It’s every grandparent’s nightmare: the grandkids are coming to visit, but the skies are overcast. “There’s nothing to do,’ they grumble. “Oh, but there is!” you answer. “Let’s visit a Castle!” But not just any old Castle. Castle Farms of Charlevoix offers lots of family fun to children of all ages. This family-friendly attraction is one of Michigan’s “best-kept secrets”.

Nearly a century old, this beautiful French Renaissance style castle was originally built as a dairy farm. The farm closed in 1927, due to the Great Depression. For many years the property sat idle. Purchased in 2001 by Linda Mueller, the Castle underwent a complete restoration. No expense was spared. The Castle is now fully restored to its original beauty, and open to the public for year-round tours.

Children love exploring the great stone buildings. With Gothic arches, soaring towers, and majestic stone walls offer something to be discovered around every corner. Climb the steps to the top of the Octagonal Tower for a bird’s eye view of the Castle keep. The crenellations, a distinctive battlement feature, can be found on castles throughout the world. Can you spot the Witch Hats on the Castle roofs? Can you find the Secret Courtyard? Come to Castle Farms and search them out. They’re waiting for you.

Where else in Michigan can you find an Enchanted Forest, an ABC Alphabet Garden, a Reflection Pond stocked with huge rainbow trout, and a fierce dragon boasting nearly 7,000 scales and a 10’ wingspan (not to worry; Norm the Dragon looks ferocious, but we promise he’s friendly enough). Wander through the Hedge Maze, or seek out the Serenity Garden. The Castle offers visitors more than seventeen gardens to choose from. Birch Lake, with its native birch trees, is a nature lover’s paradise. Picnic on the grounds, then sit under a tree and enjoy some family time. We promise there’ll be time before the day is over to even visit a Mossy Moose.

Who doesn’t love trains? The Castle’s Outdoor Model Railroad, largest in Michigan, has over 70 G-scale trains operating on 2,500’ of track. The original railroad showcases elements of Charlevoix’s railroad history (1890s-1950s), while the Fantasy Railroad features toys modified into G-scale trains. A Victorian tower bridge offers guests a bird’s eye view of the trains and tracks. An expansion in spring of 2015 will add four new sections of track to the existing Railroad. Kids love interacting with the trains, and the Castle encourages hands-on learning. At Castle Farms, kids of all ages are train engineers at heart.

Castle Farms isn’t your grandmother’s museum! Whatever your interest (antique toys, castles, farm items, or historic artifacts), the Castle offers a wide variety of memorabilia to choose from. Each of the stone buildings houses its own unique collection. The Round Office, where the Farm Manager once ran the estate, invites visitors to meet Marion, Queen of the Cows, who in 1923 was the 2nd largest producer of milk in the world. The royalty collections at Castle Farms will satisfy even the fiercest royalty watcher. The 1918 Museum, from the era the Castle was built, features items from that time period, including a wooden mouse trap collection and artifacts from World War I. Castle Farms is also one of the Midwest’s premier wedding destinations. The display of wedding cake figurines, including a Victorian cake topper with frosting more than 100 years old, is not to be missed.

Experience the world through a child’s eyes again. Play a game of giant chess, then visit the West Garden Room for a glimpse at Harry Potter’s chess set. Check out the music posters and memorabilia for a peek into the past of Castle Farms Summer Music Theater, when rock n’roll was king. More than 100 different rock groups performed at the Castle, including The Doobie Brothers, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, and The Beach Boys. Croquet, anyone? A tour of the Castle offers visitors a chance to play lawn games. Afterwards, relax by the Reflection Pond in a garden gazebo with a wooden porch swing.

Unique and original, it’s the Castle, Up North Style. Castle Farms is open year round, Monday-Saturday 9 am – 4 pm (November-April) and daily 9 am – 5 pm (May-October), for self-guided tours. Interested in a more extensive tour? The Castle offers public guided tours daily at 10 am during the summer months of July and August. Visitors with special needs will find the Castle is fully handicapped-accessible.

A Castle fit for a queen. Spectacular gardens based on European design. Royal collections. The largest outdoor railroad in Michigan. Family friendly fun on a family friendly budget.

Did we forget anything? Yes! Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Castle Farms is located at 5052 M-66 Hwy. Charlevoix, MI 49720. During your visit to Hearthside Grove, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this beautiful property. Schedule a guided tour from one of Castle Farms trained tour guides or simply conduct your own. Contact Castle Farms at (231) 237-0884 or visit their website www.castlefarms.com.