Summary: tourist farm with yummy food, amusements for the kids, and pumpkins in the fall
Jucker Farm has changed so much over the years that it deserves an updated post. Jucker Farmart is a farm designed for tourists, less of an authentic "farm" experience and more of a lovely day in the country with yummy farm-fresh food. Jucker Farm is nice to visit all year round, but especially nice in summer and during pumpkin season. The various amusements for the kids change from year to year. As of 2013, there is the big haystack, hammocks, petting the goats, apple maze and seasonal fruit picking. It's a lovely day out for the whole family.
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Details. Using the map above, drive to Seegräben, following signs to Jucker farm (Dorfstrasse 23 CH-8607 Aathal-Seegräben). Parking is often a problem. There is a metered parking lot near Jucker Farm but it is almost always full. Sometimes local farmers let people park in their fields for a small fee. You can also park at the Aathal train station (or simply take the train there) but there is no bus that runs up to Jucker Farm. You can easily walk from the station; it took our group with several under 5's about 30 mins. On busy days, like weekends and Wednesday afternoons, Jucker Farm sometimes provides a shuttle bus from the train station for a small fee. Check the website to see if the shuttle is running on the day you want to go.
*** NOTE: Through Nov 2013, there is construction on the road directly in front of Jucker Farm, so you couldn't use the parking lot or even drive by Jucker Farm - lots of detours. Parking was available in a nearby farmer's field for 5CHF. Details on their website here.
The best time to visit is during pumpkin season, which starts around the first week of September and lasts through the middle of October. Each year they build pumpkin sculptures around a theme (like dinosaurs, fairy tales, Noah's ark). In 2013, the theme is "Kings and Queens" with sculptures of Elvis, queen bees, the frog prince, etc.
Here are some of the sculptures from years past...
They have a huge variety of pumpkins on display and thousands available for purchase. If you buy heavy pumpkins, they provide wheelbarrows to help you get the pumpkins back to your car. Of course, this only works if you parked in the nearby lot. You could also send someone back to get the car and come back to pick up your crew and load of pumpkins.
The pumpkins are so photogenic that I always take this opportunity to take a portrait of my kids and these are some of my favorites pics each year. So here's just a little remind to have your kids wear cute clothes and to save dessert as a bribe for sitting still for a short photo session.
They have a self-service cafe, where the food is not fancy but usually very tasty. During pumpkin season, they always have a super delicious pumpkin soup and rotating seasonal dishes like curried pumpkin or pumpkin ravioli. They have hot food on a steam table during lunch 11:30-14:00. They also serve dinner on Th-Sun from 18:30-21:00, which I assume is similar to lunch, but I've never been at that time. Outside those time, they are always serving cakes and drinks. They also sell produce from Jucker Farm and other farms and a variety of specialty food items like sausage, cheese, yogurt, oils, jams, etc. Every year they change the configuration of the cafe and other little shops, so I won't go into more details. It's a small place; you'll figure it out.
Our first stop is always the freshly pressed apple juice (shown above, top left). You can simply grab a plastic bottle to fill and drop change in the Kasse box. Or you can pay for the juice in the cafe and then go get your bottle. Beware the bees which swarm around any juice, so you have to keep your bottle closed and cups covered. The above photo also shows bins of flavored pumpkin seeds with free samples. Oooooo, these are good, especially the chocolate and cinnamon ones. Make sure to try some of these.
Next to the cafe, there is outdoor seating with a playground (shown below, lower right). There is more seating on the other side of the cafe, under the trees with a view of the lake. Picnicking is not allowed in either of these areas. You can see one of my simple lunches: apple juice, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread and pumpkin berliner donut - super yum!
If you brought a picnic, simply move farther down towards the haystack and hammocks where the kids are playing (shown below). It's surprising how much fun the kids can have on these simple amusements.
You can pick fruit during the various picking seasons: strawberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, apples. Ask at the cafe or store what's available for picking. You pay a fee per person to enter the picking area (also includes the apple tree mazes); I think it was 6CHF/adult and 3CHF/child 6+. You can eat fruit while picking and pay per kilo for anything you take home in one of the provided boxes.
In Sept 2013, we picked blueberries, which was fantastic! It was the easiest fruit to pick for kids. Most other fruit (like cherries and raspberries) is often too high on the trees for kids to reach since all the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. We've also picked strawberries in June, cherries in July, and raspberries in September. You can also pick apples, usually in September, but they've never been ripe when we've gone.
The apple tree mazes were added last year and we love them because barely anyone goes over there and we often have it all to ourselves. You are encouraged to do the mazes barefoot for the tactile experience and I would recommend it. The first two mazes are not difficult, but the third one is tricky and I was stuck in there for over 30 minutes one time (there are emergency exits, but I was determined to find my way out the hard way). My kids are old enough that I can let them run wild through the mazes and catch up with them eventually. But for little ones that might wander off or get scared by themselves, you'll need to stay close so they don't get lost in the maze where you can't easily access them. Before entering the mazes, buy your ticket at the cafe or store. You'll get a wristband that allows you access to the mazes and fruit picking areas.
They added a new feature to the apple mazes this year, a wish tree aka "Wunschbaum". You pick up a strip of cloth at the beginning of the maze. When you reach the center of the maze, you can make a wish and try your fabric to the tree. Adorable!
On a hot day, it's always nice to walk down to the lake and cool off a bit. It's often much hotter at Jucker Farm then elsewhere in Zurich. So I always bring our swimsuits just in case and every time we end up in the water. You can wade around or bring your swimsuit and swim out to the diving platform and other floats. The water starts very shallow, which is good for little kids. But it also can be slippery as there are a lot of rocks with moss.
To get to the lake, walk towards the lake past the haystack to the little dirt path. With the cherry trees on your left, follow it a few meters until you reach a grassy field on your right. There should be a sign pointing right, down toward the lake. Just follow the path down the hill all the way to the lake. There's a changing room, shower, and portable toilet next to the lake. There is also a grassy lawn a bit above the lake (shown right below), which always has the sun and is a good place to dry off.
If you want to make a full day of it, you can walk around the lake or bring your bikes and bike around the lake. On bikes, it takes about an hour and the path is on trails and lightly used roads. Read this post for more details. I got so fed up with the parking issues that now I usually park on the lake, like at the Auslikon campground and ride our bikes to Jucker Farm. It makes our whole visit more relaxing and pleasant.
You can spend as little as an hour at the farm and as long as six or more. I've gone just for lunch after visiting the nearby dinosaur museum. I've also gone at 5pm on a Friday evening and stayed for dinner. I've also stayed all day from 10am to 6pm. It all depends on your kids and how entertained they are by the farm. It's best to go as early as possible and eat lunch early. It can get really crowded, especially on the weekends, especially in the cafe. But once you leave the main areas, it can be quite peaceful.