Pigs, cows, horses, turkeys, peacocks—these aren’t the usual beltway suspects when you think of living in D.C. But, if your family is longing for a simpler time, or just an afternoon away from the hustle and bustle, pack up some sandwiches and hit the road for Frying Pan Park. Kiddos will have a ball petting the sheep, checking out the pigs, and they can even try their hand at milking a cow. Since it’s a working farm, you’ll probably hear mooing, bleating, and baaing. We found it to be a nice respite from all the honking we hear on the beltway.

frying-pan-parkPhoto: Jamie B. via Yelp

Plan Your Play
If the kids can stand to wait a few moments to see the livestock, hit up the visitor’s center to grab some info on the farm before swinging by the barns. You can get brochures, use the potty, and see a map that will show you around the farm. You may also check out the schedule of classes and events so the kids can tromp around helping with chores, shelling corn, and even taking a wagon ride. P.S. Near the entrance to the farm, is the Moffett Blacksmith Shop where kiddos can learn about blacksmithing, and how important smiths were to the community.

Truck (and Tractor) Touch
Equipment loving kiddos (and parents!) can wander around to The Antique Equipment Shed where turn of the century horse drawn and mechanized equipment reside. Not only do they have some early 1900 Fordson, John Deere and Farmall tractors, but they all work! Kids can see plows, combines and other gear that farmers used (and still use) to till, plant, harvest and work the land. The kids will be fascinated by the equipment, and super curious about the other buildings all around. There’s a smokehouse, dairy, corn crib, chicken coop, sheds, and even an outhouse! We didn’t ask if it was still functioning. The kiddos also get to check out the farmhands driving around doing chores like feeding the pigs, mucking stalls, checking on the babies, and baling hay. If the little ones want to actually ride a tractor, they’ll be out of luck, but there are a bunch of miniature tractors just outside the Middleton Barn where kids can ride, whoop, and pretend they’re the farmer in charge!

frying-pan-farm-goat

Photo: Tom G. via Yelp

Are You Ready to Party…Animals?
The littles will go udderly crazy for this part of Frying Pan Park. Cows, draft horses (complete with mice in the stalls!), sows (mama pigs), goats, lambs, and more are on display for the little ones to stare and gawk at. This time of year is perfect for introducing the fam to the tiniest farm animals, as the piglets, calves and lambs are all coming into the world, or are just a few weeks old. The super brave can pet the animals, and the bravest of the brave can even try their hand at milking a cow if you come around 4pm (double check the website for daily milking). Mini farm hands will fall in love with the lambs. A good scratch behind their ears, and the animals were in hog heaven! Uber lucky kids will get to see the male peacock in all his splendor, and maybe even get a honk or two out of him! The turkeys that President Obama pardoned at Thanksgiving live right next to the peacocks; while the ducks and their ducklings love hanging out in the tub around the corner. The barns, and pens, not only house the animals, but they let kids see what life is like on a farm. From milking pens, to hay lofts, and equipment used to move things around, the barns are more than just home to the livestock – they’re a glimpse into a farmer’s life, and what it would have been like to work on a farm in Fairfax County in the early 20th century.

frying-pan-park-carrousel

Photo: Ryan D. via Yelp

Hitch a Ride
For even more fun, take a wagon ride! As the family rides around the farm, the little ones will learn about the history, land use, crop growing and get insider tidbits on the animals. Check the board outside the tractor play area for times. There’s also a vintage carousel on the grounds that lets pint sized farm goers go ‘round and round.

Shop ’til You Drop
Visitors looking for a cool beverage, a farm souvenir or who just need to cool off during the summer heat can step into the Country Store where ice cold water, toy tractors and lots of AC are available. They also have some restrooms a few feet away for the kids who just can’t make it back to the visitor’s center. Bonus: Across from the store is a small playground where kids can slide, swing, bounce, jump and race around to burn off some of that farm energy.

2709 West Ox Rd. (Herndon, Va)
Open: Daily
Online: fairfaxcounty.gov

—Hilary Riedemann