Looking for a fresh turn in their respective careers, Joe and Dawn Taylor planted the first grapes at Sleepy Creek Vineyards in 2002. In 2007 they opened the winery, where they sell their wines and swap stories with visitors. Amid 10 acres of expansive grapevines, a timber-frame barn houses the winery and tasting room. While sipping Sleepy Creek's varietals, guests can browse the gift shop, peruse the upstairs art gallery, and sample local cheeses from Ludwig Farmstead Creamery and Ropp Jersey Cheese. Above the winery, bed-and-breakfast-style accommodations allow visitors to relax amid the countryside and eavesdrop on rumors spreading through the grapevines outside.
The Vintage Indiana wine festival totes more than 200 award-winning Indiana wines. As varietals from wineries such as Oliver Winery, Winzerwald Winery, and Best Vineyards flow into glasses, food from eateries such as Bazbeaux, Chef JJ's, and various food trucks curbs appetites. Live music adds a soundtrack to the entire affair, which also includes special events such as culinary demonstrations.
The Winery at Shale Lake sprawls over 212 acres of verdant terrain, with a 10-acre vineyard producing a menu of eight original wines for enjoyment in an array of charming settings. Spin around the 24-acre lake during a 30-minute bike ride aboard any of the Surrey cycles available for rent, or hike the scenic trail to slowly experience nature and the soothing melodies of Bigfoot quartets. Sip on up to five complimentary varieties of wine in the tasting room, built into the barn for a fine equine view through the picture window, and chow on gastronome goodies, including baked brie with raspberry sauce ($6), or white garlic and sausage pizza ($9). Kick back in the winter loft during colder months, playing pool and swirling sippers such as the Fifth Dimension, a sweet red foch wine, and the Beginners Luck, a semisweet chambourcin (all $4.50 by the glass). Live performers burst into song roughly twice a month, so thirst quenchers can enjoy sweet sounds while tickling their taste buds and their friends' bellies on Saturday evenings.
Costumed actors hide inside Heaps Haunted Corn Maze, ready to scare all those who dare enter. Alternatively, the flashlight maze is completely unhaunted and challenges visitors instead with a series of dead ends, switchbacks, and branching paths that they must navigate armed only with a flashlight. After walking through the maze of their choice, guests can unwind during a half-hour moonlight tractor ride, staying in the mood by singing the Scooby-Doo theme song under their breath.
The amphitheater at Fair Oaks Farms doesn’t host agriculture-themed theater productions, or talks by resident farmers and cheese-makers. Instead, it’s the stage for an astonishing real-life drama. Before a giant wall of glass, audience members hold their breath as they watch a dairy cow give birth atop a bed of hay. Its calf enters the world in full view, rising up on its wobbling legs and hearing the sound of dozens of human hearts melting at once for the very first time. It all happens approximately 80 times each day.
The birthing barn anchors the farm's Dairy Adventure tour, giving families and school children a literal window into the world of sustainable dairy farming. At Fair Oaks Farms, the sustainability is as important as the milks and cheeses. As the New York Times recently reported, the farm creates natural gas from livestock waste. This ever-replenished source powers 10 barns, a cheese factory, an ice cream parlor, and everything else at the farm. It even becomes fuel for delivery trucks, which take raw milk to processing plants in three different states.
A lot of the dairy products stay right on the farm, however. At the onsite café, staffers serve countless glasses of chocolate milk and plates of grilled cheese sandwiches, the most popular items on the menu. The dining area overlooks the farm's cheese-making and milk-bottling facilities, so diners see exactly where their snack comes from.
As for the cafe's produce, it comes directly from the farm's Green Garden Gate, a collection of gardens that sit in the shadow of a 25-foot milk bottle. The oversized container, known as "Udder Heights," is actually a climbing wall complete with belay systems and footholds. It stands at the center of Mooville, an outdoor play area that also contains train rides and a giant jumping pillow for when someone orders a milkshake.
Creepy Hallow Halloween Fun Park, like a friendly man that transforms into a ravenous werewolf, boasts two very different sides when entertaining customers. During the day, revelers of all ages frolic through pumpkin patches and enjoy hayrides after bouncing inside a moonwalk and visiting friendly animals at the petting zoo. But as the sun goes down, the ghosts and ghouls come out in full force. Blood Shed haunted house entices those brave enough to enter its halls and escape with their lives, while haunted hayrides put riders on a crash course with all manner of horrors. On the zombie-hunt paintball ride, customers, with weapon in hand, can wreak a terrible vengeance upon undead hordes.