October is prime season for corn mazes, which are reaching their peak all around the Washington area. But with a limited number of weekends before Halloween, how do you pick that one perfect place to spend a fall afternoon?
Are you searching for someplace to take your kids for a day of wandering through the corn before visiting a petting zoo and grabbing the perfect pumpkin to carve into a jack-o’-lantern? Or do you want an elaborate labyrinth where you can get lost with your friends? Maybe a nighttime maze where zombies will chase you, leaving you scared out of your wits?
We sent three reporters in three directions - north to Frederick, west toward The Plains and south to St. Mary's County - and instructed them to find mazes that would appeal to families or kid-free thrill-seekers, as well as places to eat and other nearby attractions to round out a day trip.
Now, go get lost.
Best for kids: Summers Farm
5620 Butterfly Lane, Frederick. 301-620-9316. www.summersfarm.com. Open daily through Nov. 1.
Admission: $11.95 on weekends, $7.95 on weekdays; $6.95 for seniors; 2 and younger free.
Summers Farm might have the most famous corn maze in America right now. After the design — a portrait of Taylor Swift in corn — was unveiled, the maze was featured by Rolling Stone, and T. Swift herself posted it on Instagram, earning 1.1 million likes. The instructions to get through the 12-acre maze are based on Swiftie trivia questions, and you might hear an occasional playing of “Shake It Off” — but if you are a hater that’s gonna hate, hate, hate, you can be blessedly reassured that once you are in the Taylor Swift corn maze, it looks like, well, a corn maze. Summers also offers plenty of places for kids to jump around (hay bales, bounce pillows, corn cribs) and interact with pigs, alpacas and pygmy goats. The fresh donuts — apple cider and pumpkin spice — are a pick-me-up for grown-ups, who can capture plenty of Instagram-brag-worthy moments on the hayride and in the pick-your-own pumpkin patch.
Best for adults: Crumland Farms
7612 Willow Rd., Frederick. 301-845-8099. www.crumland.com. Corn maze open daily through Nov. 1; Screamland Farms open on Friday and Saturday nights through Oct. 31.
Admission: Corn maze: $10 on weekends; $7 on weekdays; 2 and younger free. Screamland Farms: $10 per attraction ($27 for three attractions).
Go to Crumland Farms during the day and you’ll see nothing sinister. There’s a corn maze in the shape of King Kong and Godzilla, a playground, goats to pet and funky-shaped decorative gourds that cost 50 cents each. But come back on a Friday or Saturday night, and you’ll need to have your wits about you. That’s when it transforms into Screamland Farms, where all of the attractions are haunted and bloody (and not recommended for kids younger than 13). You can enter the haunted “Barn of Bedlam,” or board a wagon for the “Hayride of Horrors.” Another wagon ride will roll you into the zombie paintball course, where guests can fend for themselves in an impending apocalypse of the undead. And a separate, scary corn maze, “Corrupted Corn,” has a Slenderman theme — you know, that Internet legend that inspired a couple of teenage girls to stab their friend. Not a thrill-seeker? The non-haunted corn maze is open on weekend nights, too.
Where to eat: Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal is the perfect post-pumpkin pit stop: a kid’s menu with cheeseburgers for the little ones, a cocktail and some seriously good fried chicken for the grown-ups. Our biggest regret of the day: Getting too full on porchetta in barbecue sauce and pimento mac and cheese to try a milkshake.
882 N. East St., Frederick. 301-378-2895. www.voltfamilymeal.com.
What else to do: Can’t get enough fall foliage? This is the best time of year for a walk up nearby Sugarloaf Mountain, where scenic vistas await. Depending on the trail you pick, there can be some light rock scrambling, but the hike is easy enough for kids — you can actually drive most of the way up the mountain and walk the last bit, if you’d like — and the trails are dog-friendly. Admission to the park is free.
7901 Comus Rd., Dickerson. 301-874-2024. www.sugarloafmd.com.
— Maura Judkis
St. Mary's County, Md.
Best for kids: Bowles Farms
22880 Budds Creek Rd., Clements. 301-475-2139. www.bowlesfarms.com. Open weekends through Oct. 31.
Admission: $10; 3 and younger free. $8 per person for groups of 15 or more.
Viewed from a passing aircraft, the 12-acre corn maze at Bowles Farm is a tribute to the 175th anniversary of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. On the ground, it’s a sprawling, often tricky labyrinth that’s actually in two stages: You’ll spend at least half an hour completing the first part, which brings you back to the entrance; only then are you allowed into the more challenging second half of the maze. Farm trivia is posted at key junctions; guess the weight of a bushel of corn, for instance, and you’ll be put on the right track.
There’s much more here than just getting lost: a pick-your-own pumpkin patch that surrounds a giant statue of SpongeBob SquarePants; rides that take kids around the farm; a petting zoo; a jumping pit where kids can leap from stacked hay bales into piles of straw; and slides and tractors to climb on. Also on-site is the Farmer’s Daughter, a gourmet cupcake shop. Pick up cherries jubilee or spicy applesauce pecan cupcakes and enjoy them with hot cider or coffee at a table in the barn.
