Updated for 2019.
Step back in time and experience what life on the farm would have been like in the “olden days” at Living History Farms in Urbandale. In addition to getting an up close look at crops and livestock at three historically accurate farms, kids can have fun walking around the town of Walnut Hill and visiting its homes and businesses like the Print Shop, Blacksmith and Implement Dealer.
Know Before You Go
- Hours of Operation: Summer Season (May 1 – August 25, 2019) Monday through Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; Sunday: 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm; Fall Season (August 31 – October 18, 2019) Wednesday tbrough Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm; Sunday: 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm
- Cost of General Admission: $16 Adults; $15 Seniors (60+); $9.50 Children (Ages 2-12); Children 1 and under FREE
- Parking: There is plenty of FREE parking available.
- Food: Outside food and beverages are permitted and it’s a great place for a picnic. However, if you forget to bring something or would rather let someone else do the cooking, there are two food options. The Flynn Cafe, on the north side of the Flynn Mansion, offers hot and cold food options, including sandwiches, hot dogs, nachos, and pizza. The Snack Shop, located in the town of Walnut Hill, offers many vending machine snack and beverage options.
- Restrooms: Restrooms are scattered throughout the site. They are located at the Visitor Center, in Walnut Hill on the north end of the Snack Shop building, inside the Flynn Cafe, and the Wallace Exhibit Center.
- Prior to your visit check out Living History Farm’s website.
While You’re There
Living History Farms is a 500 acre, interactive, outdoor history museum. It’s great for kids that love the outdoors, farming and animals. There’s really not much that is off limits and kids can touch, play and engage at all of the attractions. Living History Farms is comprised of three farm sites; a 1700 Ioway Indian Farm, an 1850 Pioneer Farm and a 1900 Horse-Powered Farm. It also includes the 1875 Town of Walnut Hill and the Wallace Crop Center exhibit.
We have visited Living History Farms several times and always look forward to our next visit. To begin your tour of the farms, you park in an outer lot near the Visitor’s Center where you can purchase tickets, grab a map and information about the attractions. There’s also restrooms and a nice gift shop, that features products made in Iowa, located in the Visitor’s Center.
Before heading out to tour the site, you may want to decide which attractions you most want to visit. When we tour the entire site, it usually takes us at least three hours. If it’s your first time visiting, it may take longer. If you have limited time for your visit, it may be best to concentrate your time either visiting the town of Walnut Hill or the farms, but not both.
Attractions are really spread out and you’re in for a lot of walking. You will want to bring a stroller or wagon along if you have small kids. You will also want to note that the terrain is pretty rugged. Six-foot wide wooden planks connect most of the town sites and the farms are connected via a dirt trail, which ranges from flat land to gradual slopes to steep hills. You’ll want to be sure to wear good walking shoes and don’t forget to bring along a hat and sunscreen.
We generally start our tour by heading up the boardwalk from the Visitor’s Center to either the Tagen House or to the Bank and then we tour the business area of town. Some of our favorites are the Print Shop, Implement Dealer and the Blacksmith. My poor son about passed out in the Doctor’s Office, one time, when they started talking about late 1800s and early 1900s medical practices:).
Once we’ve toured the businesses we head towards the Broom Maker, Schoolhouse, Flynn Mansion and Barn. The Schoolhouse is another one of our favs. The kids like sitting in the desks, writing on the individual slate boards and imagining everyone in school sharing only one teacher and one classroom. Since, my grandmother taught in a one-room schoolhouse, it’s always a fun time to share some of her stories too.
Next, we make our way to the tractor tram pick up/drop off spot behind the Drug Store. We then ride the tram to the Ioway Farm and walk the trail to the Pioneer Farm and 1900 Farm. We spend a fair amount of time at each learning about how farming practices changed over the years. We also enjoy seeing the animals at the Pioneer and 1900 Farms. Once we’ve trekked to each farm we finish up at the Wallace Exhibit Center to catch the tram back to town.
I wanted to make sure to mention, that we’ve had great luck visiting Living History Farm’s on rainy days. It can get a bit messy, I wouldn’t recommend going during a downpour, but a drizzle is great! There’s not a lot of people there and we seem to have the volunteers and interpreters to ourselves. The pharmacist has time to make pills, you may get a chance to print something in the Print Shop or you can work the butter churner at the Implement Dealer.
In addition to the attractions, Living History Farms hosts a number of activities and events throughout the year for kids, families and adults. Please visit their website to learn more about their special events, camps and classes and educational programs.
After Your Visit
This is a great opportunity to have a conversation with your kids about your excursion. Be sure to ask your kids questions about what they learned during their tour of Living History Farms. I always like to ask them what their favorite attraction was (it changes each time we go). I also like to ask them if they would have liked growing up in or living at each of the farms or town. It’s always fun to hear their responses!
Living History Farms is located in Urbandale, just of I-35 on Hickman Road. There’s several businesses in the area to grab a snack or bite to eat.
Living History Farms
11121 Hickman Road
Urbandale, IA 50322
What are your tips for a family fun day at Living History Farms?