8 reasons to visit this magical reindeer farm in the heart of the Midwest
Located just west of Rantoul, Illinois is Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch. There are plenty of reasons to visit Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch. The ranch is a magical place where Christmas comes alive by bringing home that holiday spirit! While almost everyone has heard the movies or the stories, Rudolph The red nosed reindeer and The night before Christmas, many have not seen reindeer or caribou, as they are also called.
Hardy’s Ranch offers the chance to feed reindeer, take a wagon ride, walk through a corn maze, play paintball, sip hot cider, or, as we did, host a special dinner for a large group!
Believe it or not, the reindeer hooves really click, and you can hear it if you listen carefully enough.
For special events – Schedule all year round
Hardy reindeer ranch is open year round for large groups and special events. As a member of Graham Bradley and Sears-Sold Tractor Club, a group that collects tractors sold through the Sears catalog, our group was looking for a place to hold our banquet while attending the Half a century of progress. This event, held every 2 years, is the premier vintage farm show in the United States. Visit Champagne put us in touch with Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch as a place for a great meal, as well as a farm tourism experience.
My husband Keith and I met Mark Hardy before booking the event. Mark showed us the reindeer and five youngsters who were new to the herd. He gave us a tour of the banquet hall and the allotment gardens.
Pro tip: Local Holiday Inn (which is near a sports center) provided wonderful service during our stay in Rantoul.
1. Feed the reindeer
At the end of August when our event took place, we first fed the reindeer – children and adults alike enjoyed this wonderful activity. The antlers of these magnificent Alaskan reindeer are incredible! By being very close to the reindeer, you see how beautiful (and tall) they are. The friendly reindeer walk forward without hesitation to get their treats!
Interest in reindeer has spanned all ages. I thought women and children would be interested and was pleasantly surprised when many men voluntarily left tractors behind during the half century of progress to come and experience these cool animals and the farm they are on. students.
2. Wagon ride
The wagon ride was sold out as Mark told the story of his family farm. The ranch was established in 1995 when he and his wife Julie bought their first two reindeer to help sell Christmas trees on their farm. They have been in business for 10 years and they now have 21 reindeer. The reindeer were flown to Illinois from Alaska, so as they say, “Reindeer really fly! “
3. The banquet hall
Situated on 5 acres flush with the Christmas trees, there is a barn gift shop and a western style banquet hall. The banquet hall is fitted out like a Old West canteen. Our meal consisted of brisket, beans, coleslaw, au gratin potatoes and apple pie. Yum! With tea and lemonade we had water to drink. You can also select various other choices. Entertainment packages are also available. We had 50 in our party in the lobby. There was plenty of room for our group to meet, meet and discuss.
Julie Hardy said there were bus groups all year round, but we were the first group to come and have a special meeting like this. This type of event is reserved for large groups. It’s a unique place that offers something special, and I loved that everything was included in one price.
4. Seasonal opening in autumn and winter
Hardy’s is open in the fall and winter from September 1 to December 28. With the ranch as the perfect backdrop, visitors like me appreciate the sheer beauty of the place. With century-old barns and Christmas trees, it makes a lovely setting!
5. The gift shop
The gift shop has fun items that make shopping fun. It offers a chance to find unique gifts in a fun environment!
In the fall and Christmas, there are several special things to see and do for the holidays. We experienced several of these during our event, however, there are others that should be mentioned as well.
Concessions like hot apple cider and cookies add fun treats to winter fun. After feeding the reindeer, this is something I would like to experience with the grandchildren. If these treats are as good as the meal, then it will be a big hit for sure.
Pro tip: Concession weekends in October and Thanksgiving to Christmas feature popular items like the pulled pork parfait and Chicago Dogs.
6. Corn Maze
The corn maze theme for this year is Day of the Dead. When we took our tour Mark Hardy was telling us about the maze and was excited at the time. The Corn Mazes cover 10 acres and are designed as a great scavenger hunt. Mark said during the wagon tour that the maze is very popular with high school students and young adults. The older ones can enjoy “Moonlight Madness”, where they try out the maze at night with just a flashlight and moonlight. He added that there had even been a few marriage proposals in the corn maze! I think it’s something for those who are braver than me.
Another item the farm has for those who are a little braver than me and my husband is the paintball gallery!
7. Playground fun for young fries
For the little ones there is also a nice play area for children. The youngest in our group loved the reindeer and the playground.
8. Hollywood on the Ranch
Julie Hardy told me that one of their reindeer was used in an upcoming Hallmark movie. So Hollywood came to the ranch, and one of the reindeer is a real Hollywood star!
Holidays are magical, and nothing brings them to life like October and the Corn Maze, or December and a cart ride through the trees, or feeding reindeer and seeing their amazing antlers firsthand!
Pro tip: One of our favorite food stops was AND in downtown Rantoul.
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