Frying Pan Park

Frying Pan Park photo
Juana Arias for The Washington Post, see more photos
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Editorial Review

Twin calves graze in lush green fields. A large red barn houses a napping pig. Baby lambs frolic in their pen. Chicks chip away at their shells and greet the world with tiny chirps.

Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon literally comes alive in the spring, as more than 100 animals — from chicks to goats — enter the world.

Nestled among suburban sprawl, Frying Pan is a working family farm in Fairfax County. The 130-acre spread is a time capsule, taking visitors back to the 1930s when the area was blanketed by family farms that sustained generations and produced milk for the city.

As the weather warms, families from across the Washington area head to the park to picnic and see the babies.

Begin your tour at the visitor center, a repurposed dairy barn. It houses an interactive, kid-friendly exhibit that focuses on how important family farms were to the community from 1920 to 1950. All of the photos and objects on display are from the area, and everything is authentic, down to an Alexandria Dairy Products milk bottle.

The big red barn, pens, the farmhouse and a country store are a short walk from the visitor center. The farm has a few simple rules: Don’t feed the animals, don’t go into their pens and don’t climb on the fences or farm equipment.

The Sekhon family of Loudoun County has visited several times, and Hailey, 4, can easily pick out her favorite animal.

“A piggie,” she says with enthusiasm, “because they are pink!”

The baby animals draw the largest crowds, but you won’t want to miss some of the farms’ other residents, including draft horses and a gorgeous peacock. Peacocks were kept on some family farms as guard animals. Their feathers could also be sold for hats.

Although there are many adorable baby animals to see and it’s a lovely place for a picnic, make no mistake, this is a working farm. As park manager Tawny Hammond says, the park’s goal is to “gently remind people” that visiting a farm is a way to understand life cycles and appreciate where food comes from. You can even buy fresh eggs from the farm at the country store.

End your visit at the store. Kids can play on the nearby jungle gym and then munch on such retro candy as Tootsie Rolls, Necco Wafers and candy sticks.

— Amy Orndorff (April 1, 2011)