This past Saturday, we got lost. On purpose. We took a trip to Lancaster County, in south central Pennsylvania, to visit a corn maze.
The basic idea is simple enough. Every year, the owners design a maze illustrating a different theme – in previous years, the mazes have been illustrations of a train, the map of Pennsylvania, an Amish buggy, the Liberty Bell, a biplane, and many other topics. (This year’s theme is baseball.) Then the maze is cut into a five-acre field of corn, and visitors are turned loose to try to find their way out again.
Deciding which way to go next can be puzzling.
To give you some idea of where you are, the maze is color-coded. Plastic tape is tied along the edges of the pathways (this is also to discourage frustrated visitors from trampling through the corn). Different colors of tape are used for different parts of the design – this is the boundary between the “ballfield”, in green, and the “batter’s helmet”, in red.
When you enter the maze, you are given a map – well, not exactly a map, but the background for a map. Scattered through the maze are 15 “mailboxes” containing one section of the map.
There’s also a supply of tape to fasten the newly located section to your background sheet. The idea is to find so many map pieces that you can study the map and find your way to the exit.
This year, for the first time, there was a graded system of hints. If you wanted to settle for walking around the outer edge and leaving by the entrance, you could follow the yellow markers – I think they’re supposed to resemble ears of corn. Then there were orange signs (I forgot to take a picture of one), with hints on the back.
And for diehards, they posted “encouraging” red signs. We almost followed the advice on this one, until we took a second look and realized you can’t help doing what it says – it points you in both directions at once.
There’s a cafe in the depths of the maze, with picnic tables, snacks, and WATER.
And nearby, an escape hatch for the truly desperate.
For families with energetic children, there are various activities scattered here and there like ropes to climb and a chute to slide through.
The maze is a “working” cornfield – it will stay open as a maze until Halloween, when the cornstalks will be suitably dry and rattly and spooky, and then the corn will be harvested in early November. Meanwhile, visitors are asked to leave ears of corn – like these in the photo – alone.
Eventually, you reach the exit, where you can pick up any map pieces you didn’t find, and leave by way of a “victory bridge”.
As you can see, an overhead view of the maze wouldn’t be much help! You can just barely make out the pathways that seem generously wide when you’re walking through them.
There are stands selling food – hamburgers, hot dogs, ears of corn, and the like – and a number of other things to do, like a miniature maze for very young children made of bales of straw that come up about to their waists. And there are cute animals –
Baa, baa, black…lamb
It took us hours to escape (this year’s maze was unusually tricky – some years we’ve found our way out in only 45 minutes). And we’ll do it again next summer.