Best for adults: Forrest Hall Farm
39136 Avie Lane, Mechanicsville. 301-884-3086. www.forresthallfarm.com. Open weekends through Nov. 1.
Admission: $7; 3 and younger free. $6 per person for groups of 10 or more.
Forrest Hall’s seven-acre Crazy Corn Maze isn’t the biggest or most challenging maze around. There isn’t even a separate exit: You need to find your way to three observation towers (each topped with a different flag) before heading back the way you came in. Once you’ve completed the course, there are rabbits and goats to pet in the Goatel barn, a hayride and a picnic area where kids can run and climb.
So what makes Forrest Hall great for adults? Grapes. As part of the Southern Maryland Wine Grape Growers Cooperative, Forrest Hall grows seven acres of grapes, including Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc, which are sent down the road to the Port of Leonardtown Winery and turned into wine. On Saturday, Forrest Hall offers a free tasting of local wines from 1 to 4 p.m. — the perfect reward for finishing the maze.
Where to eat: Captain Billy’s Crab House is a famous seafood spot right on the Potomac River, known for steamed crabs and local oysters. The Front Porch sits on Leonardtown’s historic square, with a menu mixing Southern dishes, Chesapeake seafood and hearty burgers.
Captain Billy’s, 11495 Popes Creek Rd., Newburg. 301-932-4323. www.captbillys.com. The Front Porch, 22770 Washington St., Leonardtown. 301-997-1009. www.thefrontporchsomd.com.
What else to do: Take the kids to pet a ray, hunt for fossils and shark teeth and build a toy boat while touring the Calvert Marine Museum — they might not even realize it’s educational. For an adults-only trip, detour to the Port of Leonardtown Winery for a tasting flight of wines made from local grapes. Musicians perform on Saturday evenings.
Calvert Marine Museum, 14200 Solomons Island Rd., Solomons. 410-326-2042. www.calvertmarinemuseum.com. Port of Leonardtown Winery, 23190 Newtowne Neck Rd., Leonardtown. 301-690-2192. www.polwinery.com.
— Fritz Hahn
Fauquier County, Va.
Best for kids: Corn Maze in The Plains
4501 Old Tavern Rd., The Plains. 540-456-7339. www.cornmazeintheplains.com. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 8.
Admission: $10; 12 and younger $9; 3 and younger free.
This five-acre maze in the shape of a shark is the right size for little ones. Pick up a “survival guide” and bring it with you into the corn; you’ll encounter six stations with carved sections of the map that you rub with a crayon to create a full picture. (Good luck trying to figure out where you are on the map, though.)
Each station also has a piece of shark trivia. Answer correctly, and you’ll be pointed in the right direction. Incorrectly, and you may well end up back where you started. If you get helplessly turned about, wave a flag to be rescued. There are plenty of other activities for the kids, including hay rides, tire swings and barnyard animals to pet. Oh, and kettle corn. Lots and lots of kettle corn.
Best for adults: Route 29 Haunted Farm
4484 Lee Hwy., Warrenton. 571-919-5357. www.route29hauntedfarm.com. Open Friday and Saturday nights through Oct. 31.
The crowd skews older at the Route 29 Haunted Farm, which recommends you don’t bring any kids younger than 12. (Expect to see lots of older teens, though.) It’s not a maze in the traditional sense, but rather a path cut through an approximately two-acre swath of corn. The tall crop is exceptionally good at hiding whatever ghouls, monsters and ghosts are lying in wait. You’ll be startled at least, if not downright spooked.
Over the course of about 20 minutes, you’ll not only encounter such free-ranging characters but also travel through a variety of standalone structures: Think demented North Pole, a limb-amputation room and a particularly disturbing clown-filled room, where to exit you must choose the one working door among a wall of dead-end decoys. It sounds kitschy, but the production values — at least in the dark — are pretty good (as in pretty creepy). Even the child actors are convincing in their shrieking enthusiasm.
By the time you encounter a chainsaw-wielding something, you will be riding a thoroughly sufficient adrenaline rush. Calm yourself after the experience with a cup of hot cider, sipped around a roaring bonfire.
Where to eat: Even if you weren’t going corn-mazing, Red Truck Bakery in Marshall would be worth an excursion. This newer sibling of the Warrenton shop owned by Brian Noyes is a hub of activity, offering everything from apple pies and cupcakes to flatbreads and brownies. We recommend filling up with a bowl of soup, served with house-made bread, and a slice of the bakery’s famous moonshine cake (with real hooch!) or, for the little ones, a sugar cookie decorated to look like the namesake red truck.
8368 W. Main St., Marshall. 540-364-2253. www.redtruckbakery.com.
What else to do: Vint Hill is a sweet little stop before heading to one of several Virginia mazes. At Green Maple Market, shop for local produce, jams, bread and more. Across the street is Vintage Hill, where you can peruse handmade goods, furniture and, of course, vintage items. Kick back with a beer, kombucha or root beer at Old Bust Head Brewing Co., which also offers tours of its facility. If wine’s more your thing , head over for a tasting at Vint Hill Craft Winery. Learn a little history at the Cold War Museum, or let the kids burn off energy on the playground at the development’s Village Green. Lineweaver Road, Warrenton, Va. www.vinthill.com.
— Becky Krystal