There’s something special about the harvest season, as we reap the bounty of yet another summer. And what’s fall without a trip to the country, to find a taste of the land? Explore some of the family farms, beautiful country drives and irresistible flavors that await when you pack up the family and hit the open road.
There’s something special about each season, but nothing quite compares to fall. Beautiful colors illuminating the trees, crisp air and gray frosts, delicious seasonal treats at the farm – there’s plenty to make this time of year unforgettable.
And the best places to make those memories are hiding in the quiet countryside of northwest Chicagoland. Down-home farms, beautiful barns, quiet country roads and delicious foods are on full display this season.
Isn’t it time to treat yourself to an unforgettable adventure? After the year you’ve had, you deserve it.
Apple Orchard Triangle, Rural Marengo/Union/Woodstock
The season just isn’t complete without a trip to the apple orchard. Head to the dusty roads outside Union and find three choices all within a few miles of each other: All Seasons, Cody’s Farm and Prairie Sky.
This trio of orchards offers all of the quintessential apple-themed treats and more. Look for sweet treats, fall decorations and, of course, more apple varieties than you can possibly name.
Each destination also has a farm store that serves up fresh produce and home decor. And don’t forget about those unforgettable donuts at the bakery.
The kids are sure to enjoy the other fun activities on the farm, including mazes, hay rides and play tractors.
Getting there is half the fun, because you’ll be traveling down quiet country roads between each orchard.
Primrose Farm, St. Charles
Try to envision what life is really like in the country at this 100-acre working farm that’s open to the public year-round.
Open dawn to dusk, this 1930s-style farm invites visitors to take part in the daily chores. Learn to milk a cow and feed the chickens, practice yoga with a goat, or join the farmer in feeding the animals, processing grain and turning milk into butter.
While you’re there, explore Otter Creek, where the beavers live. This time of year, watch out for the Sandhill cranes as they head south for the winter. Take a stroll on one of the multi-use trails, which are well loved by hikers and bicyclists.
Richardson Adventure Farm, Spring Grove
Get lost in the “World’s Largest Corn Maze” at this bustling farm in northern McHenry County.
The sprawling corn maze takes up 28 acres of cornfield and is split into four sections that comprise nearly 10 miles of trails. That’s a lot of trail, but think about it this way: each section takes about 15 minutes to complete. Take on the entire maze to earn a certificate.
The farm offers plenty of adventures and activities worth exploring, including a pumpkin patch, petting zoo and zip line. Test out the air cannons and fire tennis balls at a target far away.
After Halloween passes, the farm focuses on its fleet of Christmas trees. Grab a pre-cut tree or cut your own. Find handmade wreaths and garland that create a perfect home accent.
Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch, Pingree Grove
You’ll know you’ve found this pumpkin patch and orchard south of Huntley when you see the large pumpkin perched high above on the silo.
Once you’re on the farm, you’ll be surrounded by a wide range of fall activities, including a straw maze, pedal carts, pig races and a pumpkin cannon.
Look for a fun magic show each weekend in October.
This year, things are more spread out than usual, but you can still expect to see food stands throughout the farm. The kettle corn station is one of the more popular choices.
There is a general admission fee, and this year tickets must be purchased online before your visit.
Kuipers Family Farm, Maple Park
When you get to this 71-acre family farm in rural DeKalb County, you’ll have a tough time ignoring the pleasant scents wafting in from the bakery.
The delightful smells of apple cider donuts, caramel apples and fresh apple pie fill the cool autumn air. Wash it all down with some fresh cider or one of the Kuipers family’s custom blends of hard cider and wine.
The sprawling pumpkin patch, a large apple orchard and endless activities keep families busy all morning or all day. This year, reservations are required in advance.
November brings a brief reprieve as everyone gears up for the holidays. The Christmas tree farm gets busy in December and Santa Claus makes an appearance.
And, while you’re at it, take one final trip to the bakery, while the goodies last.
Rustic Barns & Scenic Drives
Barn Quilt Tours in McHenry and DeKalb Counties
Give the kids something fun to seek out while Mom and Dad enjoy a quiet drive through the country. In DeKalb and McHenry counties, official barn quilt tours add to the vibrant colors you’ll find on the quiet roads of rural Illinois.
These fun and colorful displays are painted to resemble quilt patterns and affixed to historic properties in well-traveled parts of the county. Search out a few quilts or try and find them all. It’s an adventure either way.
