Maize Valley Farm Market and Winery is the perfect place to enjoy the fall harvest with your family.
(What happens when the Hero of Canton leaves town to visit his kids on at the same time Jennifer’s kids are spending the weekend with her in Canton? He begs and pleads with her to do something fun, take lots of pictures and write an incredibly witty and informative post for his blog. Then he crosses his fingers, does the dishes and hopes she’s as brilliant as he knows she is so his readers are left entertained and educated.)
If you’re anything like me, fall is your favorite season. There’s something about walking around outside when the air is crisp, the leaves are changing and crops are harvested. Give me a glass of apple cider, a pumpkin to carve and a bonfire to cozy up to and I’m a happy girl. Thankfully my kids have inherited this love of all things fall, so October generally finds me hunting the nearest pumpkin patch. A few weeks back we carted them off to Nickajack Farms for a pretty fun filled evening. Our primary regret? Not having enough time to really enjoy everything the farm had to offer.
So when my parents decided to come visit on a weekend when my kids were in town, we went hunting for another farm with a harvest event so we could enjoy an afternoon of fun. I went online, did some research and found out the Maize Valley Farm Market & Winery has boatloads of family fun. It was only about a 30 minute drive from Canton, so on Sunday after church we put the bark collar on the dog and headed out.
Maize Valley Farm Market and Winery is located in Hartville, Ohio and is open year round. It doesn’t have to be fall for you to go and enjoy a good time, but it helps. While the Winery features some great outdoor play areas for kids, live entertainment, wine tastings and a great little deli year round, they really ramp things up in the harvest season. Their Family Fun days kick off at the end of September with a hot air balloon festival and keep going strong through Halloween as people spend the days playing and the nights getting their wits scared off in the haunted corn maze.
We pulled up at the winery at about 3:30 in the afternoon on a Sunday. There was plenty of parking just outside the winery itself and loads of extra space in a field behind the main parking lot. We wandered over to the winery to look at the beautiful displays of pumpkins and gourds and the kids made a beeline to a height chart and a mural of farm animals with face holes. We looked around and it was pretty clear the fun and activity was up the path a hundred yards or so beyond the winery.
Who Knew Burrow Were So Soft?
On the walk up to the ticket booth, we passed a small concession stand with a fresh donut fryer sitting out front and a giant stack of cinnamon sugar donuts that were clearly fresh from the fryer. With promises to the kids (and me!) that we’d return to sample them later we continued up the path. The path runs along side a field that was home to a variety of pigs, llamas, goats and a very friendly Burro. Emmitt and I detoured over to the fence to make friends with the burro (who was as soft as fleece) while Elnora and my mother tried to pet a goat that clearly thought it was enjoy a never ending game of tag.
The “family fun” area of Maize Valley is fenced off, so if you want anything more than animal petting and fresh donuts you’ll need to pay an admission fee. At $7 for kids age 2-12 and $9 for anyone 13 and over, (kids under 2 are free) Maize Valley’s Fall Family Fun isn’t cheap. That said, you could easily kill four or five hours here.
Who Knew Hard Work Could be so Fun
The first place we headed once we got through the gate was up to a covered pavilion. At one end was a swarm of kids gathered around hand pump powered rubber duckie racers. Four hand pumps were feeding into large buckets that then fed into about a 12 foot long section of piping just wide enough to hold a rubber duckie. Racers set the rubber ducking at the starting point and then pumped water fast enough to overflow the bucket and fill the pipes. The fastest or most productive pumper then propelled their rubber ducky down the track and back to win the game.
My kids adored this and probably spent a good 20-30 minutes here before we literally dragged them off to experience other things.
Hay Bales + Old Tires + Rocks = Fun (No, Really!)
The protests we heard as we dragged the kids away from the pavilion quickly turned to cheers when they spotted the kids play area just up the hill. Emmitt and Nora made a beeline for a giant wooden ark, storming up the gang plank to explore the ship. It was just your standard church or preschool style wooden ark, but to a three and four year old, it was heaven. They burned another 20 minutes or so here before noticing the grain silo sitting behind it acting like a giant sandbox.
We headed back there and realized the “sand box” was actually a rock box. Very fine rock was piled up several inches deep around and inside the grain silo, giving kids a chance to dig and pile and play without loading their shoes and socks up with enough sand to fill a house for the next six months. (A brilliant idea Maize Valley, moms everywhere thank you!)
Next to this was a giant pile of old tractor tires with a little bit of plastic piping thrown in for good measure. Yeah, yeah, I know…sounds like loads of fun, right? Actually…it was. The Maize Valley team had taken a dozen or more old tractor tires of various sizes and piled them up just right to make a great little jungle gym. A few well placed pipes to act as tunnels and slides and Emmitt was in heaven. Granted, I had to help him out quite a bit because the tires were just too big for him to really be able to climb across, but he had a blast going down the slide.
While Emmitt was exploring the tire pile, Elnora spotted the giant hay mound of death. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ll fully admit that even my fairly easy going parenting was tested when I saw the 20 foot mountain of hay and tunnels standing before us. While my kids tend to be outgoing and like to explore, neither is particularly fearless, so I didn’t worry too much. I figured they’d stick to the low tunnels and enjoy clambering in the hay around the base.
I glanced over to see Nora heading through a tunnel and the next thing I knew, she was standing on top of the world.
