- September 10, 2013

Playing in the Past at Pioneer Farms


When I first visited Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms about six years ago, I had the great opportunity of seeing Austin’s family entertainers The Biscuit Brothers filming scenes there for their PBS television show. The porch of the 1887 Cotton Planter’s Farm was a perfect fit for their knee-slapping, toe-tapping music-making. In fact, when you walk anywhere in the sprawling 90+ acres of Pioneer Farms Living History Park, you feel as though you are stepping onto a movie set. So it was no surprise when my seven-year-old and I visited last Saturday, that a Hollywood film crew was bustling about the farm filming scenes for an Indie movie that morning.Pioneer Farms Austin

Pioneer Farms gives you an amazing look into Texas history of the 1800s. Found in Northeast Austin along the Walnut Creek Greenbelt, this area was once the homestead of Frederick and Harriet Jourdan, and is now owned and operated by Preservation Austin. It is made up of five main areas: an 1868 German Emigrant Farm, an 1873 Texian Farm, an 1841 Tonkawa Indian Encampment, an 1887 Cotton Planter’s Farm, and an 1899 rural village called Sprinkle Corner. Also, the farm is home to many animals — including the newest addition, a baby donkey whom we were told is called Wobbly. (Have you ever pet a baby donkey? Oooh, so soft and adorable!)

When you arrive at Pioneer Farms be sure to check in at Sprinkle Corner’s General Store for a map. You can walk the grounds at your own pace, and you will find guides throughout the farms to provide you with information or demonstrations of life in the past. Pioneer Farms Austin

Pioneer Farms AustinMy son and I loved walking through the Cotton Planter’s grand Victorian home, noting how much wealth this family must have had back then. My son loved seeing the separate kitchen building and the tools on display. Pioneer Farms Austin

Pioneer Farms AustinFrom there, we went across the path to Scarborough Barn, where we really enjoyed seeing the horses and a friendly brown cow. My son is something of an animal whisperer, so we spent lots of time talking about (and to) each animal. He found the old orange barn cat called Peanut Butter that we had remembered from a past visit. And he had a fond moment visiting with this feline friend.
We were slightly disappointed to see that there were no demonstrations in the Blacksmith Shop that day because movie filming required “quiet on the set.” But a very nice employee of Pioneer Farms invited us to sneak a glance at the film crew that was taking over the Texian Farm. He let us peek at the giant mama hog in the pen out back, and we got to visit with the corral of donkeys. My son took time to pet each and every donkey, but I spent my time give lots of loving pets and coos to the baby. (Did I mention how CUTE a baby donkey is?)
We then strolled over to the Tonkawa Encampment, which may have been my son’s favorite part. He loved the teepees and marveled at the giant tree that had once been hit by lightening (and had the mark to prove it). We took a break there in the shade for a rest and a snack.
We moved on to the German Emigrant’s one-room farm house, which was such a huge difference from the sprawling Cotton Planter’s home. The outdoor kitchen was very interesting to my son, as was the outhouse.

We moved on to say hello to the many longhorns, and traveled back to Sprinkle Corner to cool down in the impressive indoor exhibit of antique carriages before leaving for the day.

A few things to note if you go:

  • If you’re there on a blazing hot day, like we were, be sure to pack sunscreen, hats, and enough water to stay hydrated. There is a lot of walking under the direct sun.
  • Closed-toe shoes would be a wiser choice over sandals/crocs because there is a lot of walking on dirt and rocky paths.
  • If you come with a small child, bring a stroller (preferably one that can handle rough terrain) or a wagon. Or be prepared to carry tired legs.

Now, I need to let you in on my best-kept-secret: Admission to Pioneer Farms — while worth it — is a little pricey ($8 for adults, $6 for children age 3-12) and can add up for a family of five, like mine. So this has been our go-to spot annually on Austin Museum Day, when admission is absolutely FREE, and when they provide extra special treats like hay rides and special demonstrations.

Pioneer Farms
10621 Pioneer Farms Drive
Austin, TX 78754

Hours: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 3, 5, and 7), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures. Browse her literacy-focused kids activities on her blog, Read ‘Em and Leap.