By Guest Blogger Kristen Bagwell

Hill Ridge Farms is one of those places that everyone remembers around pumpkin patch time, but did you know they are open all year? We’ve been once on our own, and once as part of a group…I can say from experience that there is never a bad time to go to Hill Ridge Farms!

Located just past Wake Forest in Youngsville, NC, Hill Ridge Farms is 1 1/2 to 2 hours from most Triad locations. For specifics on directions, click here. There are a ton of things to see and do, and most of them are included in the $5 general admission price. Each month features different special activities, so be sure to check out the online calendar before you head that way.

When you arrive, your first stop will be The Country Store, where you’ll buy your admission tickets. Depending on the month, you may also want to check out some of the specialty activities. In summer, the farm is featuring Gem Stone Panning, Hayride Tours, Train Rides, Splash Pad, field trips, Group Events and Birthday Parties. The Farm Animal Corral and Fish Feeding Dock are also OPEN! You’ll need to purchase special tickets for the Gem Stone panning (which my 9 & 12 year old niece and nephews loved), for the Hay Ride and for a train ride on the Hill Ridge Farms Express (check website for prices). You could also opt for a full-season pass, which is a steal for those of you with larger families who want to visit more than once.

After you receive your admission bracelet, you’re on your own! Enter through the gates and decide what to do first…so many choices! New this year is a HUGE zero depth water play area! It is fun for all ages and is included in your admission. Swimsuits and towels are strongly recommended. You are welcome to bring beach chairs and picnic coolers.

Close to the entrance is the Gem Stone panning, along with the public restrooms. In the fall, there is also a blow-up bouncy house just inside the entrance gates. There is a colorful maze and a playground with swings and slides to the left, and in the fall, a hay maze just beyond.

Keep walking down the main drag and see what you find! The animal corral on the right is a huge attraction; don’t forget to buy a bag of corn to feed the animals! The feeding is done through tubes to keep little hands away from animals’ mouths, so don’t worry about the tiny ones getting nipped. You’ll see a variety of chickens and goats, some huge turkeys, ducks and geese, and the occasional llama. The goats in particular are hilarious to watch, often climbing into and on top of the animal playhouses.

As you make your way past the animal corral, there are several educational exhibits including antique farm equipment, an old-timey kitchen, and a teepee and fort that the kids can run through. The big slide at the far end of the walk is always a huge hit – it’s basically a corrugated tube built into the hillside, and you slide down on burlap sacks. Be prepared to bounce (and to laugh!).  This was my daughter’s favorite activity both times we visited, and walking up the hill really tired her out! Even my very cool tween niece had a blast on the slide.

Off the beaten path, there is a huge hutch that contains a bunny village, including several homes, a “church” and a store in a covered, fenced area. The children are not allowed to pet or feed the bunnies, but they’ll have a great time watching them just the same!

Beyond the bunny village is the Hill Ridge Farms express train. This train ride will weave you through and around the farm, and you’ll have a great view of some antique tractors and the farm events and exhibits. In the warmer months, the train ride also provides a nice breeze! A hay ride is another option, and in the fall, it’s a fun way to check out the pumpkin patch or go have a picnic with your group.

Weekday mornings are the perfect time to visit Hill Ridge Farms, especially in the summer. If you have a large group, or want to arrange a school field trip, click here to learn more about the facilities and programs offered. Hill Ridge Farms is also a great place for a birthday party!

Have you been to Hill Ridge Farms? What are your hints and tips, and what did you like best about the visit? If you haven’t been, this is a great day trip before school begins and especially during the fall months!

See more Day Trip ideas here!

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*Photo credit: Hill Ridge Farms Facebook page