On the west edge of Aurora, there’s an iconic landmark where glimpses of yesteryear are surrounded by modern amenities. While Blackberry Farm harkens back to the pioneer era of the mid-1800s and early American settlers, the old setting sparkles like a shiny new jewel.
It’s at the crossroads of history and hip.
Blackberry Farm will display its unique charm again beginning next Tuesday (May 1), when the barn gates swing open and welcome the public for the 49th year. Since 1969, the historic pioneer village and the throwback farm have delighted and educated generations of visitors.
After setting an all-time attendance record in 2017, Blackberry Farm is back with all the traditional favorites like the steam-engine replica train, carousel, hay wagon rides, Lil’ Farmers’ Junction and a fleet of foot-driven paddleboats on Lake Gregory.
“It’s a combination of yesteryear and tomorrow, with history and new-age attractions all in one place,” said Blackberry Farm manager Sandie Gilmer.
At the top of that list is the revolutionary “Adventure Playground,” which has drawn rave reviews all around.
It’s an extensive network of climbing decks, slides, ropes and catwalk-style bridges connecting an array of playhouses on multiple levels, bringing a 21st century twist to the historic pioneer village. A 70-foot zip line alongside provides added excitement for youth thrill-seekers.
“More than a playground, it’s a unique combination of interactive features; a hands-on farm museum where children go from deck-to-deck answering questions and learning about the history of pioneer life,” said Gilmer. “Most children have never experienced a playground like this.”
Other highlights include a spacious picnic shelter that doubles as a performance stage for live entertainment, where the “Live and Uncorked” series of outdoor concerts will feature six shows in June and July. Guests bring their own beer, wine and food, creating a Ravinia-like setting.
Even the historic museums and interpreters (blacksmith, potter, seamstress) have a few new wrinkles with a series of interactive exhibits available this year to help truly experience the “real” pioneer life.
Group picnic shelters have been expanded throughout the park – ideal for larger gatherings, whether it’s for business or a group of family and friends hanging out.
Blackberry Farm makes for an enchanting venue for special events – weddings, reunions, fund-raisers, corporate outings and the like. And, birthday parties at Blackberry are all the rage – just ask the kids.
Every day is a shin-dig at Blackberry Farm; the resident chickens, donkeys, ponies and pigs realize they’re living the good farm life. They’re farm animal celebrities who love to be seen and entertain adoring fans.
Blackberry Farm and neighboring Splash Country Water Park (across the street) also make for a great double-dandy day – one in the morning, the other in the afternoon – you won’t even have to move the car! And, as always, parking is free.
Open every day from May 1 through Labor Day – that’s 122 consecutive days – Blackberry offers three-day weekends in September and Pumpkin Weekends throughout October. Daily admission is $6 for residents and $9 for non-residents.
With so much to see and do, a visit to Blackberry Farm will make us all feel a bit younger – and wiser, at that.
Jeff Long (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the public affairs and communications manager at the Fox Valley Park District.
PHOTO CAPTION: Hay wagon rides and just one of the many attractions that bring families to visit historic Blackberry Farm, which opens for the season on May 1.