Just outside the hustle and bustle of city life lies Fair Oaks Farms, the No. 1 agritourism destination in the Midwest. Filled with adventures for animal lovers, food lovers, those looking for thrills and those looking to chill, this Indiana 1,000-acre working farm has something for everyone.
It’s easy to spend a day or two here depending on whether you want to focus on the farm’s most popular attractions or just take in some seasonal additions.
Getting to Fair Oaks, Indiana
It’s a 4 ½-5-hour drive from metro Detroit, depending on traffic. Depending on when you travel, traffic in Indiana gets heavier around Interstate 94 and Interstate 65, which takes you directly to the farm.
If you travel after October, check out the new Kankakee Welcome Center near DeMotte, Indiana, on I-65. This former rest stop has been undergoing a $34.7 million overhaul and will feature wind turbines, public art, a playground and life-sized bison.
Things to do in Fair Oaks, Indiana
One tip: On the drive to Fair Oaks, plan a quick detour to Albanese Confectionery in Merrillville, also located just off Interstate 65, and check out the Wonka-esque candy store experience with bins of colorful gummy bears (with the A on their bellies, of course) and chocolates of every kind. Don’t worry about the sugar rush because kiddos will run it off when they arrive at the farm.
After leaving Merrillville, you’ll know you’re about to arrive at Fair Oaks when you spot the large roadside attractions.
Once you arrive, you’ll also see a large campus of buildings, a gas station and a hotel surrounded by plenty of Indiana fields. Look for a red barn that says “Your Adventure Starts Here” and head there to learn about the various tours and admission options. Fair Oaks Farms is open seven days a week, rain or shine.
Among the options for families is to learn about animals, food production and farming on the Dairy Adventure, the Pig Adventure and Crop Adventure. The dairy and pig adventures include interactive bus tours where you visit the dairy and pig farms.
As the leading dairy producer in Indiana, Fair Oaks houses 36,000 cows. Families can see where they live, eat and where they get milked. If your time is limited, the Dairy Adventure is the one to do.
Each adventure includes a corresponding experiential museum on the main campus that offers more learning opportunities on each topic. Find several other attractions on the main campus, including a themed playground, indoor ropes course, milk carton-shaped climbing wall and jumping pillow.
If you see a yellow or green stoplight at the birthing barn, head inside to watch the birth of one of the 80 to 100 calves born each day at Fair Oaks. (Warning: this is not for the squeamish at heart as you can clearly see the process in full.)
Since we have done all of the tours in the past year, my family now most enjoys the farm-centric seasonal offerings, which take place in the adjacent fields. Time your trip around OktoberFest, PumpkinFest, Halloween or Christmas to experience these. In summer and fall, visit to pick flower bouquets and apples. In winter, enjoy ice skating and the Forest of Lights trail complete with music, lighting and bonfires (s’mores kits are sold separately but are well worth it.)
Where to eat at Fair Oaks, Indiana
From fine dining to “fast” food, Fair Oaks offers several on-site food outlets with farm-to-fresh options. My family’s favorite is the Farmhouse Restaurant, which serves farm-to-table meal options and a full bar in a comfortable farm-themed setting.
I recommend the charcuterie tray that includes many of the farm’s award-winning cheeses. The nearby Cowfe serves lighter fare like grilled cheese and ice cream. Don’t hesitate to wait in the long line for ice cream. It’s worth it!
Where to stay at Fair Oaks, Indiana
To continue the farm adventure, stay in the farm-themed Fairfield Inn and Suites on Fair Oaks Farm property. The dog-friendly hotel features an indoor pool adorned with cow murals along with an indoor/outdoor hot tub open year-round and free breakfast. Several other hotel chains are about 30 minutes away in Merrillville, Indiana. (Perhaps another stop on the way back to metro Detroit for more candy?)
Or, if you have your sights set on visiting one of the best children’s museums in the country in Indianapolis for a play-filled weekend getaway, stop for the day in Fair Oaks, then head south again on I-65 for another 90 minutes and stay near or close to Indianapolis to visit the museum the next day.
What families love about Fair Oaks, Indiana
While Fair Oaks is slightly off the beaten path, but has everything you need for the day or weekend at an affordable price. The adjoining hotel and food venues make for a perfect mini-vacay without having to leave the grounds.
Tour times are well organized, the staff is friendly and there are plenty of activities to keep kids of all ages busy.
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