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Pumpkin patches? Check. Corn mazes? Check. Ziplines? Check. We’ve compiled a list of nine classic and under-the-radar ways to have fun this fall.

Pet a real reindeer at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch

The holiday season starts earlier and earlier each year. Get your head start at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch. As you could probably guess from the name, this Central Illinois getaway keeps reindeer onsite. Take the tour and you can meet some of the Alaskan cousins of our state animal.  The ranch also has some more fall-specific activities. There’s a 10-acre corn maze you can explore at night using flashlights, hayrides, and some outdoor campfire roasts.

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Get lost in the world’s largest corn maze at Richardson Adventure Farm

The corn maze at Richardson Adventure Farm is big. We’re talking more than 21 football fields big. Even the savviest corn maze explorers will be challenged by its nearly 10-mile-long tangled trails. The design changes every year, so no two mazes are ever alike. Once you complete the maze, or you get tired of trekking through cornstalks, you can also go on a hayride, have a campfire, or even ride a 100-foot slide.

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Solving the corn maze is just one of many annual fall traditions. There are also pumpkin-picking, apple-picking, and other fall activities to pick from in Illinois.

Find great gourds, good eats, and more at the Great Pumpkin Patch

You won’t have to wait all night to find an amazing pumpkin at the Great Pumpkin Patch. This 63-acre pumpkin patch features more than 400 varieties. Which makes your odds of finding your future jack-o’-lantern or centerpiece about 100%. Once your search is complete, check out the exhibits, go for a wagon ride, explore the haunted barn, and eat some fresh pumpkin- and non-pumpkin-flavored desserts at their renowned Homestead Bakery.

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  • If you’re in the Halloween spirit (and are on the lookout to see some spirits) here are some of the haunted offerings you can enjoy across the state.

Pick seasonal fruits at Eckert’s Country Store

Fall is apple picking season at apple orchards throughout Illinois. The orchards at Eckert’s Country Store are overflowing with ripe apples ready to make the trip to your fruit bowl. There are 11 types of apples for you to pick, like tangy Honeycrisp, juicy Fuji and the iconic Golden and Red Delicious. After you’ve picked your 3–5 servings, head to the restaurant to sample some of the delicious dishes on the fall menu.

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Speed through the treetops at Grafton Zipline

Who said ziplining is a summer-only activity? Get ready to have your autumn heart race and your jaw drop as you zip from spectacular bluff to spectacular bluff at Grafton Zipline. This epic canopy adventure offers some of the most impressive views of the Shawnee National Forest’s pristine wilderness. Those feeling extra fearless will especially enjoy the Soaring Eagle line’s 250-foot drop and the Creek Hopper line’s 45mph max speed.

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Take the road trips less traveled and see Illinois’ natural wonders off the beaten path.

Go hiking at the Shawnee National Forest

Despite its official nickname, Illinois isn’t all covered in prairie. In fact, Illinois has a diverse topography and some of the best trails to hike in the fall. Stretching across the southern portion of our state is the Shawnee National Forest, Illinois’ premier hiking destination. Its 403-mile-long trail system takes you through rolling hills, woodland, prairies, lakes, creeks, bluffs, sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and some of the most scenic fall views in Illinois or anywhere else.

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People canoeing down a river

Kayak through the Cache River

The Cache River is a hidden gem for beautiful nature and fun fall activities in Illinois. The swampy terrain makes it one of the few places where you can hike through the woods in a canoe. Kayaking is the recommended way to get around, but there are also biking and walking trails if you prefer to stay on land. As the home of over 100 endangered species, it’s also a great location for autumn bird- and wildlife watching.

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Paddleboard on the Fox River

The best way to experience the natural beauty of the Fox River is by hopping on your paddleboard and getting in it. Miles of pristine forest preserve and native prairie line its banks. These magnificent landscapes offer a gorgeous backdrop of changing fall colors throughout your journey as well as a thriving ecosystem of local wildlife. The many charming river towns in the area also offer plenty of amazing things to see and do.

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Find unexpected ways to enjoy Illinois in this biannual inspiration guide that explores every corner of the state. Each issue offers a mix of travel stories, stunning photography and timely trip ideas that'll help you make the most of each season.

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