"Get in the car, kids, we're going to a corn maze."
Yes, you tropical Popsicles, we do have corn mazes in Florida. Granted, you have to wear sunscreen and hats and carry bottled water to wander in a field in midafternoon, but it still feels like a fall thing to do.
My family and I went to the opening weekend of the Long & Scott Farms corn maze in Zellwood, about 30 miles northwest of Orlando.
Family farmers should practically be housed in a museum here in condo land, but these folks have been at it for almost 50 years and they've figured out one way to pay the bills: cut a maze through a patch of 8-foot-tall field corn.
The farm's main maze winds through 7 acres of corn so tall it sent my sense of direction off kilter. Luckily my 10-year-old has it in spades, and after several eye rolls, he took over and I followed the group.
This is a challenging maze, and like the Amazing Race or geocaching, it's a thrill when you find what you are looking for, in this case a clearing with some clues to a word search puzzle and a map of where to go next.
A family tromping near us with a stroller surely had a lot of "What were we thinking?" moments. The path is sandy and not made for strollers, and plenty of kids under 3 were getting whiny and tired about halfway through a challenge that takes most families at least an hour to finish. Better to keep the littlest ones on the nearby smaller maze or put them in a backpack carrier.
After besting the maze, you'll find a good hour or two of diversions, including a small mist maze for cooling off, a swing set, a 60-foot slide, hayrides and a catch-and-release fishing pond stocked with speckled perch, bream and bass.
The farm market offers pumpkins (decently priced at $8 for a good-sized one), decorative corn stalks, veggies and country market sauces and dressings.
For lunch, you can bring your own to the picnic area or buy some pizza or turkey legs from the vendors set up on-site. (I recommend the Italian ice.)
Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for kids 3 to 16, but the better deal is to get the maze, hayride and fishing package ($13 for adults, $11 for kids). You also can buy special maze glasses ($1) to go with a secret decoder map.
Our family spent a total of $52 to cure our fall fever — and we learned something about Florida agriculture as well.
Sharon Kennedy Wynne can be reached at swynne@tampabaycom.