Ardenwood is a historic East Bay farm that’s got crops, animals and wood barns. It was established in the mid-1800s in the Fremont area and is now part of the East Bay Regional Park District. I’ve been to the farm several times and it offers a different experience every time I go. Once I went to Ardenwood with my Girl Scout troop for an Alice in Wonderland tea, another time I toured Ardenwood with my groom-to-be as a possible wedding location and another time to take part in a Renaissance Faire. This past Saturday my husband and I happened to be in Fremont and stopped by Ardenwood to enjoy the beautiful spring day – clear blue sky no sweater required.
The parking lot for visitors is nestled between vegetable field and cow pasture with the road into Ardenwood passing through the organic crop fields. The produce grown on the land is sold at local farmers markets. In the fall, Perry Family Pumpkin Patch fills the fields with pumpkins and spooky decor for Halloween fun.
The entrance fee to explore Ardenwood varies depending on the season and there are additional fees for park attractions such as the railroad and historic farm house tour. Check the park district website for current fees. The 1.5 mile railroad with historic wooden rail cars will re-open to take visitors around the farm, along with tours of the Patterson House in April.
Farm activities take place throughout the day to keep up with all the work that needs to be completed. Special demonstrations happen on the weekend such as animal appreciation like “Meet the Chickens” where visitors learn all about chickens. Victorian crafts like embroidery and felting with sheep wool taken from sheep on the farm are also available to visitors. Saturday, March 18 would be a fun day to stop by the farm to watch Ardenwood’s sheep get their spring haircut on Sheep Shearing Day!
Animals are all around at Ardenwood. Cows greet visitors from their pasture near the entrance. They’re expert at hanging out and relaxing in the shade. The rustle of free range chickens hunting inside an overgrown bush can be heard as the birds scratch at fallen leaves to uncover yummy bugs to eat. While other chickens roam through garden boxes and under wheelbarrows. A few turkeys and peacocks squawk throughout the farm contributing to the farm ambience. Sheep with matted hair wait for the upcoming shearing day as they graze through new grass. A few baby lambs learning how to walk hobble in their newborn pen. Newly hatched chicks huddle together in spacious chicken hutches.
Ardenwood teaches kids about animals and farming through games and interactive displays. A game mounted to the barn door has a spinning arrow that lands on a picture of an animal that children are tasked to identify on the farm. Another activity that caught my attention is a large wood cutout of a 3D cow with attached udders children can “milk.” Water sprays into a milk pail when the teats are tugged on. Another interactive activity was simply using an antique water pump. Kids and adults use their biceps to bring water up out of the ground. A few dads faced off against each other to show their young how water pumping was done.
The nucleus of the Ardenwood estate is the Patterson House built in 1857. The home is referred to as a farmhouse but I’d call it a mansion. It was closed for tours at the end of last year, Christmas decorations still adorn it, but will reopen in April. Visitors can enjoy the large veranda and sit in the shade of the house soaking up the serene park and garden setting. Ornate Victorian woodwork details decorate the exterior of the building along with varied rooflines and interesting architecture. A separate cook house and outhouse accompany the main home.
Ardenwood offers both serene settings and activities to get visitors involved with the workings of a farm. History buffs, animal lovers and recreation seekers won’t be disappointed with a visit to Ardenwood.