Farm fresh adventures right outside Chicago

Family accessible farm outside Chicago
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Chicago area farms offer change of pace and change of scenery

 

Looking for a unique way to get outside and escape the everyday? Here’s an idea: Gather the family or grab a friend and take a short drive to a nearby Chicagoland farm.

We know… It’s been awhile since farms or farm animals have been common in the city and surrounding area. (Yes, poor Mrs. O’Leary’s cow is famous for allegedly kicking over a lantern to start the Great Chicago Fire. But that was 1871.)

The good news is there are a handful of Cook County farms that have been preserved and are open to the public today. They offer a fun outdoor activity, and a great way to imagine and experience ways of life that are quite different from our typical urban and suburban ones.

Even better news? Though many farms have interactive activities, you won’t have to wake up at dawn every morning to do the chores.

 

Wagner Farm

If your kids think milk comes from a carton, Wagner Farm is the place to be. This working dairy farm offers opportunities to visit cows in the pasture, watch them getting milked, AND sample delicious ice cream. Little ones will also love swinging on a tire and learning as they play in the outdoor Ag Adventure area. They can also collect pretend eggs and play-act in a 1930s grocery store in the Heritage Center.

This 18.6 acre farm recreates rural American life in the 1920s-1950s. Depending on the time of year, you can check out other barnyard animals, go for a hayride, or just breathe it all in while rocking back and forth on one of many rocking chairs conveniently located on the Heritage Center’s porch. No cost for entry from the Glenview Park District.

 

Volkening Heritage Farm

Stepping back in time is also an important part of Volkening Heritage Farm, which is run by the Schaumburg Park District. But this time you’ll be going all the way back to the 1880s, when Schaumburg was a German farming community.

Visitors can help with seasonal farm chores, enjoy family activities and games of the 1880s, or say hello to the livestock. You’ll even find authentically dressed interpreters to welcome and guide you. There’s a visitor center, shop and farmhouse; check website for hours. Heritage Farm is open April-November and is part of Spring Valley – a free 135-acre refuge of fields, forests, marshes and streams that includes three miles of handicapped-accessible hiking trails and a nature center.

 

The Center

Want to get up close and personal with some farm animals? During an Open Farm visit at The Center in south suburban Palos Park, you’ll be invited into pens to touch, pet and groom them. Animals change seasonally, but may include chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, goats, cows, sheep, horses, ponies and donkeys.

On one of these open visits, you can also take a hayrack ride, explore their walking trails, and enjoy lunch in their picnic area. The Center also offers a variety of different programs and special events like sheep shearing. Fee-based; visit website for details and schedules.

 

Stellwagen Farm

If you prefer quiet reflection, consider a self-guided outdoor walking tour (no cost) at Stellwagen Farm in Orland Park. You’ll learn about the area’s agricultural heritage and what life was like at this family farm that dates back to 1860. Download the tour here.

The grounds include a circa 1860 farmhouse, as well as a barn, two milk houses, a silo, corn cribs, a coal house, carriage house and reproduction windmill. Each September, members of the Stellwagen family provide a weekend of free guided tours.