Champaign, IL (WCIA) Take a Trip to Fair Oaks Farms During the Holiday Season

By Marcia Frost

I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of Fair Oak Farms before I saw a fellow writer mention it online. It’s less than two hours from here and offers a ton of family activities for a day or a weekend. I took along two friends, eight-year-old Aubrie, and my Yorkie, Teddy, on his first official service dog trip.

Forest of Lights

The Forest of Lights is a holiday celebration every year a Fair Oaks Farm. It began on November 19th and will continue through the holiday season. Even Santa will be there for story time.

The lit trail is beautiful and the longest I’ve ever seen. It was an extremely cold night when we were there, so it wasn’t very busy. Halfway through the Forest of Lights is an area filled with firepits. It’s a good place to warm up and toast some s’mores. They sell s’mores kits at The Market, which you go through to enter the path. At the beginning of that path there is also a sledding hill and an ice-skating rink. There is also a holiday market for buying last minute gifts.

Igloos are another highlight of the Forest of Lights. They are just outside the restaurant, and you can rent them day or night. They are warm and cozy, whether you want to keep it to a romantic dinner (they are available through Valentine’s Day) or brunch for the family. You can order off the Farmhouse menu. It was a lot of fun and great on the cold weekend we went.

Spend the Night

Fair Oaks Farms has a Fairfield Inn by Marriott right on the property so you can put down the keys to the car and really enjoy your trip. The building looks like a barn from the outside, but is modern on the inside. The suites are large and include a mini refrigerator, microwave, and coffee pot, as well as a hot buffet breakfast complete with fresh eggs and waffles.  There’s also an indoor pool if you want to take a break from the farm.

You can reach the Farmhouse Restaurant from the hotel without going outside. It’s beautifully decorated for the holidays. We had dinner there and it was great. The menu includes just about anything you would want, from prime steaks to a Pig Adventure sandwich, which I had. It was a delicious hickory smoked pork shoulder with house barbecue sauce on a brioche roll. There is also, of course, cheese curds made from Fair Oaks cheese.

The Smoked Brisket Chili, which is also sold in the Cowfé, was so good that Brittany had it again the next day. The Cowfé is a great place for lunch with a selection of sandwiches, but it’s a must stop for the Fair Oaks cheese (I loved the Calico and brought some home) and house made ice cream.

Friendly For All

You can bring every member of the family to Fair Oaks Farms.

They are very welcoming to dogs. The hotel allows dogs, and they can go in all the outdoor activities. There is even a dog park. Teddy was only allowed in the buildings and on the tour buses as a service dog. (He can detect my blood sugar drops and breathing problems, bring me medication, etc.)

Almost every spot at the farm and the adventures is accessible. The buses for tours even have wheelchair lifts. There are ramps everywhere. A few more automatic door would be nice, but it was very easy to get around on a scooter.

Fair Oaks Farms is also friendly toward the environment. The buses run on animal waste, and they are looking to achieve a zero-carbon footprint in the rest of the vehicles.

Other Activities

Head to the Pork Building to learn all about pigs and take a turn at the Ropes Course, which is quite challenging. There is also a bus tour that will take you on the Pig Adventure if you want to see the raising of pigs from birth.

The Dairy Adventure was a lot of hands-on fun as we learned about cows and dairy production, including a chance to see how to milk a cow, or even dress like one. The Dairy Adventure bus tour can take you to the milking production area to see where the Fair Oaks Farms dairy products get their start.

The Crop Adventure is an interesting start to finish on the growing at Fair Oaks Farms lead to feeding seven billion people. It includes everything from pollination to the modern technology that has come to the farm to streamline production, and a look at the products in the supermarket that came from this farm.

Packages including all tickets are available.  Fair Oaks Farms is also available for weddings, educational classes, and other events around harvest seasons during the year. For more information, visit their website.

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