Primrose Farm is another one of those places where you show up and you think “Hmmm .. that’s all there is to do here?” And then next thing you know, it’s two or three hours later, and you’re leaving with a couple happy, exhausted kids, pleased that you spent lots of quality time outdoors hanging with animals — and that you spent not a single dime. Read on for more about how you can plan a successful outing back to the 1930s. (Note that Primrose Farm also hosts birthday parties. You can find more info about that here.)
Location: The farm is located in northwest St. Charles — about 2.5 miles west of Randall Road — at 5N726 Crane Road, just south of where Crane meets Bolcum. I recommend taking a look at a map beforehand, and also using GPS if you have it. I drive by the entrance to the farm every single time I visit, and have to turn around. Parking is available at the main entrance off Crane Road — drive past the garden plots, down a gravel road and continue to the parking area near the farm yard. Note that the farm shares the general area with Primrose Farm Park, which has ball fields and community gardens. But you’ll want to park near the horses in the farmyard.
Hours: The farm grounds are open from dawn to dusk, weather permitting. If you want to view the daily farm chores, you can take a look a look at this Daily Schedule.
Admission: Admission to Primrose Farm is free. However, there are a number of special activities and programs that you can register for (or even drop-in for) that do cost a fee. (See below for info.)
Amenities: The farm grounds have picnic pavilions, more than 100 acres of agricultural open space, a tire wing, lots of farm animals, community garden plots that can be rented and “farm discovery trails.” There is a small building with toilets, but if I remember correctly, no running water – so you’ll want to bring your hand sanitizer. There is a small “summer kitchen” building separate from the farmhouse that you can go inside, but otherwise, you’ll be outdoors. Pure Prairie Farm grows produce on the farm and it has a farmstand there near the Crane Road entrance where you can buy fruits, vegetables, honey, eggs and more. Check here for hours.
Programs: The farm only opened to the public in 2009, and the St. Charles Park District seems to be offering more educational and just-for-fun programs at Primrose Farm each year. There’s usually a section devoted to Primrose Farm in the seasonal park district brochures, and there’s a page on the farm’s website, too. I include the drop-in programs on the Go West Calendar — those include opportunities on Wednesdays and Saturdays to help collect chicken eggs and feed the animals, as well as participate in an afternoon tea party or farm storytime. (The fee for those drop-in programs are $7.50 per person for non-residents, and you’ll need to arrive early to fill out some registration forms.) Primrose Farm also offers summer camps, hosts birthday parties and holds seasonal events too — my family enjoyed a hayrack ride around the farm, followed by a campfire, in the fall of 2011. Other seasonal events include a “Farm Frolic” in September, holiday sleigh rides, moonlight hayrides and a “Springtime on the Farm” event.
Good For: Families who don’t mind some dirt, mud and bugs — and yes, some animal excrement — and are happy to explore on their own. If Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago is the postcard version of what living on a farm would be like, then Primrose Farm is more like a documentary!
Our Experience: My preschooler and I have met friends at Primrose Farm several times, and I’m always surprised by how long we spend there. She loves the tire swing in the front yard of the farmhouse, and of course we make sure to visit the cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and horses. We usually pack a picnic lunch and eat at the pavilion, which is a bit of a walk from the farm. We’ve usually been lucky enough to be there when the cows are brought in to feed in the barn in the afternoon, and with the permission of a staff member, we’ve been able to get up close and pet the head of some of the gentlest cows.
The Takeaway: Primrose Farm is a great place to go on a day when you’re looking for an outing that is relaxing, educational and free (as long as you don’t sign up for programs). Just bring your bug spray, sunscreen, bottle of water and hand sanitizer. You can visit any day of the year, and on each visit, you’ll likely see something new. Don’t be hesitant to stop and talk and ask questions of any of the costumed interpreters — they can tell you if there’s anything special about to happen you might want to stay around for, and help your kids understand what life might have been like on a farm in the 1930s for a child their age.