Spring is here! Well according to the calendar anyway, as I type this we have a fresh coating of snow on the ground. After a particularly harsh winter where it was often too cold to even go sledding, the kids are finally able to start getting outside. For the last four or so months my (almost 3 year-old) daughter has been asking to go see ‘the animals.’ She’s referring to the animals at Muscoot Farm and last week we finally went back to visit them.
Muscoot Farm is located in the Westchester County town of Somers on rt. 100 just South of rt. 35 and easily accessible from 684. We’re lucky enough to live only a few minutes away and make at least one trip a week when the weather is nice. If you don’t mind the snow and ice though, they are open 362 days a year from 10:00AM to 4:00PM.
Run by the Westchester County Parks Department Muscoot is a working farm whose mission according to their website is, “to preserve and interpret, for the public benefit, the agricultural, cultural and natural heritage of a Westchester County farm, circa 1880 – 1930.” The farm itself was founded in 188o by owner Ferdinand T. Hopkins. It operated as a dairy farm serving the New York City area until 1967 when it was purchased by the county to be made into a park. One of the cooler historical facts about the farm is that not long after it was established it was moved from its original location to accommodate the Croton reservoir. There are maps that show the original location in one of the small museums on site and pictures of the move.
While all of this may be fascinating to parents and maybe some of the older children, the younger kids just want to see the animals. The first thing we do after (free!) parking is decide what animals we’ll see first. Sometimes it’s the ducks and other times it’s the horses or the pigs and goats, but other times we try to grab a seat at one of the many picnic tables to eat lunch. It always seems like a good idea to eat outside and a lot of effort goes into making and packing our feast, but somehow the allure of the animals is always stronger than hunger and lunch is left to be eaten in the car on the way home. If you forgot lunch there’s a snack bar that’s open on the weekends.
While the park is almost 800 acres and includes many trails, the actual farm is compact enough to see all the animals as many times as you want. The roads are all dirt with some gravel and strollers generally do ok especially if you have one that’s more rugged. If it has rained recently there may be some large puddles so dress accordingly and be prepared to either drag your kids away from them or pack extra clothes and shoes. Personally I say if it’s not too cold to let them jump away…what’s more fun than jumping in a big mud puddle. This doesn’t always make me popular with the other parents.
One of the things you’ll notice is that a lot of the ‘new arrivals’ are named with their birth dates on small signs. My daughter always thinks it’s funny when I tell her that she’s almost three and the cow she’s waving to is only two, “nooooooo Daddy.” One of the goats even shared her birthday but she stopped short of inviting him to her party. Some of the other animals are named also but you have to visit often enough to pick them up, like ‘Stinky’ AKA The Grumpy Goat who repeatedly butts his head against his pen if you get too close. Also be on the lookout for the farm’s resident cat. I won’t tell you his name, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself.
This is not a petting zoo and you are discouraged from petting and feeding the animals, but it’s hard to resist scratching the giant cow nose when it pokes though the bars at you. Just keep an eye on small fingers and try to discourage kids from feeding the animals anything even the hay that’s on the ground. Last year my daughter got a little close to one of the young cows and got a few sloppy ‘kisses’ from his ‘ouchy tongue.’ If you’re lucky you can watch them milk the cows. The staff is very friendly and will invite kids to get a closer look if there aren’t too many in the group. They’ll also answer any questions you might have like, ‘ummm should that cow be walking down the road by himself?” Yeah it happens.
The farm is popular with schools so be wary if you see a bus or two in the parking lot as there may be a bunch of unruly 5th graders running around. During the week there are usually only a handful of adults and kids there at any given time. More often than not the kids end up latching onto each other and making some new friends. This process often starts at the small ‘stage’ on the front lawn where kids like to dance around and jump off or on the old tractor as they jockey for position in the big seat.
On Tuesdays this Spring they have story time from 1:00 – 1:30 and several times a year they hold larger programs like the Maple Sugaring and Pancake Breakfast in the Spring, Putnam County Fair in the Summer and Hayrides in the Fall. If you’re a frequent local visitor you may be shocked to arrive for your weekly quiet stroll to find that the main parking lot is full and they’re parking cars in the field across rt. 100 due to one of the events listed above. A full calendar of events can be found at their website.
Other things to note:
Admission to the farm is Free, but donations are encouraged. Be sure to drop what you can into the cow by the front gate. If you’d like to make a larger donation you can do so at the link below:
Reservations are required (and small fees apply) for large school groups which are broken down into age appropriate subject matter from Pre-K through 8th Grade. Info is available at the site.
And yes if you’re wondering they DO have indoor restrooms.
Enjoy your visit to Muscoot Farm. I hope enjoy it with your family as much as I enjoy it with mine.