Down-Home Away from Home: 8 Great Farm Stays for Families
A farm vacation connects you and your family with nature and a simpler way of living. Kids feed goats and lambs, collect eggs, and get on a first-name basis with resident donkeys and alpacas like the one pictured above at Tusculum Farm in Maryland. You’ll spend your days completing chores or tromping through creeks, pastures, and barns (pro tip: bring boots). When night falls, the whole brood can sit outside and admire starry skies. If that sounds like your idea of good, old-fashioned fun, here are eight (mostly) budget-friendly farms that are great for families. E-i-e-i-o!
Goats rule at Rainbow Ridge, a 35-acre farm situated 5 miles north of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Nine different breeds of the woolly ruminants are raised here; the smallest, Nigerian dwarf goats, will cuddle up in your lap like puppies. The farm lets you join in bottle-feeding the babies and milking the moms. During goat yoga sessions, young herd members might nibble your shirt or jump on your back. All the kids onsite—two- and four-legged alike—enjoy climbing the “monkey tree,” a sprawling box elder with views of the Mississippi River from the upper branches. From February into March, farm guests might witness a goat birth and get to cradle the brand-new critter in their arms. Soaps and lotions made from goats’ milk make good souvenirs.
Lodging: 4 bedrooms in the farmhouse
Included meals: hot breakfast on weekends, continental breakfast weekdays
A mile-long section of the San Gabriel River runs through Scurlock Farms. So in addition to feeding cattle and brushing horses, you can skip rocks, go tubing, and fish for bass, carp, and perch during your stay. The owners grow hay and pecans on the 172-acre property in Georgetown, part of the Texas Hill Country about 28 miles from Austin. Kids often get tractor rides—a thrill for big truck lovers, especially when they're settled in the cab of a hay baler. Visit at the end of October to scoop up pecans that have fallen after harvest.
Lodging: 2-bedroom house and 1-bedroom cottage with kitchens
Included meals: none—but welcome muffins are provided
On morning chores, help feed the horses and Highland cows, pet the miniature donkeys, and collect eggs if you can find the free-roaming chickens’ nests on this 153-acre property outside Henderson, Tennessee (about 90 miles east of Memphis). Turkey and deer flit through the woods, and soybeans and corn are grown on a big chunk of the land. Hands-on workshops (additional fees) add another dimension. Try soapmaking, painting, and photography, or learn to create your own pasta or decorate cakes with buttercream flowers.
Lodging: 2-bedroom house with kitchen, living room, and front porch; Airstream motor home
Included meals: make-your-own breakfast with coffee and fresh fruit
Liberty Hill Farm’s award-winning Holsteins graze in the pastures of this classic New England dairy farm set on 240 acres rimmed by the Green Mountains. Try your hand at milking the black-and-white beauties, or bottle-feed calves, play with kittens in the barn, go tubing on the White River, and, in August, pick wild blackberries. Hiking and mountain biking trails lead into the adjacent Green Mountain National Forest. The farm’s home-cooked breakfasts and dinners are served family-style.
Lodging: 7 farmhouse rooms
Included meals: breakfast and dinner
Sweet and fuzzy sheep roam 20 acres of pastureland at Leaping Lamb Farm in rural Oregon. During lambing season (mid-March to mid-April), young guests can help weigh the newborns and cradle them in a baby sling. Other farm tasks include collecting chicken eggs and brushing Paco, the miniature long-haired donkey. A shallow creek on the grounds is perfect for stomping and splashing, and walking trails lead into a forest of tall fir and cedar trees. Some paths surprise kids with “fairy houses”—trees with small doors and windows cut into the trunks. Take advantage of the nearby Benton County Pie Company to load up on homemade pies in blackberry-peach, blueberry, apple, and other seasonal flavors.
Lodging: 2-bedroom cottage and 4-bedroom house with kitchens
Included meals: continental breakfast
Tusculum Farm lies on 500 acres in Maryland’s Agricultural Reserve north of Washington, D.C. This is an upscale retreat with designer-decorated rooms, an outdoor pool, and sculpture-strewn fields. Alpacas, sheep, and chickens can be found in the barnyard. Bring your own mountain bikes or borrow wheels from the farm to explore the 100 acres of forest abutting Patuxent River State Park. A neighboring farm, Waredaca, serves craft beer and hosts pony rides on some summer weekends. Also nearby: Glenstone, a noted collection of modern and contemporary art (reserve free tickets ahead; open to guests 12 years old and up).
Lodging: 5 rooms in farmhouse, including 2-bedroom suite; 2-bedroom house with kitchen
Included meals: full breakfast for farmhouse guests; coffee, eggs, and granola provided for other lodgings
This farm in the the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish Country has been around for 200 years. During the Civil War, people fleeing slavery took shelter here. The property has been in the same family since the 1920s and has been a bed and breakfast since 1965. In addition to the usual egg gathering and goat petting, overnighters are invited to bottle-feed calves, ride miniature horses, and go on a tractor tour of the dairy operation. Hayrides take passengers through covered bridges and along Lancaster County’s backroads. Kayaks are available for paddling the creek, and there’s a firepit for cooking dinner.
Lodging: 8 accommodations in the farmhouse, including an efficiency and 1-bedroom apartment with kitchenettes; 1-bedroom guesthouse sleeps up to 5 and has a kitchen
Included meals: family-style farmhouse breakfast
Oklahoma City’s Orr Family Farm is different from the other places on this list. Sure, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, llamas, and a cow laze around the barnyard, waiting for handouts. But most families come for the amusement park–like attractions: a zipline, pedal boats, and all manner of games that will have you racing on tricycles, bouncing on giant pillows, sliding down bales of hay, and scoring goals in life-sized foosball. At night, bunk in a Conestoga wagon or a tepee tricked out with beds, air-conditioning, heating, a microwave, and a refrigerator. Private bath facilities are outside.
Lodging: 9 wagons sleep 4-8 each; 5 tepees sleep 4-6 each.
Included meals: none, but a campfire hot dog dinner is available for an extra fee