Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Royal Oak Farm’s Amaze ‘N Apples
15908 Hebron Road, Harvard, (815) 648-4141, royaloakfarmorchard.com
It’s billed as the only apple tree maze in the country, and it’s fast becoming an autumn tradition in northern Illinois.
Shaped like a delicious apple, this 5-acre maze is comprised of some 3,000 apple trees representing 9 varieties. They guard about 1.5 miles of winding walking trails.
Children can follow up their visit by reading “The Amaze ‘N Apple Adventure,” an accompanying activity book.
“There are cutouts of the book’s characters within the maze,” says Sarah Bell, co-owner of Royal Oak Farm. “The book also teaches lessons on fear and forgiveness.”
The maze, which opened in 2015, was designed by Idaho-based Maze Play, a firm better known for its work with corn mazes, some of which have appeared around the Chicago area.
When the trees have reached maturity, they’ll stand about 10 feet tall.
“The trees had to be planted in a specific way so they would grow like hedges,” Bell says. “Each year, when the trees mature, it gets harder and harder to make your way through the maze, even though the paths are the same each year.”
The maze generally opens in mid-August and closes in mid-November.
Hours: Through Oct. 31: Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Fri.-Sat. to 5 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. From Nov. 1-Nov. 17: daily 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
College Avenue, DeKalb, (815) 753-1936, niu.edu
Nestled in the heart of Northern Illinois University sits Altgeld Hall, a building better known to students and faculty as “The Castle.”
This campus centerpiece is named for former Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld, who served from 1893 to 1897. He believed public school buildings in Illinois had no character in the late 1800s, so he proposed the idea that new buildings reflect a Tudor Gothic style that resembles English castles.
When it was completed in 1899, at a cost of $230,000, this hall was the only building on NIU’s campus. Roughly 150 women and 27 men attended classes at what was then known as Northern Illinois State Normal School.
Altgeld Hall bears five cousins on other public university campuses in Illinois: Eastern Illinois, Southern Illinois at Carbondale, Illinois State and the University of Illinois.
Today, this beloved symbol, part of NIU’s formal logo, is home to President Lisa Freeman’s office, the NIU Art Museum and the Division of Student Affairs. There’s also a large auditorium that hosts weddings and banquets, among other events.
The interior of Altgeld Hall has undergone several renovations and reconfigurations, including a substantial remodel between 1999 and 2004. The exterior, however, remains little changed from its original appearance.
Mooseheart Child City & School Inc.
240 W. James J. Davis Dr., Mooseheart, (630) 906-3631, mooseheart.org
When it was founded in 1913 with the assistance of eventual Secretary of Labor James J. Davis, this home and school was dedicated to serving the families of deceased members of the Moose fraternal organization. Today, though, its mission is to provide any family in need with a safe and healthy environment where children can receive top-notch training and education.
In many ways, Mooseheart resembles a private boarding school.
Mooseheart’s sprawling, 1,000-acre campus just south of Batavia is currently home to about 200 residents ranging in age from infants to teenagers. They stay in one of 30 structures designed to resemble single-family homes, and they live with six to 12 other children.
Supported by the Moose fraternal organization, Mooseheart’s accredited school system maintains classes no larger than 15 children. While earning a diploma, students take vocational classes, such as automotive mechanics or computer science, and participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, vocal and instrumental music, and club activities.
Many Mooseheart graduates go on to college, and those who meet certain academic criteria may continue to receive assistance from Moose-funded scholarships.