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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Aurora: Blackberry Farm

Watching the train from the wagon ride

I love a destination that is more than trains. Obviously we're a family that enjoys almost any railroad attraction, but certain members of the group appreciate other activities, too. Aurora's Blackberry Farm fits the bill perfectly.

As the name suggests, Blackberry Farm primarily offers farm activities. It is a living-history farm, so in addition to the animals on display (rabbit, goats, sheep, chickens, pigs), there are numerous buildings to tour that recall days gone by. The schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and log cabin are among our family's favorites. We also enjoy the Streets Museum, which recreates the feel of walking through a Victorian-era town. (Everyone enjoyed it during our most recent visit, but in previous years, the dim lighting and loud sounds of a player piano bothered younger kids.) For my girly girl, there are pony rides and a carousel. All the kids love riding the pedal tractors on the newly renovated tractor course and playing in the corn -- basically a sand table, but with dried corn instead. Mom and Dad enjoy the many quiet picnic tables for a peaceful lunch before visiting the next site.

Of course, it all comes back to the trains with us. Our most recent visit took place during the Model Train Show weekend, which gave my train fanatic four train layouts to enjoy throughout the park. Even without those displays, Blackberry Farm is still a joy for the train lover. At the center of the park is a small lake and around that lake cruises a miniature train which leaves every few minutes from a traditional train depot. (The entire facility is undergoing significant renovations this year, so most of the depot is being remodeled, but during our visit one open room offered a train table and other toys for young guests.) Thankfully, beyond the admission fee there are no additional charges for activities, so it is possible to accommodate requests to ride the train again and again. As a break from riding the train, an old-fashioned hay wagon tractor ride circles the lake in the opposite direction, giving kids a chance to see the train from another angle. 

For train lovers, nature lovers and history lovers, Blackberry Farm is a fun way to spend a day. It's big enough to offer plenty to do, but small enough to be manageable for young kids. Special events throughout the year keep it entertaining enough for repeat visits. Take note of the Polar Express program scheduled for Dec. 1, 2, 8 and 9.

On the train: The forced smiles are due to the children's concern that Dad
wouldn't get on the train before it left the station!

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