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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Get Lost in the Shipshewana Corn Maze!

Get lost in the Shipshewana Corn Maze. Family fun in Indiana!
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. I think part of that has to do with growing up in the midwest. There's a moment when the thick oppressive summer heat gives way to the crisp, cool fall air; one deep breath and all is right with the world again. It also means the start of some of my favorite things—football, apple picking, pumpkin patches, hayrides, and corn mazes. I love that each of these activities is family-friendly and that they can be found within a short distance of home here in northwestern Indiana.

This past Friday after my two youngest got home from school, we all jumped in the car, excited to spend the evening at the Shipshewana Corn Maze. Shipshewana, located in the heart of Northern Indiana Amish Country, lies about 45 miles east of South Bend and about 55 miles northwest of Fort Wayne. Even though its population is just under 700, the charming streets of Shipshewana always seem to be bustling with excitement. But more on that another day, today I'm going to focus on the corn maze itself.

Shipshewana corn and water silo
If the drive in from out of town wasn't proof enough, you'd know you were in Amish country when the field set aside for parking has parking signage for cars, bikes, and horse and buggies. Set on a peaceful expanse of land just off of the town's main square, you purchase your tickets at a small admission booth before stepping into what seems like a vast space dotted with different activities.

Since we'd arrived at dinner time, the first thing we did was head for the concession area—two rows of picnic tables with hay bale seats set under a tent. There's a small, basic menu consisting of things like burgers, hotdogs, barbecue chicken thighs, fries, and a chicken fajita wrap (regular or deluxe), plus chips and a small refrigerator with drinks to choose from. The prices are reasonable at under $4.00 for a large item and $1.00 for a bag of chips or a drink, and the food, which is cooked to order, tasted good.
Parking for all modes of transportation at the Shipshewana Corn Maze
I know this isn't the most pleasing thing to talk about after mentioning food, but I thought it was worth mentioning that the two porta potties on site were clean and there was a sink and soap for washing up after you used them. This is actually high praise, as just the words porta potty usually elicit a cringe from me. Hooray for clean facilities!

The corn maze itself is actually made up of three different mazes. Depending on the entrance you choose, there's a smaller .4-mile "kiddy" maze, the 2.5-mile horse maze, and the 3.3-mile tractor maze. You can see how they get their names by viewing the maze from the air—a shot I obviously couldn't get myself, but that you can see in the first photo of this post.
Get lost in the Shipshewana Corn Maze. Family fun in Indiana!
There are also two different games that you can play while you're in the maze. One game has you searching for animal tracks, and other has you searching for hidden checkpoints within the maze. Each checkpoint also has a hole punch of a unique shape that you can use to "activate" different coupons on a card you pick-up before heading into the maze. These coupons earn you discounts at local businesses, so if you're making a day or two of visiting Shipshewana, that's a nice bonus for the adults in the group.

The maze was a lot of fun, with my youngest taking the role of leader, semi-expertly reading the map and guiding us from checkpoint to checkpoint. Did we get lost? Several times? Of course we did! I mean, isn't that half the fun of making your way through a giant maze? (We chose to make our way through the horse maze if you were wondering.) It was a lot of fun, and some good exercise at the same time.
Human Hamster Wheel at the Shipshewana Corn Maze
But the fun doesn't stop there. We actually wound up staying for about 3 hours because there's so much more to do! They have a tiny hay bale maze and a hopper ball arena set up for the younger kids, a giant slide made from a large, rigid tube of some sort, that you climbed up a mountain of hay bales to get access to. I'm sure this is meant for the younger set as well, but my 11-year old had no problems fitting inside and enjoying every minute. As I'm about to type the words "hay bales" again, I should point out that this whole farm seems to be a labor of love, not some play spot churned out at a factory.

So, hay bales support a giant checkerboard, and even though it's flanked by a couple of chairs, the giant checker-moving  stick indicates that it's actually easier to play standing up. Next up is the Human Hamster track. I was laughing and cheering on the kids as they ran, fell, and rolled around inside of their "wheel", but once hubby and I jumped in one, I shut my mouth really fast...because it is much harder than it looks. But between running up the edge, going full-force into the hay bale stop, and rolling around on my back, the only thing that hurt were my cheeks (you know, from smiling so much).
Cow Train at the Shipshewana Corn Maze
What's that you say? Cow trains are just for kids? I know a few grown-ups who would argue that fact.  The long train with separate cars is pulled by a tractor, and much to the delight of my crew went pleasingly fast.

But, even before we set foot through the front gate, I knew that the Corn Cannon would be our favorite activity. Not included in the entrance price, one turn on the double-barreled cannon costs $1.00 (aka 2 cobs for 1 dollar); we came armed with singles for the sole purpose of some target practice. And yes, it was everything we thought it would be. I wouldn't mind having a corn cannon in my own backyard...though my neighbors might say different.
Try to resist the Corn Cannon at Shipshewana Corn Maze
If you want to take some time to relax in the midst of all the activity, that's also easy to do. Kick back on one of the many hay bales or chairs configured communicably in the center of all of the activities or play a few rounds of the classic midwestern game, cornhole.
Playing corn hole at the corn maze.
Another plan I intentionally went in with was still being there as the sun started to set. Sunset plan #1 was to enjoy the fire places, or pits, set up in that communal center area. Yup, that's another of the many reasons I love fall—chilling around an outdoor fire.
The fire pits at the Shipshewana Corn Maze are perfect as the sun sets.
Sunset plan #2 was to hop on the hayride as the sun started to get closer to the horizon. Hayrides are fun anytime, but something magical about bumping along the fields as dusk settles peacefully over the cornfields, the sunset coloring the sky.
Enjoy a sunset hayride at the Shipshewana Corn Maze

In case you couldn't tell, the Shipshewana Corn Maze was good, quality fun for the entire family. Although my oldest child didn't come along this time due to previous commitments, this is the type of outing that you can enjoy whether you're 2 or 82—teenagers included (because, you know, they're picky beasts).

Season: Thursday, August 27, 2015 - Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thursday 6pm-10pm
Friday 3pm-10pm
Saturday 10am-10pm

Location: 505 Morton St., Shipshewana, IN 46565
Telephone: (844) 428-5336
website: Shipshewana Corn Maze

to Shipshewana Fall Farm Fun in Indiana!

As a US Family Guide blogger, I received free admission for my family into the corn maze. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.