There are a lot of pumpkin patches and fall fun farms around here where kids can do everything from just pick a pumpkin to slide down two-story tube slides and bounce on jumping pillows.
My kids love the big destinations, but there are times and certain ages where a simple visit to a farm is really all you need. And, let's be honest, the costs can add up at some of the bigger places.
Green Level Gourd Farm near Cary and Apex is about as streamlined as you can get. It's a perfect destination for the younger crowd who might get overwhelmed at a big farm with something new at every turn.
Here, for the great price of $4 per person, there's a playground, a few animals to view, a small corn maze (emphasis on small) and a hayride that takes you through a forest filled with ghosts, witches, spiders and the occasional kid favorite like Big Bird or Mickey Mouse. More on that in a second.
I took my four-year-old daughter to the farm on Saturday, the first day the farm was open for the season. Her big sister and father were camping and I was looking for a fun activity for just the two of us. Green Level Gourd Farm
My daughter made a beeline for the playground, a hodgepodge of homemade play pieces, standard play equipment, toddler toys and reused items like an old fishing boat that kids can row. The favorite was a small tube slide made of corrugated pipe and a caterpillar tunnel made of the same material.
We were at the farm for about 2.5 hours and we spent most of it on the playground as she flitted from a strip for bowling to a long sand table to the horse swings and back again to the tunnel or slide or boat. Even a group of older kids, who I'd peg around seven, enjoyed the playground for as long as my preschooler did as they celebrated a friend's birthday.
We lingered a bit to see the animals - four goats, including a couple of babies; rabbits and chicken, among others. And we ran through the small corn maze, designed for the youngest kids.
And then there was the hayride. We boarded the wagon, sitting on hay bales covered in plastic. Attached to the wagon were plastic clappers, which we were told to clap when prompted during the ride. (This was a job my daughter took very seriously).
We rode through the farm and then into a forested area where, hanging from the trees, were all sorts of animated objects - ghosts, witches, spiders, ghouls of all kinds. The driver had a long stick that he used to activate some of the objects. We helped with our clappers.
If it were dark and if the man steering the wagon weren't so happy and fun, the ride might be a little bit scary for some very young children. It's not gory or anything, but I was slightly worried my daughter might be a little afraid of some of the spooky figures. But she was so focused on clapping her clapper (and telling me to do the same) and listening to our guide, that she just had a good time.
And, as if to clear our heads of any bad thoughts, the last half or so of the hayride is full of happy scenes for the most part - there's a Disney scene, Sesame Street section and even a butterfly garden.
The hayride is definitely low-tech and a little bit goofy, but in a good way. It was perfect for my daughter. We both had a great time, laughing and clapping along the way.
Green Level Gourd Farm does have some pumpkins to purchase, along with a pumpkin decorating station where you can stick Halloween stickers on your pumpkin for free. Pumpkins are extra - they start at around $2 for very small ones.
Green Level Gourd Farm, 3800 Green Level West Rd. in Wake County, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends through Oct. 27. It's open to groups of 10 or more on Fridays by appointment only.
Check the image gallery for scenes of the farm.
Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more ideas, check our park and playground database and posts on Triangle family destinations. For more information about fall fun in the region, check our Halloween and Fall Fun Guide.