corn walk with random things to look at than a corn maze. So if you’re looking to get lost in rows of maize, then you’ll want to go elsewhere.
Random doesn’t even begin to describe the hayride. Sitting in a flatbed trailer in a pile of straw might be the most authentic part of the entire fall festival experience, but the subsequent journey might be best enjoyed while under the influence of a leafy substance.
The long trip through the farm includes painted wooden cutouts of Shrek, a bear wearing a diaper while riding a pink bicycle, President Richard Nixon, and President Barack Obama doing the Vulcan salute and standing next to an alien spaceship. I’m still wondering how the high school girl with a hot-dog hat was relevant to anything.
The hayride, and its prominent display of dinosaurs, might be the best example that Cox Farms appears to have made a significant capital investment during the Jurassic Park era.
Food isn’t particularly cheap, but not as much as you’ll pay at a Nationals game. Drinks (cans of soda and bottled water) cost $1.50, while those slices of Papa John’s pizza are $2.75. The kettle corn isn’t particularly cheap, but it’s dangerously delicious. Once you have your food, there are plenty of picnic tables to eat at while being entertained by a live band.
For those of us looking for our fall fix, a trip to Centreville hit the spot. Cox Farms has farm entertainment down to a science. There’s no shortage of fun, just a slight premium on shade. Parking is free, but the place will likely be very crowded on the weekends.
The festival runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Nov. 7. Extensive information is provided at CoxFarms.com, and not many farms have 5,200 fans on Facebook.
If you want a rugged “Little House on the Prairie” experience, Cox Farms probably isn’t for you. But as my daughter asked countless times, “Do it again?” Yes, we probably will next year.