When night falls, Cox Farms turns into the Fields of Fear… While this is an accurate and succinct way to describe Fields of Fear, the nighttime event at Cox Farms, there’s one thing to remember: while you can’t hear “Cox Farms” and NOT think of the Fall Festival, this is a totally separate thing. For decades now Cox Farms, the family-owned farm in Centreville, Virginia, has been hosting generations of families who visit its 116 acres each fall for the legendary attractions. With dozens of activities, unique hayrides, entertainment, and more, the Fall Festival is hugely popular with families.
But the Cox Farms Halloween attraction, Fields of Fear, is something else altogether: it is not “the fall festival at night” but rather its own event, intended as a scary but fun mix of attractions geared to teens, adults, and maybe some very brave children. This is an outdoor, nighttime spooky adventure. We have attended Fields of Fear for the past three years and base our review below on our combined experiences.
Because this is an evening, spooky festival, don’t expect to see the usual attractions you’d find during the Fall Festival, such as kiddie areas, most slides, and the farm animals. In fact, you may not recognize the farm in the dark, with string lights creating lighted pathways to get to the Field of Fear attractions. These attractions are the Cornightmare, the Dark Side Hayride, the Firegrounds, and, new in 2015, The Forest: Back 40. What is included depends on your ticket: basic admission ($13) includes the Firegrounds and one Dark Side hayride (no Cornnightmare or Forest); “Fear Plus” tickets ($19) add one entry to the Cornightmare maze or The Forest: Back 40 attraction (you choose); and “Fear Deluxe” ($25) includes all attractions (limited to one hayride and one Cornightmare tour). After you purchase your ticket you receive a postcard with designated times for the main attractions. Unlimited rides on the giant slide are included with any type of ticket. Here’s what each Fields of Fear area entails:
Cornightmare: If you’ve attended the Fall Festival and toured the Cornundrum, this is the same attraction, but made scary at night with noises, disturbing lights, and frightful scenes. While Fields of Fear does not go for overt gore, it aims to provide a good scare and designs its sets with strong scenes of implied violence and stage “blood” plus witches, ghouls, skeletons, zombies, and other frightening creatures, including creepy clowns. You will see different scenes, go through inflatable “squeeze” tunnels, and more.
Dark Side Hayride: This is a hayride through the woods, often with nothing more than the light of the tractor to guide you. The theme is the Zombie Zoo and you learn about the infection and how the area is now safe… or is it?
The Forest: Back 40: Walk through this haunted trail to encounter creepy crawlers, strange creatures, and strange or creepy rooms. If you have been to the Fall Festival, this takes place in the new Imaginature Trail.
Firegrounds: As the open area of the festival, with lots of non-scary fun, here you will find the giant (six lanes, and long) slide by torchlight, plus some carnival games, fire pits for roasting marshmallows, and an area for dancing to club music. You can buy food and treats, including cider donuts, coffee and hot chocolate, and cotton candy that’s wrapped around a keepsake multi-color glowing stick.
The market: The large Cox Fams market where you can buy gourds, farm goods, local honey and jams, apple cider, cider donuts, kettle corn, and other treats, plus seasonal decorations and gifts, also is open during Fields of Fear.
The fear factor
So, how scary is Fields of Fear? That depends on where you are. Certainly the Cornightmare and the new Forest are designed to get a good scare out of you. I don’t get scared easily so it’s more fun for me to watch others get spooked. The Forest may be scary for some people because you’re walking more through the woods, but I still think the scenes and elements of the Cornightmare will be more intense for others.
Ultimately it comes down to easily scared you get (or not). My young son loves spooky events, and though he is well below the recommended age group for Fields of Fear (suggested for ages 12 or 13 and up; children under age 14 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian), he enjoys this event and likes to brag about (true story) the time he finished the Cornightmare yet a teenage friend who was with us gave up within the first few minutes.
The Dark Side Hayrides can vary greatly depending on who is with you. I have gone on quieter, less-crowded hayrides where the still of the night (and the still of our group) suddenly was interrupted by a zombie or other creature, giving people a good “jolt.” I also have been on hayrides full of giggling, hyped-up teenagers whose enthusiasm kind of took away some of the tension of the moment (I didn’t mind, but I know that can kind of ruin the experience for some people).
The Firegrounds and Fear Games are not at all scary. These are fun areas, not decorated in any spooky way (though you might find a “creepy” character here and there, as roaming actors mingle with the crowd), but rather places for you to simply hang out and have fun. This is one of the features that makes the festival fun for teens, and one of the characteristics that make Fields of Fear a bit different from other local haunted attractions: the fun isn’t over when the scares are. Although you can tour the main three “haunts” only once per ticket, you can enjoy the “firegrounds” for as long as you like, making Fields of Fear a popular hangout for teens and young adults.
The slides, music, games, and bonfire also provide respite for others in your party who may not want to do the scary attractions (that said, choose your tickets carefully: there’s no point buying a “Fear Deluxe” ticket, for example, if you don’t plan to do the scary attractions — you’ll pay nearly twice as much as you would for a basic ticket and not get as much out of it). Remember also to sign up for your free “Fear Fanatic” membership to get special deals and offers.
Disclosure: We have attended Fields of Fear several times over the past few years, often invited as media guests. Fields of Fear is also a Fairfax Family Fun sponsor in 2015. Opinions are my own.
Photos (c) Patricia Hall