Once in a while it’s nice to slow down your family vacation and return to simpler times. No phones, no games that require quarters or hour-long lines to stand in to have fun. Luckily, Rapid City is home to one such place: Old MacDonald’s Farm.
Old MacDonald’s Farm is owned and operated by Thane and Gina Rose. They didn’t start the farm, but they have lovingly tended the family friendly Rapid City attraction for almost a decade now. They were both born and raised in Rapid City, and when the chance came to take over the farm, they jumped in feet first.
“Fewer and fewer people are around farm animals these days,” Thane says, “that’s what makes this place so special to people. They can get up close and pet or feed animals they might not get to see otherwise.”
The combination of fun activities and friendly animals make Old MacDonald’s Farm the perfect family vacation spot for all ages.
Whether it’s bottle-feeding babies, riding a pony or a tractor-pulled train, or simply petting the animals, they have something for everyone.
Where family fun is spelled E-I-E-I-O!
Old MacDonald’s Farm certainly lives up to the classic nursery rhyme. Animals range from fully grown horses and cows to the smallest baby chicks still covered in downy feathers. You can pet them, feed them, and even ride some of them! The farm hosts pig races as well, which is a fun way to see the animals in action.
Mary might have had a lamb follow her to school, but you’ll have a small herd of them follow you all around the farm. There’s also a precocious flock of chickens that roam about the premises and occasionally cluck at guests in search of food.
For the rest of the farm’s residents, you can reach through their enclosures to pet them, or in some cases join them inside. The baby goats are a fan favorite, where you can hold and snuggle them to your heart’s content. You can also take part in bottle feeding the younger animals if you want an up close and personal experience.
If snuggling the baby goats wasn’t enough, check out the billy goat bridge! Goats love climbing, and Old MacDonald’s Farm has the perfect place for them. Watch as they tussle one another with their horns or expertly trot across the suspension bridge. If you really want a show, be sure to give them some food! There’s a small food vending machine right next to the bridge, so you can place a handful in the bucket and run it up a pole. You’ll love watching the goats trot across the bridge bleating in appreciation!
Don’t miss the aviary
Not every farm has peacocks, but Old MacDonald’s isn’t your everyday farm! They have beautiful peacocks in their aviary. Sometimes they even have a rare white peacock you probably won’t see anywhere else. The aviary is home to other birds as well, and can change occasionally. They’ve even hosted kangaroos in the past, so you’ll have to stop by and see who’s in residence!
Next to the aviary you’ll find the chicken coop. They house baby chicks and ducklings there until they’re ready to go to new homes, or roam the farm with the adults. You can cradle the baby birds if you like, or even take them home with you. They raise bunnies you can take home as well if you’re looking for a new family friend.
Beyond the aviary and the coops, the birds get… well, a little bigger. Old MacDonald’s Farm also hosts swans, turkeys, and emus. Everyone from seasoned bird watchers to pint-sized enthusiasts will find something to love!
Plan a family vacation for fall
Most attractions wind down for the season in the fall, but Old MacDonald’s Farm prefers to go out with a bang.
“When we started here at the farm, we realized there wasn’t a great pumpkin patch for fall in this part of the Black Hills,” Thane says. “We thought, what better setting than a farm to have a fall fest?”
The fall fest is now one of their most popular times to visit the farm, especially for local families or a late season family vacation. You can enjoy family friendly activities like bounce houses, bottle feedings, pig races, and train or pony rides for kids under 100 pounds, or a wagon ride for the entire family. Not to mention one of the biggest pumpkin patches in town, where you can take home a pumpkin for about $3-6 each.
Most years the festival is open every Saturday in October. Check out their Facebook page for the latest dates and times. Admission is per person over 2 years of age, but if you keep your receipt, it’s good for the entire month.
It takes a village
As with any farm, running Old MacDonald’s Farm takes a lot of work. Thane arrives every day early in the morning to feed the animals and clean their pens. He also checks in with their employees to make sure they’re set for the day, then takes a load of manure to either local ranchers who need it or to the city dump. The rest of the day is talking to visitors or doing odd jobs around the farm.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun to interact with people and see them having a good time,” Thane says.
Planning your family vacation here in the Black Hills? Head over to Old MacDonald’s Farm’s website for hours and prices. The farm is right on the road to Mount Rushmore and convenient to Rapid City. With over 100 animals in a relaxed, hands-on environment, it’s a family friend stop you won’t want to miss!
WORDS: ASHLEY JOHNSON
PHOTOS: JESSE BROWN NELSON