After a brief moment of mom-induced “oh my word, she’ll fall and kill herself” I came to my senses and realized the hay pile was set up kind of like a pyramid. If the kids fell off, they were probably only going to fall one hay level down (a few feet) and of course they’d be landing on hay. All in all, not quite the death trap I’d labeled it.
The hay pile was probably the single most exciting thing there for my kids. They spent at least half an hour, maybe longer climbing up, over, under and through. It took Emmitt a while to get up the courage to climb up to the top, but a little coaxing and help from Elnora was enough to get him inspired. In the end, I joined them and the three of us spent a bit of time sitting on the top of the pile taking in the sites before making our way back down to go explore the rest of the farm.
Not the Longest Hay Ride Ever (and that’s a good thing!)
By this time, the grown-ups were ready for a little bit of a rest. Mom and dad suggested we take the hay ride as a way to see what else was around the farm. That’s when the protesting started.
“We don’t want to go on the hay ride!”
“It’s too long!”
“We want to play! Don’t make us go!”
(If you read Stoney’s review of Nickajack Farms and the hay ride we took there, you’ll understand.)
After a minute or two of this I played the mommy card and decided that we (ALL of us) would be going on the hay ride. Kudos to Maize Valley, they set this up nicely.
The hay ride starts in front of the farm’s pumpkin chunkin’ machine. (If you’re not familiar with pumpkin chunkin, you’re missing out. There’s nothing like watching grown men operate fire truck size, air powered pumpkin launchers that can hurl a pumpkin thousands of feet or blast the side out of an old van…it’s all very Monty Pythonesque and quite entertaining.)
We watched the operator spool up the air compressor, load a few pumpkins into the pipe and then take aim at an old beat up van a few hundred yards away. His first shot fell short, exploding the pumpkin just in front of the van on the ground, but the next two pumpkins pounded the snot out of the side of the van. Once he’d wowed us with the sheer force of the pumpkin cannon, he cranked up the cannon’s trajectory and lobbed a couple of pumpkins a few thousand yards into the nearby woods.
When the pumpkin chunkin display was over, the hay ride took off and drove us a couple hundred yards down to the “Nashog Raceway” where we had a chance to watch the Maize Valley pig races.
Our next stop was the farm’s self-pick pumpkin patch where visitors could hop off, borrow a wagon and head out into the fields to pick just the right pumpkin. At 40 cents a pound, the self pick pumpkins were far from cheap, but if you’re looking to take your kids for an experience, it’s a fun way to let them really feel like they’ve “picked” their own pumpkin.
The final stop on the hay ride was Maize Valley’s giant themed corn maze. While we didn’t have a chance to check out the maze with the little ones, it’s clearly an experience. There’s a large stairway leading to a platform in the middle of the maze so lost visitors can climb up and try to find their way out. There are also discovery stations and games throughout the maze as well as an interactive text message game designed to help visitors find their way through.
Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered how a corn maze is created, the team at Maize Valley has put together a YouTube video about this year’s civil war themed maze.
So Much More to Do and See
When we came back from the hay ride, it was about time to head out. It was cold that day and my fingers were starting to lose all feeling. The kids made a beeline for some push powered racing cars, so mom and I joined them. The kids were pretty good at steering them, so I decided to hop on one myself. No sooner had dad snapped a picture than mom decided to start pushing. Apparently my mad driving skills do not translate to people powered carts.
It was not graceful.
Thankfully, it was also not captured on film. (Thanks Dad!)
As we gathered up the kids to head out, we passed quite a few other activities we hadn’t had a chance to try. There were a variety of large plastic pipes being rolled up and down the hill, often with children laughing hysterically inside them. There was also a tractor pulling a long train of barrels fitted with seats and decorated to look like farm animals.
If you’re looking to have some fun without small children around, Maize Valley also offers a haunted corn maze and forest that sets up after dark and runs an additional $12 per person.
On our way back down to the parking lot we stopped by that little snack bar to pick up a dozen freshly made cinnamon sugar donuts. At $6 a dozen, the price was perfect. We took them to the Winery with the kids and headed inside to get drinks, warm up and enjoy the sweet doughy goodness. And what sweet, doughy goodness it was. I consider myself a bit of a donut connoisseur, and these may have been the finest, freshest cinnamon sugar donuts I’d ever tasted. I ate two that day, and stopped only because I wanted to have some to eat the next day. They were a hit with everyone else as well.
That was the first time I’d been inside the winery and it was beautiful. An old barn converted into a lovely little shop and deli, the winery also has ample seating and a beautiful wine bar. The deli offers a variety of fresh made Amish cheeses, deli meats and baked goods, or you can order fresh made sandwiches for around $6-$8 each. Wine isn’t served on Sundays, so if you’re looking to do some tasting, avoid that day.
Overall, Maize Valley Farm Market and Winery puts on a wonderful fall harvest festival. Perhaps one of the nicest I’d ever attended. It’s a great place to take the family, but I’d also highly suggest planning an outing with a group. There’s a large field just behind the activity area filled with large fire pits and hay bales. Maize Valley rents these out to groups and allows you to bring in food and drink. It’s a great way to extend the day by giving your group a home base for food, s’ mores and warming up.
More Maize Valley Farm Market and Winery Fall Family Fun Info
Cost: 3 adults, 2 children – $41 (+ $6 for a dozen donuts)
Hats off: 5/5
Google Reviews and info
6193 Edison Street NE
Hartville, OH 44632