by Lynn Saunders Farm was, in a word, AWESOME.
In the past I've thought of Saunders Farm as a Halloween destination, and they are certainly known for that. In October, you'll find truly scary hayrides and haunted houses on the farm, funny shows, and yummy winter treats. It's a fun night out for teens and young adults.
In the past few years they've worked hard to turn Saunders Farm into a year-round attraction. This was the first year we've been as a family, and it was really just so cool. Mazes! Splash pad! Huge, unique climbing structures! Giant slides! Shows! Wagon rides! Whew! The kids loved it - even more than Cosmic Adventures. It's winning the Summer of Awesome so far.
When you get there, the first thing you'll see after paying is this:
Actual tree houses! Houses in trees! This is just a small section of the various climbing structures and little houses they have scattered in the entrance area. There's dozens of places to explore, several slides, sand and sand toys, and even a hay stack to jump in. My kids' jaws hit the floor when they saw this and quite frankly, they would have been more than happy to spend 3 to 4 hours just playing here. There's even a Kids Discovery Barn here with little interactive displays and other fun stuff. It's a great place to spend the first 30 to 60 minutes at the farm - or longer, if you can't convince your kids to move along.
After the climbers, a snack, and a puppet show, we hopped on a wagon ride.
Unlike the Halloween Hayrides, the wagon ride was not scary, just a fun ride through the forest with a few big dips for excitement and the thrill of almost getting "trapped" in a small pond.
The wagon ride was my seven-year-old son's favourite part of the day. He really enjoyed questioning whether or not the driver actually had a license to drive.
Then, it was time to hit the mazes. Saunders Farm has the most mazes of any location in North America - these are full sized mazes that adults can walk through. Some are really tough, some are easy, but they're all really fun.
I was really looking forward to exploring the mazes and the farm did not disappoint. Most of them have some sort of treasure hunt component - something to search for in the mazes, or maybe a cool tower in the centre. At the very least, each maze has a stamp at the end so you can stamp your sheet and confirm your accomplishment (be sure to pick up a sheet for everyone in the gift shop on your way in).
We weren't able to do all the mazes, but we managed to get through six or seven of them. I had wanted to try geocaching with the kids this summer, but I decided they were just too young. The mazes were a great alternative - the kids got really excited finding their way through and looking for clues, then getting their stamp at the end.
The kids especially loved the Cedar Maze and the Colour Maze. I loved them all but would warn against the Mile Maze, which is TOUGH and also literally a mile long. Do NOT save that one for the end of the day or you will wind up lost with three cranky children on your hands, contemplating an air lift rescue.
We ate our picnic lunch at a nice table (we brought our own food, but they do have a snack bar that sells hot dogs and fries and the like, as well as a drinks-and-ice-cream bar), and then it was time to get wet. There's a splash pad there, along with change rooms, and my kids were crazy in love with it.
Oh, and I can't believe I forgot to mention this custom made pirate ship which is right next to the splash pad, which my kids want to live in forever and ever. It has a crow's nest and a pirate's wheel and a plank for walking and a rope swing and a few cannons and even a mermaid on the front. Amazing!
And right beside that is this giant slide (warning: don't slide down lying down on your back, it's a bumpy one):
And in the middle of all this action, there are some lovely cottage chairs for parents to kick back with a good book, like the mom sitting next to me.
The kids had so much fun here, they did not want to go home. I thought we'd spend maybe three or four hours at the farm, but we were there for more than six hours and even then, I had to drag the kids away. They were pretty mad that we didn't get a chance to go on every single thing there -- there's still several mazes we didn't get through and we visited less than half of the various play structures. There is SO much here, it's just so easy to fill a whole day.
And I had a good time, too - I loved the mazes, and their little onsite shop is just so cute.
Did I mention that everyone went to bed a half hour early that night? And that they slept like logs? SWEET.
The one real drawback of Saunders Farm is that it's pretty far out. It's in Munster, which is about a 20 minute drive west of Kanata, so people in central Ottawa or in the East end will find it to be quite the hike. I think it's worth it, though. You can get full directions on their website. The farm is open every day from 10am to 5pm.
Some things you'll need to know:
- It's a day in the sun, so bring hats, sunscreen, and lots of water. You know the drill.
- You'll all get wristbands, so you're free to go out to your car as often as you need to. So go ahead and leave the cooler full of lunch and your swim stuff in the trunk - a lighter load will serve you well in the mazes.
- Parking is free and plentiful.
- I really debated about bringing a stroller, and now that we've been, I'm still not sure what the right answer is. There are some paved sections of path, but other areas are grassy and not super stroller friendly, and there's no way you should even think of taking a stroller into the mazes. Plus, no strollers are allowed on the wagon ride (you can leave yours by the pickup/dropoff spot, though). In the end we didn't take ours and I was happy to have the freedom to run around after my kids, and to go through the mazes without having to constantly worry about where to park the thing. But there's no question it was a lot of walking for my three-year-old and she was completely wiped out by the end of the day. I think next time I would again leave the stroller at home, but for kids under 3 you'll probably want one.
- Footwear is a tough call. Some of the mazes have needle-filled pathways and the prickles can worm their way into sandals, flip-flops, or crocs and give your kids' toes a bit of a pinch. On the other hand, the concrete floor of the splash pad was cold and my kids preferred having their crocs on while playing there - running shoes would not have been suitable. So again, I don't know what to tell you here, except maybe bring both? Next time I would do crocs again but caution the kids to walk carefully, and allow extra time in the mazes for stopping to dump stuff from shoes.
- The Spruce Maze involves taking rubbings at various stations along the way, and the rubbings come together to make a complete picture. Unfortunately you need a crayon to take the rubbings and they were all gone when we were there - so do your kids a favour and bring a few crayons with you.
- The cost is $50 for a family of four, which seemed like a lot to me at the time, but now I think was totally worth it. Plus we brought in all our own food, so we spent nothing other than our entrance fee.
Obviously, I'll be giving Saunders Farm a Summer of Awesome Must Do.
Lynn is mom to three tombliboos aged 7, 5, and 3, and blogs over at Turtlehead.