Fall is when many of the state’s best qualities truly shine. Nature, agriculture, small-town community fun: there’s a lifetime’s worth of adventures in any one Illinois fall. But if you don’t have a lifetime to spend experiencing it, here are eight adventures you really must try:
When autumn arrives in Illinois, so too does a kaleidoscope of spectacular colors on trees across the state. There’s no better time to explore many parts of the state than when the treetops put on a show of oranges, yellows, browns and reds. When the time is right, check out the Illinois Fall Color Report to plan your trip. Get your friends or family together and make a road trip of it!
The Great Pumpkin may be the figment of a Peanuts character’s imagination, but the Great Pumpkin Patch is anything but. Every year in September and October, The 200 Acres Farm south of Arthur welcomes people to discover more than 300 types of pumpkins, squash and gourds from 30 countries around the world. But there’s more than that to admire and enjoy—there’s also wagon rides, animals, a corn maze and a festival atmosphere with food and live music. Get in the harvest and Halloween spirit!
Don’t get us wrong—driving the Great River Road is a magnificent experience any time of year. But in fall, when fiery treetops blossom out from bluffs and sheer cliffs? It’s nothing short of magic. Whether you start in Galena and take it down to Cairo, or head the other way, it’s a trip you’ll remember for years to come.
One of the great joys of fall is the fresh harvest fruit—such as apples from Jonamac Orchard. Three generations of the McArtor family work on the farm, tending 20,000 apple trees of more than 30 different varieties. Between late August and late October, you can pick your own apples, and enjoy all the other fun on offer, such as a corn maze and petting zoo.
Even if you don’t raise your own crops doesn’t mean you can’t have a scarecrow. The St. Charles Scarecrow Festival is your chance to make your own. All the essential scarecrow ingredients are supplied, or you can bring your own if you want to add a special flourish. There’s also an official competition with more than 100 handmade and mechanical scarecrows on display.
Illinois is one of the United States’ largest corn producers, usually sitting just behind Iowa. But there’s more fun to be had with corn than just eating it. Many farms put their maturing crops to good work by creating mazes in the corn — like the world's largest in Spring Grove. Get lost, get found—and have a great time doing it!
Illinois has more than 72,000 farms—more than any one person could ever hope to visit in a lifetime. Luckily, just heading to one or two is a great adventure—and often, a delicious one. Fall is the peak time of year for fresh produce, so get out on the road and engage in some good old-fashioned agritourism.
Winter is on its way, and while the truly hardy won’t let a little cold stop them from enjoying the great outdoors, fall is the last chance for most of us. Luckily, it also might be the most beautiful season to do so. All those fall colors we mentioned at the start? They’re out in full force in Shawnee. Not convinced? It just so happens it’s also the perfect time to visit one of the 11 family-owned wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. It’s also worth noting that since Shawnee is further south, there are slightly warmer temperatures than the northern part of the state. Which means that the season for outdoor activities and golfing goes a little further. Now there’s a good reason to go.