Friday, October 21, 2011

Old Mine Ranch

The Domestic God was on leave today, so he treated the family out on a date. After McD's Big Breakfasts (with pancakes!), we went to Old Mine Ranch in Dumfries, VA. Sadly, I forgot our camera AND my phone, so we have no proof that we were actually there. Despite that slight setback, we had a fantastic time.

The ranch is down a windy road just off of Route 1 here in NoVA. To me, it's not really a ranch (disclaimer: I come from Texas and have driven past King Ranch too many times to count). That's more of a marketing ploy to draw people in. Whatever, it's fun!

You enter through a little farm store, where you pay for your tickets ($8/child and $6/adult) and get tempted to buy farm goodies. Once through, you enter a ginormous kids' playground. This year, there's a bouncy slide. It's only for kids 3-10, so Thing #3 stood on the edge, guarded by us, while the other two slid their hearts out.

Then there are the slides built into a (tiny) hill and made out of huge tubes. They're big enough for adults under 6' to slide through comfortably and lots of fun. We spent about 30 minutes running up that little hill and sliding down. Fun, fun, fun.

Our kids didn't really dig the maze, but I credit it that to not being able to see above the barriers, and I know exactly how that feels. It's why I don't like to go wandering about in woods looking for GPS coordinates. I don't like not being able to see above around puts a damper on fun.

This year, the train ride, pony ride, hay ride, and animal feed are all included in the kids' tickets. It's a really great deal. The girls got a kick out of the train ride because they didn't have to ride in car seats or even with us. They got a little car all to themselves, and they sang at the top of their lungs the entire lap around the "track". They also waved like Queen Elizabeth at all the passers-by.

Things #1 and 2 got a great kick out of the pony ride. It's just a small tour around the pony's pen, but that's long enough for a kid. A ranch hand stays next to the kid and guides the pony around, so it's completely supervised and quite safe. I was surprised Thing #2 was so enthusiastic because she normally shies away from animals larger than her. The pony was so sweet and docile that she had no problem and had a great time. Another thing that surprised me was how the girls kind of instinctively (or maybe I've just lectured them about animals that many times) remained quiet and still around the pony. At any rate, a 3- and 4-y/o handled the experience quite well.

I think the hay ride was a bit of a let-down for me, but that's just because I've been on some pretty cool (and long!) ones. It's a nice little tour around the ranch. The ride is slightly longer than the train ride, but it's still only a few minutes long. The kids enjoyed it, especially Thing #3. She especially liked the wind on her face and the hay to play with.

The highlight was, of course, the petting area. Our Solo cup of feed went a long way. Horses, ponies, goats, sheep, and alpacas happily gobbled the food up from our kids' hands. Again, Thing #2 surprised me because she generally wants nothing to do with anything that's going to dirty her hands. This time, though, she very happily fed everyone except the horse. He kept snuffing and making loud noises, which she's not fond of. Thing #3 likes animals, but she doesn't like to touch them unless they're smaller than her...which means she only touched the rabbits. It seemed like enough of a thrill for her, though. :) Thing #1 was all over the place, making sure everyone got enough food. She liked touching the rams' horns the best. "They're smooth and bumpy at the same time," she said. Good observation.

For all the parents wondering about common sense stuff like bathrooms, hand washing, and food, never fear. There's not really food for sale, so you don't have to worry about kids whining for stuff. A hand washing station is located just outside the end of the petting/animal area, so you don't have to pack tons of hand sanitizer. It's a fun station because it looks like a trough and has about eight spigots, so everyone can wash at once. Watching the water start up and run through each spout was particularly interesting for our Things. And finally, there are two outdoor restrooms. Two "real" toilets that flush are housed inside of an "outhouse" provide privacy and are very clean, even with two school buses' worth of children present. You can bring your own snack or lunch if you want. About six picnic tables are scattered around, some shaded, some not, for visitors to use. Management just requests that you clean up your area so the wandering animals (mainly small goats) don't eat anything that can make them sick. Trash cans are cleverly positioned close (but not too close) to the tables.

All in all, it was a great date. The girls left their pumpkin decorating for the end of the trip, and they were all pretty worn out. Thing #3 was swept to bed immediately upon returning to the house. Thing #2 went down for a nap without conversation about 30 minutes later. Thing #1 is probably telling her preschool class all about the adventure. The Domestic God and I are just chilling now and marveling about how great the morning was. If you go, please remember to take your camera!

Challenge: Find a local pumpkin patch or farm (there are tons in the NoVA area!), take some time off of work, and get yourself away to some fresh air for a morning or an afternoon.

-Domestic Goddess out.

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