Friday, September 26, 2014

Leesburg Animal Park and Pumpkin Village- Updated for 2014!

Welcome to Pumpkin Village!
If you're looking for an alternative from traditional garden center and farm-style fall festivals, Leesburg Animal Parks "Pumpkin Village" is for you!  The fabulous new indoor play areas and expansive zoo, in addition to the the gigantic fall festival area, make this festival one you don't want to miss. There are so many attractions and activities that a family could easily spend an entire day exploring.

I took my 4 year old son on a Friday afternoon.  It wasn't crowded, and my son didn't have to wait to participate in any of the activities.  When we purchased our tickets ($11.95 for children and $13.95 for adults), we also bought a cup of animal feed, a bit pricey at $5 a cup (they also have smaller sizes), but the large cup was worth it when entering the animal exhibits.  The animals were healthy and well-cared-for, and included many beautiful and rare species; gibbons, lemurs, and sloths, in addition to dozens of farm animals.  My son enjoyed feeding the many varieties of cattle, deer, and goats the interactive exhibits had to offer, and the feed was gone before we knew it.

We then ventured into the festival area, and sampled some delicious cider and apples (free) before making our grand entrance down one of the giant hill slides.   First, my son jumped on the various high-quality moon bounces, which included a giant jack-o-lantern.  We then checked out the camels (rides available!) before climbing up a mountain made of hay bales.  One of his favorite exhibits was a kid-size maze made out of hay-bales, with a playground in the middle.  He also loved racing around the go-kart track, with several high-quality and easy to use pedal-karts for children and adults alike.  The hay-ride was nice and long, shaded, and passed through fun halloween exhibits. My son got a kick out of the giant, realistic T-Rex "attacking" a school bus.

Indoor Seating by the Playground
The last thing we did was explore the inside the brand-new indoor play facility, animal enclosures, and shop, which opened earlier this year.  The highlight was the modern, high-quality playground, complete with trampoline, three fun levels, and other features.  An additional large play area for toddlers is located next to the playground.  We also stumbled onto an arts and crafts/ educational room, where kids can use all sorts of craft supplies to make fun creations, read a book, or, like my son did, put together a giant floor puzzle.   Regularly scheduled animal shows are also held in in a small auditorium inside.  

Before we left, we went back outside to snag our free pie-pumpkin, and check out the farmers market.  My son summed up our day nicely by saying "Mommy, can we come back tomorrow?"

Leesburg Animal Park's Pumpkin Village Fall Festival is open daily 9:30-6 (5pm once Daylight Savings time begins).
19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg VA, 20175.
(703) 433-0002

*I was not paid or compensated in any way for this article.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birthday Parties at Great Country Farm; A gift for parents and kids alike!

Everyone riding the Cow Train!
My son turned 4 years old last week, and for the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed his birthday party! We had it at Great Country Farms, in Bluemont, VA, about 30 minutes from downtown Sterling.  I hosted the first 3 parties of his little life in our home; spending months planning ahead, stockpiling decorations and food, preparing my home days in advance,  running around like a police chief during the parties, and cleaning up confetti, cemented blue frosting, and scraps of wrapping paper for days afterward, I decided enough was enough!   I made a promise to myself; no more home birthdays!  Boy did I make the right decision.    They took care of everything, and we even had our own party host to help us with set up, tear down, and organization!  I tried to take as many pictures as possible, some before the party in March, which explains the rain gear, but most were taken on the day of the party.  Enjoy!

The kids had an absolute blast; Great Country Farms is like a beautiful, educational version of an amusement park.  It has more attractions than any family could possibly hit in one day, spread out of acres of beautiful country scenery, including  extensive customized
The Lifecycle of a Monarch
 play structures, a giant bouncing pillow, a mining sluice, petting zoo, and more! Also, wherever you look, there is something to learn.  They have detailed interactive displays on the lifecycles of apple trees, butterflys, and more!

We started out in one of their two party venues; ours was the "corn crib," a beautiful historic structure covered in real grape vines, and decorated with fairy lights.  Our host met us with a golf cart at the
car-- no lugging decorations, cake, and presents! It was wonderful.   She also brought us the pre-ordered food and drinks- kettle corn cones, home-made apple cider donuts, and a adorable tin beverage barrel filled with water, soda, and juice.  Miles better than anything you will find with other kid birthday packages!  They have an extensive menu, and everything is prepared on-site in their "Roosteraunt," most with local ingredients.   The party is customizable as well; you can choose from the "barnyard bash", "laser tag," or "evening bonfire."  We chose the "barnyard bash," and it included a cup of animal feed for each child, to feed the animals. We also chose to include a trip on the "cow train" for each child, but the options are endless!
Feeding the goats!

Jumping Pillow!
The best part about this venue was the variety.  We had children from age 0-9 at the party, girls and boys, each with their own interests and developmental skills.  With all of the different attractions, everyone- including the adults- found something they enjoyed.  The older kids jumped on the bouncing pillow, or mined for gemstones and fossils, while the younger kids played on one of the many beautiful playgrounds*,  dug up dried corn with bulldozers in the corn bin, or fed the barn animals.   Additionally, the farm doesn't close until 6pm on the weekends, so although you can only use the actual party for about 1.5 hours, there is no limit to how much time you can spend exploring on the farm.  The entire day was very relaxed, fun, and easy; unlike every other birthday party I've had for my son.  As icing on the cake, the prices are actually CHEAPER what I spent on home birthdays; less money spent on food, decorations, and preparations, not to mention the unpaid mommy hours spent cleaning before and after the party! Thank you Great Country Farm! We will definitely be back again!
The Fabulous Corn Bin!

*playgrounds include a giant wooden ship, wooden monster truck, spider-web, play houses, sandbox, giant tube slides, and more! See pictures below.

Monster Truck Playground

Adorable Pretend House!

Giant Chess Board!

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