Story by Karen Evenden
Where is the oldest university in the world?
Mmm … an interesting question and one that neither of us knows the answer to. We could, of course, Google it but then where is the fun in that? The four multiple-choice answers have the words (turn left) or (turn right) next to them. “Morocco” I guess randomly and we head left accordingly.
It was a Saturday afternoon and with the goal of visiting more of the attractions in our own city, a friend and I headed to the Edmonton Corn Maze. Arriving into an almost-full parking lot, it was apparently a popular choice for a sunny fall day.
The Edmonton Corn Maze, located 10 minutes southwest of the Alberta capital, is a 10-acre field with a number of cleared pathways that form a maze. A “maze” (according to Herman Kern, author of “Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings Over 5,000 Years“) is a “puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage through which the solver must find a route.”
The owners of the Edmonton Corn Maze create a different design every year and have many return visitors looking to crack the puzzle in as fast a time as possible.
How to Solve the Edmonton Corn Maze
At the entrance to the maze there is a choice of “passports” to choose from, with a range of trivia questions designed to help you find the numbered checkpoints inside. Of course if you were so inclined, it’s possible to wander around without the aid of the passport, but having the target of finding the numbered signs in the correct order creates more of a challenge and promotes teamwork.
We disregarded the “Animal Quizdom” and “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” passports for “Where in the World …?” (being travel enthusiasts) and we headed off to conquer the maze. The corn, which rises up to 10 feet, lasts for a period of six weeks until the cooler weather sets in. The Edmonton Corn Maze is open from early September until the third week in October and offers a day-time or night-time experience.
We achieved the first five checkpoints in Phase 1 fairly quickly — turns out Morocco’s Al Karaouin University in Fez is the oldest of its kind in the world. After our early success, we felt confident we would finish the whole maze within 30 minutes.
Phase 2 and the next five checkpoints, however, proved to be a little more difficult as we headed farther into the heart of the maze. A bridge in the centre of the maze provides an elevated, panoramic view of the whole corn; the remainder of the task would be simple, or so it seemed.
Yet, when we arrived back at the foot of the bridge steps three times in the next 10 minutes, it became apparent that Phase 2 was a little more challenging and unfortunately we seemed to have forgotten to pack a sense of direction. Finally, after backtracking somewhat we found the sixth checkpoint and the rest was a little more logical. It was almost an hour later when we finally managed to complete the maze, a little slower than expected.
Once out of the maze, there is the option of selecting another passport and heading back in to beat your own time, which was not altogether an unpleasant idea when the sun was shining and the sky was a stunning blue.
The activity outside of the maze, though, is almost as interesting as what’s within. At the Farm, goats, pigs and chickens roam inside fenced pens offering plenty of feeding opportunities.
A small track around a sunflower patch is home to a number of pedal carts, four-wheel vehicles large enough for kids or adults.
On my visit, excited children lined up for the Corn Cob Express, a “train” made of horizontal rubber barrels painted to look like corns on the cob. A tractor pulled the train through the trails on a ride that delighted the children.
In the centre of the field lies a mountain of hay, situated in a way that it encourages children and adults to clamber up and over the bales.
The latest and most popular addition to the site is the “jumping pillow”, a giant, inflatable, bouncy platform popular with kids of all ages.
In the corner of the site, a white, almost-dilapidated building caught my eye; a sign stating “Farm of Fear” attached to a broken gate explained more. The Farm of Fear is a night-time Halloween attraction that promises some unexpected surprises with the help of costumed characters.
As we departed, the delicious scent of hot dogs wafted over to us. A group of people were roasting wieners over a barbecue (wood is available for purchase) and preparing what looked like a birthday picnic.
The Edmonton Corn Maze is an excellent option for a fall family outing with many activities available on site in addition to the maze itself. The only important question to address before your visit is “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”
More About the Edmonton Corn Maze
Location: SH 627, Spruce Grove, AB
Dates: The 2012 season runs until October 20.
Hours of operation: Tuesday to Thursday: 4-9 pm; Friday: Noon-9 pm; Saturdays: 10 am-9 pm; Sundays: 1-5 pm
Admission price: Adult entry fee is $10 and $8 for children aged 6-11. Children aged 5 years and under are free. All activities are free of charge except the Corn Cob Express, which is $2 per ride. Tickets can be purchased online at the attraction’s website.
Contact: Telephone: 780-288-0208; email: email@example.com
More info: The Farm of Fear is open on October 18, 19 and 20 and October 25-31.