Malabar Farm State Park is, in my opinion, one of Ohio’s most versatile state parks located in Lucas, Ohio. 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 this by touring the Big House.
Things to do at Malabar Farm
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.
Visitors can 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 the refuge of 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.
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.
For more nearby hiking & exploring, check out my guide to Mohican State Park.
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.
Special Events at Malabar Farm State Park
Malabar Farm offers many educational and family-friendly activities throughout the year. From a maple syrup festival to barn dances and more, the best way to keep up with them is either through their Facebook page or 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 facets to the learning that can happen on a day trip – I hope your family will take the time to enjoy it!
Malabar Farm Restaurant recently reopened! Make sure you stop in for local fare.