Barn quilt tours are self-guided, so it’s entirely up to you where you’ll start and end.
Visit mchenrycountyhistory.org for a trail map in McHenry Country, or dekalbcountycvb.com for a trail map in DeKalb County.
Rustic Road Trail 11, Walworth County, Wisconsin
If it’s a scenic drive with abundant fall colors you’re searching for, head to Rustic Road 11, in southeast Wisconsin.
This paved, 10.3-mile road is located just east of Lake Geneva, off state route 50. It quietly winds through wooded areas chock full of oak, maple and hickory trees, each showing off their wonderful beauty.
Enjoy the quick rise and fall of each hill and lean into those sharp turns. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, rustic barns, horses and a local game farm.
If you get lost, that’s OK. These winding roads will eventually lead back to the city.
Enjoy the scenery by car, motorcycle, bicycle or foot. No matter how you approach it, this road offers a calm, serene experience that allows you to take a break from routine.
Delicious Food And Drink
Rush Creek Distilling, Harvard
Housed in a former industrial building, this distillery has large garage doors that let in plenty of natural light and views of the surrounding scenery.
Enjoy a warm day outside at Rush Creek’s On The Rocks Patio, where there’s live music on select nights.
This distillery crafts its own vodka, gin and whiskey, sourcing its grains from Harvard-area farmers who’ve been working their land for generations.
Try something different this season and explore Rush Creek’s extensive recipe list, filled with custom cocktails, such as the hometown mule with vodka, lime and ginger beer. The American gold fashioned plays on a supper club favorite, combining Rush Creek’s American Gold whiskey with sugar, bitters, an orange slice and two cherries.
The Geneva Country House, Geneva
For more than 45 years, people have traveled from miles around to visit this staple in far-east Geneva. And while the menu is loaded with classic American cuisine, including seafood, pasta and steak, the restaurant is beloved for its Country Burger, made with half-pound ground chuck and served on a sesame seed bun.
The pretzel-crusted walleye is another fan favorite. It’s battered in crushed pretzels before it’s fried.
Legend has it that this place has experienced a little ghostly activity over the years. Since at least 1974, people have claimed “a spirit” plays the jukebox late at night, occasionally blocks the women’s restroom and makes audible footsteps in otherwise empty rooms.
D&J Bistro, Lake Zurich
Try a different kind of scenic drive and discover a cozy, upscale French bistro that claims to have been the first of its kind in the Chicago area.
This Lake Zurich favorite, which opened in 1987, has monthly dishes on special appropriately titled “True Bistro Dish.”
October’s special is La Choucroute Garnie Alsacienne, a French dish that comes with sauerkraut, sausages and potatoes.
November brings the Le Cassoulet de Carcassonne, another French dish made with confit of duck, pork and sausages and served with Northern beans.
Other popular menu items include steak tartare, grilled Atlantic salmon and chicken cordon bleu.
In true French style, the bistro celebrates the arrival of the 2020 G. Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, a fresh and fruity wine, on Nov. 19. The wine will be paired with a three-course meal, and an accordion player will provide calming background music.
The Duck Inn Supper Club, Delavan, Wis.
This classic Wisconsin supper club serves up casual, fine dining in an elegant country setting that’s a welcome throwback to another time. Don’t blink or you might miss it, nestled at the juncture of two country roads a few miles northwest of Delavan.
The Duck Inn’s menu is loaded with classic American fare, including roasted duck served with wild rice and Alaskan salmon served with dill sauce. Several beef options are also available, including New York Strip steak and filet mignon.
Friday night brings the traditional fish fry, featuring broiled or fried cod, perch or mini shrimp. Don’t be shy to ask about other seafood favorites on the menu.
There’s an extensive wine list that includes sparking, dessert, red and white wines. Old fashioneds are a must.
Carry-out and curbside pickup are available.
Broken Earth Winery, Long Grove
How many local wineries can claim a direct connection to California wine country? This one stands apart because it’s the first expansion of a vineyard based in Paso Robles, Calif.
The extensive wine list covers all of the bases. Look for reds such as the 2012 Petite Verdot, a drier wine with dark fruits, cinnamon and nutmeg. Or, try a sparking wine, like the 2015 Sparkling Merlot, with lingering cherry, licorice and red currant notes.
Unsure what to try? Consider a wine flight and sample several wines before making a selection.
Visit on a Saturday night and enjoy a little live music to go along with the wine. Check out a lineup of upcoming acts on the winery’s Facebook page.