Whether area residents are in the mood for giant slides, rope swings, hayrides, baby animals, apple-cider doughnuts or a pumpkin slingshot, they’ll find all these things and more at Cox Farms. The 42nd annual fall festival opens this weekend and promises fun for the whole family.
It’s on 90 acres at 15621 Braddock Road, just off Pleasant Valley Road, in Centreville. The festival runs daily from Sept. 27-Nov. 4, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The outdoor activities include live entertainment, a goat village, tunneling through a mountain of hay and a Cornundrum Cornfield Adventure – complete with funhouse mirrors and a pirate ship.
For older teens and adults, the scary, 20-acre nighttime adventure, Fields of Fear, is open Friday and Saturday nights, Sept. 26-Nov. 1, from 7:30-11 p.m., plus Sunday, Oct. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 2. The pumpkin-smashing event, Pumpkin Madness, is slated for Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 1-2, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For ticket prices and more information, see www.coxfarms.com.
“For Cox Farms, hosting friends and families in Northern Virginia every fall is more than a tradition – it’s a passion,” said Aaron Cox-Leow, “co-farmer-in-chief” with his sibling, Lucas Cox. “We truly do wait for it all year, and now it’s almost here; Cox Farms has something for everyone.”
The fall festival draws thousands of people a week from throughout the Washington Metropolitan area. For many families, it’s a tradition passed down from one generation to another. During the day, Cox Farms features wholesome, family fun. But at night, it’s transformed into the spooky and frightening Fields of Fear for older teens and adults.
And this year, said Cox-Leow, “The festival grounds are teeming with new additions. At the ‘Hog Farm,’ visitors of all ages can hop on a retired ‘hog’ – the motorcycle kind – and take an imaginary ride. And children can give their arms a workout at the duck races, seeing who can pump water the fastest to move their rubber ducky to the other side.”
Cox Farms also has a new milk-and-cookies stand and is debuting its Fall Festival Explorer Passport. “It’s a fun activity that gets participants traveling to the far corners of the festival to stamp their passports,” said Cox-Leow. “Once they visit all 12 landmarks, they’ll bring their completed passport to the farm market for a prize.”
Hayride, Music, Mining
The ever-popular hayride lasts 20 minutes and travels by clever vignettes, including cartoon characters in the cornfield, comical space aliens, a witches’ house, superheroes, cowboys on horseback and a wild-west town. A new addition, said
Lucas Cox, is the Black Cauldron Café – the witches’ coffee bar. At the end, the hayride travels through a large, enchanted barn filled with music, flashing lights and scenes of wizards, witches and magical plants and creatures.
The free, weekend events also include entertainment on the music stage. Live bands perform, and Farmer Jack sings and tells stories while milking his cow, Bingo. The 25 bands – including The Page County Ramblers, Jimmy Cole All Stars, Tom Blood & Late as Usual, the Rick Sickmen Band and Patty Reese Band – will perform blue grass, country and classic rock music.
Visitors may also enjoy the mining sluice. It’s a tower that dumps water into a big, curvy trench where people can pan for fossils, gemstones and arrowheads. Cox said participants feel as if they’re actually going into a mineshaft.
Farm Animals, Kiddie Zone
Bunnyville, inside the slide barn, hops into action for its third year. A slide comes out of the top of the barn, and the bottom part houses Bunnyville. There’s a model of Washington, D.C., with the monuments and White House, and about a dozen bunnies jump around in them.
But they’re not the only furry friends – Cox Farms has animals galore. Children may feed baby goats in their own goat village. Two alpacas are on the mountain leading up to the dinosaur slide and a couple peacocks roam free. There are also baby chicks, hens and chickens, a llama named Chewie, turkeys, calves and milking cows, pigs and piglets.
“Mama Pig just gave birth last Thursday [Sept. 18], so we have a bunch of brand-new, baby piglets under the barn slide,” said Cox. “They’re really cute.”
The goats and chickens are in the farm-chores area, and the sheep are near the dino slide. Geared for 2-6-year-olds, the farm-chores area features old-fashioned water pumps and troughs, a corn conveyor belt, chicken coop and a little garden where children may pump water into buckets and water the crops. They may also lift up straw bales by a rope and pulley.
The Kiddie Zone gives children 5 and under a calmer place to play. The fun includes smaller themed slides, rope swings, hay bales and a wooden train. Little ones may also play on the Three Little Pigs’ house and slide and climb on a wooden Jeep in the front yard.
Slides, Fire Engine, Food
Festival visitors will also enjoy the five giant slides, straw tunnels and the Cornundrum Cornfield Adventure. The latter features funhouse mirrors, a hall of doors, giant vortex and a pirate ship. Also there is the Great Pyramid with hieroglyphics and some surprises inside.
Another hit with children is a red, 1961 fire engine. “It has two slides coming out of the back so kids can climb up, go across and slide down,” said Cox. “It’s close to Fairyland Castle and is lots of fun.”
Food is available for purchase throughout the farm. The selection includes hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, Dominion root beer and root-beer floats. Home-smoked, pulled-pork, barbecue sandwiches are also on the menu, as are chocolate-chip and sugar cookies.
Kettle corn is offered, too, plus homemade caramel apples. New this year are apple-cider doughnuts. “We make them right here and they’re delicious,” said Cox. “We’ve been working on the recipe since last December.”
Fresh cider and apples are free. And if desired, visitors may bring their own lunches (no alcohol) for picnics on the grounds. They may also buy a variety of treats in the farm’s market. The goodies include freshly baked apple pies, local apples, kettle corn, apple cider, dessert breads, jams, local honey, Indian corn, squash, gourds and fall decorations. Visitors get to choose a free, patch pumpkin to take home.
Fields of Fear
Once night falls, however, scary creatures arise and roam free, so the 20-acre Fields of Fear isn’t recommended for children under 12; and anyone under 14 must be accompanied by an adult, 18 or older.
Those brave enough to enter the Fields of Fear are led to the Cornightmare to experience cornfield terrors in the dark. There, they walk through the Hall of Whispers, Bug Room and Claustrophobia, secluded in tall corn with creatures that aren’t human. There are also crazed clowns, plus illusions and a new, secret finale to the Cornightmare.
“We went to the Haunted Attractions convention in St. Louis in March to get new ideas, and we’ve been building and working since then,” said Cox. “And people will see these ideas come to life in the Fields of Fear.”
Also not to be missed is the Dark Side Hayride Zombie Zoo. “It’s really fun and very scary,” said Cox. “There are 35-plus zombies out there, but we’ve made sure they can’t escape.” However, he added, “There’s nothing scarier than being outside in the cornfield in the dark of night.”
The Firegrounds is also part of the nighttime events, but it’s fun and not frightening. Cox Farms’ big, six-lane slide is open for rides, and people can hang out at giant bonfires, listen to music and roast marshmallows. And performing will be a fire dancer and a magician.
All in all, this family-owned and operated fall festival has something for everyone. “We’ve been working on the fall festival since it closed last November to make it a better, more fun-filled experience,” said Cox. “And we believe there’s no place more fun in the fall season to make memories that’ll last a lifetime.”