If you have ever driven from Indianapolis to Chicago, you have probably noticed a large cow-print water tower half-way through your drive off I-65. This is home to a dairy operation turned agritainment attraction–Fair Oaks Farms. A 90 min drive from Carmel, this is a perfect short weekend or day trip for families. It was easy on us as parents, exciting and educational for the kids, and fun for all of us together.
For your planning purposes, our kids were 5, 2.5 and 6 mo. during our trip and we visited in late February. Fair Oaks Farm is on CST and we opted to make this a 1-night stay vs a day trip. This post walks you through our trip day by day and answers some FAQs at the end!
Day 1: Hotel, dinner, and swimming
We opted to do the stay and play package with a 1-night stay. The farm has a Marriott hotel on-site that feels brand new. Our family of 5 was very comfortable in a queen suite! They also have silo suites that have bunk beds for kids which also look super fun. Breakfast is included in your hotel stay! We checked into the hotel late afternoon, and headed to dinner at The Farmhouse restaurant.
The Farmhouse Restaurant is a charming farm-to-table restaurant that is connected to the hotel. The food was INCREDIBLE and when they say farm-to-table, they mean THEIR farm to table. Most ingredients used in the food are sourced from Fair Oaks farm, and you can taste the freshness. I ordered the cajun chicken sandwich and my husband ordered the brisket plate–both would highly recommend. Of course we ended our meal with a chocolate milkshake with ice cream made fresh from milk from the farm. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time to avoid a wait!
After dinner we headed to the pool which puts your normal hotel pool to shame. You will find a tandem slide, basketball goal, zero entry splash pad area, and an indoor/outdoor hot tub when you head down to swim.
Day 2: The Fair Oaks Farm Adventure
We spent the next day exploring all the farm had to offer. The farm experience is broken up into different “adventures” to explore–dairy, pork, and crop. There are also 2 bus tours (pork and dairy) you can hop on that run throughout the day.
The dairy adventure was our family favorite–there was so much to do! An indoor playground designed like a silo, countless interactive exhibits, a 4-D movie theatre, virtual reality, and much more. Our kids could have easily spent a couple hours just in this one adventure!
The pork adventure was home to the 3 story indoor high-ropes course. This attraction isn’t included in a general admission ticket, but is included in a VIP pass or is only $5 to climb. The first level is open to the littlest climbers, available for kiddos from walking to 48in tall. The middle and top level require kiddos to be 48in to climb solo or 42in to climb with an adult.
The crop adventure felt like a trip to the future. The interactive exhibit literally walked you through farming technologies past, present, and future all while making it hands-on for the kids.
We only had time for the dairy bus tour, and I would highly recommend checking this one out! You hop on the bus and drive through a dairy barn, then de-board the bus to see the milking in action. The operation is so scientific and the kids learned a lot about where their milk and food comes from.
We grabbed lunch at the Cowfe on-site which had a more casual vibe than the Farmhouse restaurant, but still delivered on the great farm-to-table food. Every place we ate had the option to make most menu items gluten free.
All in all, this short trip can be summed up like this: EASY and FUN. Traveling with small kids can be challenging, but this trip was pretty easy to plan and we all had fun while we were there!
Q: What all was included in your stay?
A: We did the stay and play package which included our hotel stay, adventure passes (including tickets for the high ropes course), and a $50 gift card to the farm (we used this for dinner!). The Adventure Passes got us into all 3 exhibits (dairy, pork, crop), into the birthing barn, and onto the bus tours.
Q: Is there a peak/busy season?
A: We visited in February on a Saturday and we didn’t encounter any crowds or lines. There is an outdoor adventure called Mooville that is open during the spring-fall. This includes a rock wall, jump pod, train, maze, and other outdoor activities. I would expect it to be a little busier in the warmer months.
Q: Could you make your visit a day trip?
A: Yes absolutely–just be prepared for it to be a full day’s worth of activities if you want to “see it all”! The drive is very manageable to be done in a day.
Q: What is a good age for kids to visit?
A: It felt very comparable to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in regards to the age of kids that would have fun. It can truly cater to all ages. There are modifications to bring the fun to even the littlest kids, and for bigger kids there are aspects that will keep them engaged (4D movie, virtual reality, high ropes course).
Q: Are you outside a lot? Can you still go if it's raining?
A: All of the adventures, bus tours, and Cowfe are indoors and climate controlled. The only time you have to be outside is when you are walking from building to building.
Q: How did you handle naps for littles? Is there a nursing moms room?
A: We still had 2 napping kiddos when we visited. We started early in the morning (9am) and pushed the 2.5 year old’s nap to later in the day when we wrapped up (3pm). Our 6 month old just napped in the stroller throughout the day. There is a nursing moms room in the market building, but I was able to bring my nursing cover and find a bench or seat to nurse in each of the different adventures.
Q: Is it stroller friendly?
A: Yes--I pushed our 6 month old in a stroller the entire time. I saw other families with wagons too. You cannot take a stroller on the bus tour, so you may want to swap out for a baby carrier for the tours.
Q: Are we going to be in the mud/near animals? Should I pack extra clothes for my kids?
A: You will not be in barn/live animal environment. They have to intentionally keep visitors away from touching distance from the cows to protect them, so you only ever see them from behind glass, etc. All of the adventures are indoors and were not messy. My kids did not get muddy/messy during our trip!