Bring a child.
Ardenwood Historic Farm
It’s not Six Flags, Great America, or
Disneyland. It’s too quiet, too simple, too old-fashioned. But if
you would like to enjoy a peaceful day with your favorite child,
Ardenwood is worth a visit.
This beautifully restored 1890s farm doesn’t
overwhelm with bright lights, loud music, and children’s screams.
You walk along shady paths to discover a cow in a pasture, a
colorful preening peacock, and a wagon full of hay. At the small
railroad station, you don’t see giant locomotives. Instead, you get
aboard a little narrow-gauge horse-drawn car for a ride around a
large meadow and through the shade of a eucalyptus forest. Traveling
at the speed of a walking draft horse isn’t exciting, but it’s
comfortable, pleasant, and natural. Petting the horse after the ride
is even better.
We didn’t see any lions or tigers, but my
grandson was more interested in seeing a real, live pig in real,
dirty mud. He liked feeding the sheep and goats. For him, the best
part was up close and personal.
Young docents, dressed in 1890s costumes,
supplied enough facts to stimulate interest, but most of the
education was hands-on. Children got their hands a little dirty.
They smelled animal smells. They ate homemade cookies. At the end of
their animal-feeding tour, they were given popcorn on real corn cobs
to take home.
We looked at many tractors, wagons, and farm
implements. We saw farmhands at work. We also watched a blacksmith
forging a steel hilt for a sword. (I don’t know what this has to do
with farming, but small boys appeared to like it.) We even saw a
The historic centerpiece of the farm is an
elaborate Victorian mansion, the Patterson House. Complete with
large lawns, gardens, and a gazebo, it was considered by the
to be “the most handsome house in the township in 1898.” It may
still be, but while tours were available, my grandson passed in
favor of visiting the nearby produce stand. Perry’s sells a wide
assortment of fruits and vegetables, many grown locally.
Although Ardenwood is open Tuesday through
Sunday, I recommend “historic days.” On Thursday, Friday, and
Sunday, you can attend naturalist programs, tour the house, ride the
horse-drawn railcar, and visit the blacksmith shop. The Farmyard
Café is open only on Sunday. Join in feeding the animals at 3 p.m.
On “historic days” fees are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $4
for children aged four and above. For more information, visit
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 510-796-0663 or 510-796-0199.
Directions to Ardenwood
Take Highway 17 north and continue on Interstate 880 into the East
Bay. Turn on Highway 84 west (second Highway 84 exit), exit right on
Ardenwood, and right again at the park entrance.
Other local farms
In Santa Cruz County, visit Wilder Ranch. Located about two miles
north of Western Drive on Highway 1, this historic farm comes
complete with ranch house, Victorian home, barns, gardens, and farm
animals. Over 34 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails wind
through 7,000 acres of coastal terraces and valleys. The
interpretive center is open Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4
p.m., except December through February. For a schedule of tours and
living history demonstrations, call 831-426-0505.
In Santa Clara County’s Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve,
ten-acre Deer Hollow Farm offers self-guided tours of a working farm
with farm animals. You can also arrange a guided group tour. Bring
the farm home when you buy farm-fresh eggs and seasonal orchard
produce. The one-mile walk from the parking lot may discourage some
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, 8 a.m. to
1 p.m. Animals can be seen between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. To visit Deer
Hollow, take Highway 17 to Interstate 280, exit at Foothill
Boulevard south, and go 0.2-mile to Cristo Rey Drive. Turn right,
and continue for one mile. Stay right at the traffic circle, and
then turn left into the park entrance. To learn more, call