On a vacation to New England several years ago, we visited Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont. As its name suggests, Billings is an operational farm as well as a museum of Vermont’s rural and farm heritage. My kids were rather young at the time and I thought they would really enjoy interacting with farm animals. Billings has lots of them–Jersey dairy cows, sheep, horses, oxen, and chickens.
We started our visit by viewing a 30-minute film called A Place in the Land. It was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Documentary Short) and gives an overview of the farm history and conservation stewardship. The farm was established by Frederick Billings in 1871. His granddaughter, Mary French Rockefeller, and her husband, Laurance Spelman Rockefeller, continued the stewardship of the farm. This film is a great way to start your day at Billings. After that you’ll want to check out their daily schedule of events and plan your day. It changes from day to day and season to season, and includes lots of kid-friendly interactive programs, like “Up Close with a Jersey Cow”, the very popular “On Behalf of a Calf”, and “Check Out the Chickens”. Here’s a picture of my youngest daughter up close with a Jersey cow. I just love this picture of her.
We also got to meet a very friendly calf. While my kids were posing for this picture, the calf stuck its tongue out and licked my daughter. She wasn’t expecting that.
It also licked me while I was trying to pet it. I remember a conversation in college with one of my roommates about what a cow’s tongue felt like. I told her that I had never been licked by a cow and she couldn’t believe it. Somehow that conversation stuck in my memory. I wonder if “get licked by a cow” is on most people’s bucket lists. Well, we can cross that one off for me and my kids!
You can also watch the afternoon milking during your visit. They have lots of cows.
We also attended the chicken program where we learned about chickens and got to pet them.
The 1890′s Farm House has demonstrations of activities like woodstove cooking and laundry. You’ll also want to include a stop at the Dairy Bar for ice cream. The milk from Billings Farm is more suited for making cheese, so the ice cream in the Dairy Bar comes from Wilcox Dairy, also in Vermont.
Make sure to check out the museum exhibits also. They cover 15,000 square feet and you’ll learn about the different seasonal farm activities. The exhibits are not hands-on, but there are audio and video displays. We learned about how they cut blocks of ice from a lake and used them to keep their butter cool before refrigerators were invented. Watch a video about making wooden water tubs and visit a dry goods store. Check out this antique threshing equipment.
We also found an attraction that I don’t think the folks at Billings Farm intended to be an attraction: tree climbing. My kids saw this tree and just HAD to climb it.
Billings Farm & Museum is open daily, May – October. From November – February they are open on weekends and during vacations. In the winter they have sleigh rides. How fun is that?! Admission is $12 for adults (16-61), $11 for seniors, $6 for children age 5-15, and $3 for children age 3-4.
Located nearby is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. We didn’t have time to visit, but it looks interesting.
Writing this post made me really want to go back to visit Billings Farm & Museum. What other farms have you visited that you and your kids enjoyed?