Malabar Farm State Park is, in my opinion, one of Ohio’s most versatile state parks! Located just 20 minutes from downtown Mansfield in Richland County, Malabar Farm State Park offers a full day of outdoor fun for the entire family. Hiking, educational opportunities, literature studies, and history – there’s a lot to enjoy at Malabar Farm.
Why is Malabar Farm famous?
Malabar Farm is the home of Pulitzer-prize winner author, Louis Bromfield. Bromfield grew up in Mansfield and moved back to Ohio as the groanings of WW2 began in Europe. Malabar Farm was also the wedding site of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Visitors to Malabar Farm can learn more about the famous nuptials by touring the Big House.
Malabar Farm is managed by the State of Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources.
Things to do at Malabar Farm State Park
Begin your visit to Malabar Farm at the Visitor Center. The interactive displays help kids and adults learn about farming and conservation. You’ll be able to see a model of the park, plus quiz your knowledge about livestock and soil.
The visitor center is also the place to learn more about Louis Bromfield. Louis Bromfield was born and raised in Mansfield but was living in Europe on the eve of WWII. He chose to move his family back to the area as he sought refuge from war and his desire for farm life grew. Many of his famous writings are explained throughout the exhibits. Pleasant Valley was Louis Bromfield’s first non-fiction book and described his return to Ohio and life on the farm. Bromfield and his family are buried on the property at the Olivet Cemetery.
Don’t forget to peruse the gift shop for quality, local products. There is a great selection of t-shirts and other tourist favorites, but don’t overlook the local maple syrup or farm-raised beef.
Just a short stroll from the Visitor Center is the playground. This farm-themed structure is a blast for kids aged 2 and up!
The Big House Tour
The Big House has multiple claims to fame. First, it was the home of Louis Bromfield and his family. When Bromfield returned to Ohio in 1938 he had the farmhouse at Malabar Farm remodeled and expanded into a 32-room home. The final product was known as “The Big House.”
The Big House is also renowned for being the wedding spot of Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. The private ceremony took place after the bride and groom descended each side of the staircase.
The guided tour of the home is very thorough. Visitors are granted access to most rooms and tour guides offer a lot of valuable information on the history! However, the Big House tours are only offered seasonally, usually April until the December holiday tours.
The Working Farm
While the farm doesn’t have the staff that it did under Bromfield, Malabar Farm still operates as a working farm. The original barn burnt to the ground in 1993 but was rebuilt in 1994. Families will find plenty of livestock to interact with (our kids like the ponies).
The silo, corn crib, and old smokehouse still stand. We enjoyed explaining to our children how the smokehouse served the home when refrigeration was rare.
Malabar Farm has three hiking trails and one bridle trail (hiking trails map). Foot traffic is allowed on the bridle trail, but it is over 5 miles long. The three main trails are the Jungle Brook, Butternut, and Doris Duke Woods Trail. Hiking trails are NOT handicap or stroller accessible.
The Jungle Brook Trail is probably the easiest trail for children. This trail goes through meadows and woodlands and has boardwalk coverage in low-lying areas. Visit this area in spring and summer to enjoy the abundance of wildflowers.
The Doris Duke Woods and Butternut Trails are both wooded with steep climbs. The Butternut Trail is unique in that there is a small cave to be explored. Young children love inspecting this cool, damp cave, while the adults try to squirm themselves out the other side.
If visiting the Doris Duke Woods Trail, be sure to stop at the trailhead and admire Pugh Cabin. Pugh Cabin is best known for its brief appearance in the opening scene of The Shawshank Redemption. Interested in visiting Shawshank Film Sites? How about a run in the Shawshank Hustle 7k?
Located across Pleasant Valley Road from the State Park, Mount Jeez offers a gorgeous view over the valley and the farm. Only open from April-October, this lookout is popular with visitors around sunset.
Malabar Farm Restaurant
The Malabar Farm Restaurant recently reopened and is a relaxing place to enjoy a hearty meal after a day of exploring. I think the Malabar Restaurant is casual elegance, in that there is no dress code or fancy place setting, yet reservations are requested and the menu is chef-inspired cuisine. Check out their Facebook page.
Special Events at Malabar Farm State Park
Malabar Farm offers many educational and family-friendly activities throughout the year. Ohio Heritage Days are in September and include horse-drawn wagon rides, crafters, an open house for the Ceely Rose House and tours of the big house, and Civil War reenactors. In February, a maple syrup festival is open to the public and in summer, barn dances are offered. The best way to keep up with Malabar Farm events is through their Facebook page or the Foundation events page website.
Our family loves visiting Malabar Farm State Park and I hope after this post that you will see why we think it is Ohio’s most versatile state park. There are so many different lessons that could be taught on a day trip to Malabar Farm. I hope your family will take the time to enjoy it!
Malabar Farm State Park is located at 4050 Bromfield Rd, Lucas, Ohio.
For things to do nearby, check out the Things to Do in Mansfield, Ohio, and the best restaurants in Mansfield, Ohio. You may also be interested in spending time in nearby Wooster or things to do in Millersburg, Ohio.