Welcome to The Meltdown Meter, the newest addition to Washingtonian’s parenting blog, where we rate supposedly “kid-friendly” events in Washington for enjoyment and ease of attendance with actual human children.
The event: Bunnyland at Butler’s Orchard (Germantown)
On paper, Bunnyland is a great idea. The egg hunt, the baby animals, the three giant and crazy long slides, the hayride, and moon bounce. In reality, it’s expensive and overcrowded, making the parent-meltdown risk high. Like masochists, we go back every year. What can we do, the kids love it.
This year, however, we were prepared for Bunnyland. Our strategic plan: first in, leave as the crowd swells. And miraculously, we executed said plan with precision early Sunday morning. At 9 AM, there were relatively few people roaming the wide-open fields, and though the wind always seems to be fiercer at Butler’s than anywhere else in Washington, my husband and I almost enjoyed ourselves on this outing.
First, the Butler’s staff appears to have finally learned some lessons from the chaos of previous egg hunts. This year, they divided field into three parts and directed families to a specific area; it helped manage the crowds. You can either bring your own Easter basket (though remember you’ll have to carry it the rest of the outing) or use Butler’s baskets. Unlike years past when I’ve had to bark at nine-year-olds for snapping plastic eggs from the hands of my unsuspecting 17-month-old, this year my girls hunted for the eggs at their own pace and without being on the defensive. It was a great change, so kudos to Butler’s.
In the red barn, the kids delighted in newly hatched spring chicks, bunnies, and sheep. There’s also a play area with large balls and hula-hoops. In the kids’ bike area—a space I’ve been known to refer to as Collision Courtyard in past visits—young toddlers struggled to pedal the bikes, which are really age-appropriate for those five and up, but not enough older kids had arrived yet to create the mass chaos I’ve previously experienced.
Due to the high winds, we lucked out of having to deal with the moon bounce, because the staff couldn’t keep it inflated safely. If you go on a less-windy day, prepare yourself, unless Butler’s has decided to change something about the process. In previous years, the line has quickly grown unwieldy because parents fail to pull their kids out quickly enough.
The three long slides are always great fun for the little ones and a hefty workout for any parent carrying a toddler up that steep hill. Again, we were there early, so we could easily find burlap sacks to sit on for the ride down, and we didn’t have to wait in any lines. My husband’s quads could feel the burn an hour later after hiking that hill about ten times, carrying at least one kid. Consider it an extra perk—your daily workout at the slide area. Listening to the kids squeal with delight as they race down the slides is definitely a highlight of the outing.
Despite my own frustration with a few oblivious and inattentive parents, combined with large crowds, every year my children are oblivious and have a great time. And, after a few hours at Butler’s, you are guaranteed to exhaust the young ones.
Rating: Approach With Caution
Thanks to the smart changes made at the egg-hunt field and our arrival right at opening time, I’ll give Bunnyland a “medium” meltdown risk for parents, teetering on “high” if you arrive at peak crowd time.
My advice: Go as soon as it opens, plan to leave as soon as the crowds start swelling (usually around 11), and pack a hat because it’s a veritable wind tunnel up there, even if it doesn’t seem windy on your front step. Admission to Bunnyland is $8 per child and $6 per adult. Admission price includes a treat basket for the kids, which has a bunny cookie, an apple, a lollipop, two stickers, and an Easter-egg ball.