The following year, a friend my wife worked with suggested we check out Donaldson Farms in Hackettstown. Before this, the only thing I knew about Hackettstown is that it is home to the M&M factory in New Jersey. We decided to go check out the farm and were completely blown away. This isn't just your standard "Go find a pumpkin and pay for it" ordeal. Donaldson Farms had just about everything under the sun. Since then, we've gone back every year and enjoy ourselves each time.
Lining the parking area is a massive Corn Maze, each year featuring a new design. This year was a farm scene, a little disappointing considering the Halloween designs they've done in previous years but whatever. Not every farm has a corn maze so it's still a fun thing to do with the family. As you go through the maze, you'll find a few placards displaying fun facts about corn and farming. It's fun, it's educational, and it helps support the local farmers. We didn't do the maze this year but not because we weren't interested but because there was so much other stuff to do we didn't have time.
The first area you come to after parking is the indoor Farmer's Market where they sell a wide range of fresh produce, milk, honey and lots of other good stuff. We always save the market for last because we don't want to leave what we buy in the car for hours. So I'll get to that part of the story later.
We walked around the courtyard for a little bit just to check out everything that they had. They set up those painted cutouts, where you poke your head through a take a ridiculous picture of yourself, all in different shapes. A few ghosts, one with a tractor pulling some hay, and one featuring a recreation of "American Gothic". It's silly and harmless and just fun to do. They also have a Duck Race. For $3, you can buy a little rubber duck (which you get to keep) and put it in the water tube. Using an old pump, you churn water into the tube and race ducks. Again, silly and harmless but the kids there had a blast.
This year has a new attraction: a giant sandbox with a bunch of sand toys. Some kids were building sandcastles with little plastic buckets and drove trucks through the sand. I'm a little hesitant around sandboxes just because they tend to be litter boxes for stray cats but if those parents are cool with that, more power to them. Knowing this farm, it's probably super clean but I really have no reason to go in there.
After that, we visited the pony ride. For $5, your little one can ride on their choice of 3 horses or 1 pony. This is something that they introduced a few years ago and it's been an amazing hit. Every time we're there, there always seems to be a line to ride the horses. I can only imagine how much this attraction pulls in.
From there we decided to get some food. They have a grill set up offering a few quick, freshly made meals including burgers, hot dogs, chicken fingers and cheesesteaks. It's not 5-star dining but for the price, it's damn good. Much better than swinging by McDonalds for a Big Mac. The cheesesteak didn't hold up so well being put in a hot dog bun for for $4.50, it was completely worth it and tasted great. With our bellies full, it was time go get on the hayride.
The purpose of the hayride is to get you out to the pumpkin patch and allow you to pick your own. It's a $2 charge to take the hayride but the experience is completely optional since they have different size pumpkins all around the farm that you can purchase. We like doing the hayride and having the full experience and $2 is a small price to pay. The hayride itself winds through different parts of the farm so you can see apple trees, asparagus patches, and the strawberry fields. The owners also set up a wide range of scarecrows in different positions, like a man proposing to a woman and a woman out jogging with her dog. They aren't all Halloween-themed but they make the experience fun.
Our shopping spree complete, headed over to the last attraction of our day: the Corn Cannon. For 4 bucks, you can fire 5 ears of corn from a pressurized tube at a few targets about 100 feet away. There's no real purpose to the game other than to tell your friends that you fired a corn cannon.
If you're in the North/Central Jersey area and are looking for a fun, safe place to take your kids, go to Donaldson Farms.