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Fall for fun as you enjoy the corn mazes, more at Florida farms

"Get in the car, kids, we're going to a corn maze."

"A what?"

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.

if you go

Long & Scott Farms corn maze, weekends through Nov. 30. Located in Zellwood, about 30 miles northwest of Orlando, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. The last tickets are sold at 3 p.m. both days. See longandscottfarms.com for directions, rules and tips. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for kids 3 and 16.

Harvest festivals

Long & Scott Farms is about 90 minutes from the Howard Frankland Bridge. Here are a few fall-related festivities that may be closer to home:

Sweetfields Farm corn maze, weekends through Nov. 30. This Hernando County family farm in Masaryktown has a 4-acre corn maze, smaller hay maze, playground, picnic area and food vendors. Adults $8, kids 2-11 $4. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last ticket sold at 3 p.m. See sweetfieldsfarm.com.

Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival, Friday-Sunday and Oct. 25-26. This the 17th year for this huge Manatee County collection of fall activities, including a corn maze, pumpkin and corn cannons, circus tent, train rides, hayrides, petting zoo and a variety of entertainment, from live music to a chain saw sculptor to bike stunts. See www.hunsaderfarms.com. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 adults, children under 12 free, parking is $4.

Autumn Harvest, Saturday. This St. Petersburg celebration features hayrides, apple-bobbing, sack races, tree climbing and other games. There also will be pumpkins, fruits and vegetables for purchase. There is no cost to enter; games are 50 cents, hayrides $1. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, environmental studies area, 2900 31st St. S.

Fall Festival Fundraiser, Oct. 25. The Rockin' Horse Farm in New Port Richey will have pony and hayrides plus lots of kids activities, all $5 or less, to benefit the Therapeutic Horsemanship and Riding Program. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 8118 Plathe Road. See horseconnection.org.

Art Arbor Festival, Nov. 1-2.

Artists, musicians and crafters come out for this annual festival, which includes a maze of hay bales, wildlife exhibits and live music from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. Entrance fee is $2 for adults, $1 children.

Fall for fun as you enjoy the corn mazes, more at Florida farms 10/15/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 4:30am]

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