For 26 years, families have been flocking to Hill Ridge Farms in Youngsville for fun, down-on-the-farm days.
The farm is popular for its fall pumpkin patch, complete with a massive playground that features a giant tunnel slide, a corn crib, train rides, hayrides and more. This will be the third year that Hill Ridge also is open during the Christmas season with lights and other holiday activities.
But that big playground with train rides and hayrides also is open in the spring and summer too. And now there is a fun way to cool off on those hot summer days. Hill Ridge opened a splash pad last month. The water play area will be open from Memorial Day weekend through the end of September.
The splash pad comes at the request of moms and other customers who love coming to Hill Ridge all year except on those sticky North Carolina summer days.
"We knew we wanted a water feature," said Jennifer Dunn, Hill Ridge's events manager. "Our moms and customers love coming, but their kids are getting hot. They wanted water play."
The sprayground, which opened in mid-June, measures 55 feet by 55 feet and can fit about 80 people. Seven water features and more than 40 jets spray or dump water on you. If nobody is in the sprayground, visitors can activate the jets and water features by stepping on a black sensor on the ground.
The surface is brushed concrete, similar to what's used around public pools. It's not slippery at all. My four-year-old had no problem playing in the sprayground with both water shoes and bare feet.
Dunn said that the splash pad uses recycled water that's treated just like the water in a swimming pool.
"We have an automatic chemical controller," she said. "It keeps the water cleaned and maintained constantly."
As they looked at water play for Hill Ridge, Dunn said they immediately gravitated to the splash pad. There's no standing water, so no drowning risk and people of all ages can enjoy it, she said.
Moms and kids spend the day hopping from the sprayground to Hill Ridge's other features and back. Adults often hang out at the picnic tables right next to the splash pad while their kids play or jump right in there with them, she said.
It was a big endeavor for the farm. It took months of design and planning to get it built. Dunn said there is a labyrinth of pipes underneath it for all of those individual spray jets.
But, so far, it's paid off. Families, camps and other groups have been flocking to the farm this summer. (Thanks to the Creative Child Learning Center for letting me take some pictures of the fun they had there the other day). Summer birthday parties, especially, have been popular since the splash pad opened.
"It's been a huge hit," Dunn said.
Because she's a mom herself, she knew water play needed to be close to the bathrooms and concessions for snacks. Hill Ridge has full service restrooms right next to the splash pad where visitors can dry off and change.
The splash pad is included in Hill Ridge's general admission, which is $7 for kids ages 2 to 12, and $5 for ages 13 and up. Kids under 2 are free. General admission also includes the giant slide, moonbounce, jumping pillow, farm animal corral, fish feeding dock, maze, hay jump, corn playhouse and swings. There are extra charges for the hayride, train ride and gem panning.
On Wednesdays, one adult gets in free with each child admission purchased. With the splash pad, you could easily spend a good part of the day here, making that admission charge a great value. I have to say, this is a fantastic addition to Hill Ridge Farms.
Hill Ridge Farms is at 703 Tarboro Rd. in Youngsville just north of Wake Forest.