Looking for a fun farm experience in Southern California? Check out the totally fun, totally free Centennial Farm, located at the OC Fairgrounds!
I was raised in rural northern California. It meant lots of time spent playing at the creek, riding horses, and getting dirty.
Even here in sunny, urban SoCal, I’m determined to give my kids experiences as close to what I had growing up as a kid as possible.
So when I realized my kids thought all pigs were pink and tiny with curly tails…we had a problem.
I looked around for a working farm with large animals that I could show my kids. And we hit the jackpot with Centennial Farms at the OC Fairgrounds!
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Can You Visit Centennial Farms When There Isn’t a Fair?
I knew there was a farm at the OC Fairgrounds from my trips to the fair each year. We’d stop by and look at the animals on our way to the carnival rides (and, let’s be honest, the fried oreos).
What I didn’t realize is that Centennial Farms is open year round, and allows guests to visit on their own most days of the year!
They welcome groups (get more information on setting up a group tour), or you can just walk in and do a self guided tour on your own.
When is Centennial Farms Open?
Centennial Farms is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 4 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10-4. This excludes holidays or days when there are events going on.
As with most places, you should check the calendar before you go!
How Much Does Visiting Centennial Farms Cost?
You’re not going to believe this (I didn’t!) but visiting Centennial Farms is completely FREE.
There is no cost for parking, and no cost for admission.
How Do You Get to Centennial Farms?
Centennial Farms is located near the 405 and the 73 freeway in Costa Mesa.
It’s located on the OC Fairgrounds, so if you’ve ever been to the OC Fair, you’ve been to Centennial Farms before!
Here’s the address, for mapping purposes: 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626
What is There to Do at Centennial Farms?
If you’ve never been to Centennial Farms, it’s best to keep your expectations on the lower side. You can expect to spend one or two hours there, depending on the interest of your kids.
There are plenty of animals to see. Here’s what we saw while we were there:
- Pigs (all different breeds)
There were still some pandemic restrictions in place when we went, but in a normal year, you may also be able to visit some other exhibits. Here’s what we saw on a class field trip there a few years ago:
- Radish Planting Station
- Cow milking demonstration
- Baby chick exhibit (petting, viewing incubators, egg viewing, etc)
Visiting Heroes Hall at Centennial Farms
Unfortunately, at our last visit, we were outside of the visiting hours for Heroes Hall, a museum honoring Orange County Veterans. (It is open from 10-4 Wednesday through Sunday.)
However, our kids still really enjoyed the life size plane stature, and reading the different plaques about the various battles and wars.
They also spent a fair amount of time playing on the artificial turf there, so this area is a do-not-miss.
What Ages Are Centennial Farms Best For?
Centennial Farms is probably best suited for the preschool through Kindergarten set. It’s when you’ll get the most wow factor of “ooooh, look, there’s a COW.”
However, other ages will likely enjoy Centennial Farms, too.
On our last visit, we took four kids ages 3 to 10, and each and every one of them had a wonderful time. Admittedly, the older ones were more entertained by the animals peeing, but it is what it is.
What Is Great About Visiting Centennial Farms with Kids?
I love that our kids can get a peek at animals– real, live, big ones- and learn a little about their care.
There’s something so different about a little pink pig saying “Oink” in a book, and seeing a hundred pound pig grunting and snuffing around in the dirt in real life.
At our last visit, a docent asked my son if a coo says moo. Proudly, he said- “no, they only say that in books in really life it’s more like “MNNNUUUUU.”
And that’s a lesson that’s seriously priceless.
Hidden Gem at Centennial Farms
So yes, there are lots of garden patches, animal enclosures, and even a chance to pet some animals. All of that is amazing.
But do you know what our kids enjoyed most? The Table of Dignity exhibit, located adjacent to Millenial barn (the big red one).
It’s a tribute to agricultural workers, a shady place to sit, and an excellent place, as it turns out, for kids to (respectfully) play pretend.
And it’s a great chance to teach your kids about the cultural struggles of migrant and agricultural workers. Perfect following a lesson on Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the like!
What Else is There to Do Near Centennial Farms?
If you want to continue the farm experience, you can head south to Tanaka Farms. It’s extra special during Pick Your Own Strawberry Season!
There is also a nearby park, Wakeham Park, with a playground and lots of room to roam.
Or, if you’re like us, you’ll just head to Sonic for a slushie and mozarella sticks on your way home.
The choice is yours!
Visiting Centennial Farms with kids is a great way to teach them about animals, what farms are like, and show them how our food is grown. It’s a quick day trip with a lot of educational value, and something your kids will be talking about for months to come!
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