When the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, as the song goes, you know it’s corn maze season. At dozens of Michigan farms fields of towering corn stalks are carved into giant, walk-through puzzles where you can have fun getting lost (temporarily) in a series of paths that lead to loops and dead ends, all a part of an intricate design. It’s a family-friendly activity, and many farmers cater to all ages with both the larger and more intricate mazes for older kids and adults, and smaller mazes made of hay bales for the young ones.
The corn maze craze started in the U.S. in the early 1990s, with simple paths cut through fields of tall corn stalks. By 2008 there were more than 800 mazes in the country, according to Corn Mazes America, and they had evolved into patterns or pictures ranging in from four to 20 acres. The lines that form the design are wide footpaths that have been cut by hand or machine through the field of 10-foot high corn stalks. The designs, seen from above, might be barns, farm animals, dinosaurs, Jack-O-Lanterns, Halloween characters---at one farm the maze was shaped like the Pure Michigan logo.
As if wandering through the maze isn’t challenging enough many farmers make navigation even more of a test of skills by developing themes and incorporating puzzles with hidden clues and checkpoints along the route.
To round out the experience many farms offer other activities such as free entertainment, pony rides, games and crafts. Some also operate a cider mill or offer a snack bar and at others you can take a hayride to a pumpkin patch to pick your own Jack-O-Lantern material.
For an eerie excursion the brave can look for a maze that is open at night. These are generally limited to older youths and adults because the mazes are not lit, and can be very dark and spooky. Some hint that they may be “haunted.” Be sure to bring a flashlight!
Everyone who visits a maze needs to wear good walking shoes and clothing appropriate for the weather, and for walking through a cornfield. A bottle of water is a good idea---you never know how long you’ll be wandering through the maze.
Mazes generally operate Friday through Sunday during September and October, but some close in early November. Consult the Web site or call each maze for hours, rules, tips, group rates and calendars of activities.
Crazy for Mazes
Following is a sampling of farms that are making the corn maze an agri-tourism phenomenon in Michigan. Join the fun and prepare to be a-mazed!
Alber Orchard & Cider Mill in Manchester invites you into its Web site, a spider web corn maze. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride to the pumpkin patch and see farm animals. The 1890 farmstead still uses its original press to make fresh apple cider, which you can sip while listening to live music.
Amazing Acres in Edwardsburg features a 20-acre corn maze with 3.5 miles of pathway, and many more activities including a pumpkin patch and holiday decor, hayrides, kiddie hay bale maze, refreshment stand and much more.
Bestmaze in the Williamston/Webberville area just southeast of Lansing sculpted its 20-acre maze in an intricate “Under the Sea Theme.” Wander for miles without getting wet! If you’re looking for Halloween thrills follow the separate Trail of Terror on October weekends.
Crane Orchards in Fennville wants you to clown around in their 20-acre corn maze or, for the older and braver crowd venture into the separate, 20-acre Haunted Corn Maze after dark on October weekends. There’s a 3D special FX barn, too, plus hayrides, the Cow Train, U-Pick and Pie Pantry & Restaurant.
Farmer J’s Corn Maze in Dundee is vying for Guinness World Record recognition as the largest corn maze with the longest path in a patriotic “We the People” design and for hosting the longest torch lit (flashlight) parade.
Fruit Ridge Hayrides in Kent City has horse drawn hayrides and kiddie rides, fruit and pumpkins from the 125-year old farm, and a 15-acre corn maze and related maze game. Enjoy fresh donuts and warm cider, too.
Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch in Rock, north of Escanaba, is one of the few corn mazes in the Upper Peninsula.
Izzi Farm Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch in Ira Township has a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and an antique tractor show and classic car and truck show coming in September. Wander through the Corn Maze during the day or take on the Moonlight Maze for an extra adventure.
Jacob’s Farm Market Barn & Corn Maze in Traverse City is on the historic Witkop farm that dates to 1892. Roam the T-Rex and Volcano corn maze, buy seasonal produce from the Farm Market Barn.
New Salem Autumn Family Fun Spot in Dorr has a family-friendly corn maze, a scary Witch-Way corn maze and haunted woods, plus pumpkin patch, hay rides, petting zoo, and kiddie corn maze.
Uncle John’s Cider Mill in St. Johns is known for its apple cider, but there are a lot of additional activities down on the farm. Check out the five-acre corn maze and the Straw Bale Maze for young kids (open seven days a week). There’s also an apple slingshot called a “Fruit Fling” and pumpkin patch plus entertainment and more fun for the whole family.