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4 corn mazes near D.C. that offer outsized outdoor fun

Liberty Mills Farm in Somerset, Va., has a huge corn maze, plus other fall attractions. (Kent Woods)

As leaves transform into a fiery array of reds, yellows and oranges, autumn announces its arrival — and it’s time for some fall fun. Corn mazes offer outsized outdoor play, where it’s easy to social distance and enjoy energetic family time. These four farms work with professional maze makers — either the Maize in Utah or Idaho’s Mazeplay — to refine the gargantuan images etched into the cornfields, create the map and make the trails. This ensures epic adventures designed to test everyone’s wits.

A few kernels of advice: Wear closed toe shoes you don’t mind getting mucky; bring something to drink; don’t forget sunscreen and bug repellent; and leave your pets at home.

From ‘Nothing to do’ to ‘Too much to do,’ fall festivals are back

Wayside Farm Fun

If you could fly over this farm, you would do a doubletake: A giant Sonic the Hedgehog is carved into the cornfield. No, it’s not the work of mischievous video game-loving aliens. It’s an eight-acre maze celebrating the 30th anniversary of Sega’s beloved character, a request from co-owner Harriet Wegmeyer’s now-15-year-old son, Torsten, a devoted gamer. “A lot of ideas come from our kids,” says the mother of three, “because kids are our customer base.”

Over the nine years the family has been creating the annual maze in Clarke County, it has been in the shape of Angry Birds, Wonder Woman and the Flash. No matter what the theme, the maze gets easier to solve over the course of the season. “At the beginning, there are no worn paths, so there’s no hints,” says Wegmeyer, who estimates it initially takes about an hour to solve the maze, and about half that time later in the year. “At the end of the season, you just follow the well-worn path.”

For those who get lost, Corn Cops patrol the field to give directions. After the maze is completed, the farm offers visitors a bevy of other activities — from pig races and a pumpkin smashing show to hayrides and paintball target practice.

Open Friday-Monday from Sept. 25 until Nov. 7. 5273 Harry Byrd Hwy., Berryville, Va. $12-$14; children 2 and younger are free.

MD Corn Maze

This eight-acre maze depicting a map of the United States is intended for road trip wish fulfillment. “A lot of people have missed their vacations in the last two years,” says Carol Paul, whose family owns the Anne Arundel County farm. “This is an easy way to take one.”

Dubbed Mazein’ Across America, it’s punctuated by 21 destinations — including the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Times Square, Joshua Tree National Park, the Seattle Space Needle and Walt Disney World — each represented by large-scale photographic backdrops. “They’re so you can trick your friends,” says Paul. “You can tell them, ‘Hey, I went to Mount Rushmore over the weekend.’”

Visitors scan a QR code at each iconic landmark to answer trivia questions and learn facts about it. Paul says it takes about 45 minutes to solve the maze, leaving plenty of time for the other attractions, such as the hayride, pony rides, zip line, pumpkin patch and petting zoo featuring a bull, tortoise and a Patagonian cavy, a large rodent resembling an oversized hare (you’ll want to get a picture with it). For those feeling peckish after the farm fun, the market sells midway-style bites, such as corn dogs, kettle corn, snow cones and roasted nuts.

Open Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 7, plus Oct. 11, 15 and 19. 389 Gambrills Rd., Gambrills, Md. $12.95-$14.95; children 2 and younger are free.

Liberty Mills Farm

With 12 miles of trails spread over 34 acres, this impressive maze in Orange County, about two hours outside of Washington, claims to be the largest in the country. Inspired by “America the Beautiful,” the sprawling labyrinth includes cutouts of the Capitol Rotunda, the Statue of Liberty and the United States’ national flower, the rose. In the upper right-hand corner, a silhouette of the New York skyline features an homage to the World Trade Center to honor the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. “Since we’re Liberty Mills Farm, we always try to come up with something patriotic,” says co-owner Kent Woods, who has been running the farm since 2010 with his wife, Evie.

There are four ways to tackle the maze. The shortest is to follow a 30-minute trail that reveals a story at stops along the journey. For an hour-long experience, follow the trivia trail, which tests visitors’ knowledge with questions related to the theme. If you’ve got two to three hours, try the hole punch maze, where you search for 21 stations hidden through the leafy labyrinth. Or you can do the unmapped mystery maze, which takes approximately an hour. No matter which you choose, there are staffers walking around to assist.

Once you’ve made your way out, enjoy a cone of homemade pumpkin ice cream, zing along the zip line, hit a hayride, pick a pumpkin from the eight-acre patch or let your little one frolic on playground.

Open Wednesday-Monday through Nov. 11. 9166 Liberty Mills Rd., Somerset, Va. $10-$14; children 4 and younger are free.

Winterbrook Farms

Taylor Huffman’s family has been creating an annual fall corn maze for over two decades, and they always spend a lot of time thinking about the theme. Over the years, the labyrinth has saluted the armed forces, honored Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) while he was battling cancer and depicted Iron Man in mid-battle. This year’s theme is Save the Family Farms.

“We just feel that in today’s world, people are so disconnected from the farm and where their food comes from,” says Huffman, who owns and operates the farm in Frederick County. “We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there is a difference between the small family farms and these big commercial operations. We’re saying, ‘Hey, support local. Buy direct from small farms.’ ”

Three mazes with five miles of trails wend their way across the 15-acre cornfield, which Huffman says makes it the largest corn maze in the state. It can be a challenge to complete. “We get calls from people who are lost in the corn maze,” says Huffman, who recommends finding one of the checkpoints so staff can give specific directions on how to get out. (There’s also a shorter version that takes 15-20 minutes to complete, perfect for little maze runners.)

More than 20 attractions are included with the price of admission. A petting zoo features horses, goats, pigs, donkeys and fan favorite Scottish highland cows. There are jump pillows, slides and zip lines for youngsters looking to burn off energy. The sunflower field stands ready to help create perfect Instagram selfies. And a 10-acre patch is dotted with a rainbow array of pumpkins to pick — from traditional orange to pink, gray-blue and white.

13001 Creagerstown Rd., Thurmont, Md.; 301-465-3801; $10-$12; children 2 and younger are free.