Family Travel 2011

Megan Sexton



Fall is time to get lost in a corn maze and find the great pumpkin

Posted 10/7/2011 5:29:00 AM

Fall means pumpkins and scarecrows, apple cider and hayrides. It's the perfect time for a trip to the country.

Each fall, farms all over South Carolina open their gates to families, giving kids the opportunity to experience some old-fashioned fun. Fall farm tours let you stroll through a pumpkin patch, climb onto a horse, feed a family of goats or scamper up a tower of hay bales.

And get lost in a corn maze.

From Mount Pleasant to Anderson, corn mazes offer families the chance to spend an afternoon wandering through pathways cut through corn fields. There are twists and turns and dead ends -- but getting lost is part of the fun.

And so is enjoying the outdoors in the fall -- one of the best times of the year in South Carolina.

"It's been such a horribly hot summer, the weather cooling off gives people the desire to go outside," said Angie Broome of Stewart Farms in Enoree. "A lot of families really enjoy taking their kids out in the country, leaving their neighborhoods, and getting a feel for what it's like to be out in the country."

Stewart Farms in the Upcountry features a 5-acre pumpkin patch, an 8-acre corn maze in a honey bee shape, a mini maze that's sized for young children, wagon rides, a honey bee observation house and barnyard animals.

The corn maze designs have continued to evolve each year, with mazes in South Carolina being drawn to depict everything from the new Boeing plant in North Charleston to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. And then there's McLeod Farms in McBee, where this year's corn maze pays tribute to the University of South Carolina's back-to-back national championship baseball team.

We spent a recent Saturday morning visiting Silly Stalks, on the Russell Ranch Horse Farm in Calhoun County, just off Interstate 26 between Columbia and Orangeburg. Owner Terry Russell has turned some of his 33 acres into a playland for families, with a corn maze cut to look like his two Belgian Draft horses, a narrated hayride and horseback rides for kids aboard some of his gentle horses. There are goats to pet and tire swings to ride. And there's a spooky hayride and haunted maze planned for Halloween weekend.

"My goal is to have a festive place kids can enjoy and parents can afford," Russell said.

Russell loves sharing his farm with families and will introduce you to his 11 horses (many of which have been rescued) along with his climbing goats and a couple friendly dogs. He said his business -- he calls it agri-entertainment -- lets him take advantage of the nature surrounding his home. And he just might be having as much fun as the kids.

Silly Stalks is one of six corn mazes in South Carolina affiliated with MAiZE Inc., a maze consulting and design company that started in the Western United States in 1996 and now has designed more than 1,800 corn mazes. The company helps farmers with the design of their maze (in Russell's case, he knew he wanted Silly Stalks to be designed to look like Andre and Bell, his Belgian Draft horse team).

When you're wandering through the maze, you can't really tell that you are wandering through the horse's foot or its head. All you know is that you're lost.

And that's all part of the fun.

Here is a small sampling of the farms and corn mazes you can visit in South Carolina.

Silly Stalks at the Russell Ranch
Where: Off I-26 at Exit 129 between Columbia and Orangeburg
When: The farm and corn maze are open through November.
Hours: Fridays, 5-11 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; and Sundays, 3-9 p.m.
What's there: The 33-acre farm includes a 6-acre corn maze, a hayride pulled by Belgian Draft horses, horse rides, goats, children's play area and a concession stand.
Also: Bring a flashlight if you want to navigate the maze at night, or Silly Stalks will rent you one.
Admission: $8 for the maze, $4 for the hayride (a combo ticket is $11), $4 to ride a horse, $3 for Haunted Hallows on Halloween weekend.

Stewart Farms
Where: 6600 S.C. Hwy 92, Enoree
When: The maze is open through Oct. 30
Hours: Fridays, 4-10 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sundays 2-8 p.m.
What's there: Pumpkin patch, corn maze, haunted maze, wagon rides, barnyard animals
Also: The Big Boo is a family-friendly spooking of half the maze on Fridays and Saturdays, Oct. 14-29, from 7-10 p.m.
Admission: Farm admission, $2; maze, $7 for ages 6 and up; Big Boo, $9 for ages 6 and up; free for those under 6.

Denver Downs Farm Giant Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze
Where: Anderson County, on U.S. Hwy. 76, 1 mile north of Interstate 85
When: The corn maze is open Oct 7-31
Hours: Fridays, 5-10 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.; and Sundays, 1-6 p.m. It will be open on Monday, Oct. 31, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
What's there: Pumpkin patch (You can pick a pumpkin from the 8-acre patch or choose an already picked pumpkin. Pumpkins are priced by the pound), 12-acre corn maze, hayrides, bonfires, zip line, hay bale climb, giant slide, climbing tractor tires.
Also: On Oct. 15-16 there will be a weekend of Civil War "Living History" where your family can walk through the encampments of 1860s era artillery, infantry and cavalry units.
Admission: $10 per person, children 24 months and younger are free.

Boone Hall Plantation Pumpkin Patch
Where: U.S. 17, Mount Pleasant, one-half mile north of Long Point Road.
When: Sept. 30-Oct. 31. Closed Oct. 8-9.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
What's there: Boeing corn maze, hayride, dress like a scarecrow and pose for family photos, hay mountain for climbing, slide pillow, giant slide tower.
Also: Pumpkins for sale by the pound.
Admission: Monday-Thursday, $8, two-for-one admission on Tuesdays; riday, Saturday and Sunday, $10. Tickets do not include admission to Boone Hall Plantation.

McLeod Farms "McBee Field of Dreams"
Where: S.C. 51 South, outside the small town of McBee, about 10 miles north of Hartsville
When: Through Oct. 30
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
What's there: The corn maze was created as a tribute to the University of South Carolina's back-to-back national baseball championship teams. The maze features 22 directional stations that each have a question about the USC baseball team. Answer correctly and the sign points you in the right direction.
Admission: Free for children 3 and younger; $4 for elementary school students; $6 high school and college students and senior citizens; $8 for adults. McLeod Farms will donate a portion of the proceeds to the McBee Recreational Complex to finish the baseball/softball complex.
Also: A fall festival is planned for Oct. 29, featuring pumpkin recipes, costume contests, wagon tours and children's activities.