Best Of Chicago

Fall Favorites Off The Beaten Path

September 15, 2011 3:45 PM

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As September rolls in and autumn overtakes the Chicagoland area with its warm sunlight and crisp air, fall festivities kick into high gear. Apple orchards, corn mazes and pumpkin patches are all easily found right in our far-suburban backyards. Here’s a list of some to-good-to-pass up destinations that are family friendly, fun and a little off the beaten path.

Susanna Farms
24153 Town Line Rd.
Lake Villa, IL 60046
(847) 838 – 0798

Susanna Farms is the perfect way to celebrate all things autumn with small child. Perfect for younger elementary kids, preschoolers and toddlers, Susanna Farms boasts a short hayride around the grounds, a pint-size corn maze where the little ones are easily viewed throughout the course and, of course, pumpkins.

Little ones enjoy seeing a real working farm through the eyes of their real-farmer guide and on their own terms as well: tractors are in plain view and horses, chickens and other farm animals live in the barns right next to the already-picked pumpkin rows. Parents will also enjoy the tour, as the farmer explains in kid-friendly terms how pumpkins come about each season – truly a place where little eyes and big one alike can get a taste of reconnecting with the land during harvest.

All Seasons Orchard
14510 Rt. 176
Woodstock, IL 60098

Just west of Crystal Lake and south of Woodstock lies a farm with rolling hills, an abundant orchard featuring delicious apple varieties and enough fun to entertain the kiddos all afternoon long.

A small petting zoo, go karts, a corn maze and a cow train pulled by tractor allure little kids as well as big ones. Moms and dads will get a kick out of the photo-booth cutouts where kids can become cows or farmers. And the whole family likely will enjoy apple picking in the orchard. Even children as small as three and four can reach and pick their own apples from the lower branches of the trees, gleaning an entire bag of lovely, ripe apples.



Vanna’s Pumpkin Land
7705 W State Rt. 17
Kankakee, IL 60901
(815) 939-2000

Located in Kankakee, a short drive off of Interstate 57, Vana’s Pumpkin Land boasts a vast array of pumpkins grown on the local farm grounds. From small gourds to enormous, deep orange pumpkins, each member of the family will walk away with his or her choice of gourd. {We’ve never gotten a pumpkin we couldn’t make a masterpiece out of from this farm in all of my family’s 16 years of picking pumpkins!}

Additionally, Vana’s, an authentic farm in the middle of the countryside, often offers a small but fun trail that isn’t very scary and a quaint onsite store with fresh-made fudge. {You must try the pumpkin fudge if you are a pumpkin fan!}

Didier Farms
16678 W. Aptakisic Rd.
Prairie View / Lincolnshire, IL 60069
(847) 643 -3291

Well known for its PumpkinFest, Didier Farms in Lincolnshire features a great display of harvest-time activities with a straw maze for the younger kids, a five-acre corn maze for the older ones and pumpkin picking and hayrides for the entire family. Additionally, the farm offers pony rides and houses an on-site café.

Like Vana’s, there is something for the sweet-tooth lover, too: Anderson’s Chocolate shop sells its famous fudge and nuts on the weekends.  And be sure to check out the Pig Bin to get a glimpse of any new piglets that might have been recently born.

Hyacynth Worth writes about all things family, faith and fall {during autumn, at least} at Undercover Mother.

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  • Linda

    We love Stade’s Farm & Market in McHenry, Illinois area. Plan to spend the whole day though. And bring a lunch if you dont want to buy food.

  • Eva

    I love All Seasons Orchard! They have an inflatable bouncy pillow thing that is so much fun!

  • jackie

    To The Owners of All Seasons Apple Orchard,
    14510 IL Route 176
    Woodstock, IL 60098

    We had a heartbreaking experience with your orchard and it is extremely important to us that you are aware of it. It started when I brought my mother in to pick apples a few weeks ago. We had a lot of fun and while walking pack from the field we came across your 400 year old oak trees. I recognized them from your wedding website and thought it would be a perfect backdrop for my fiancé and me to have our ceremony.
    Excited, I came home and emailed Alana to find out availability of our date and pricing for an outdoor ceremony and reception. Within a day, Alana responded and congratulated us on our engagement and included prices and a phone number if we should have more questions. Before committing to this venue I thought it was important to have Alana answer a few more questions about our special day. I explained that we are a gay couple and asked if your venue is LGBT friendly. I also asked if the barn was air-conditioned because we were looking at possibly booking July 28th.
    All contact seized after I sent that email. Alana never responded to my email or answered any other questions. I figured she was busy, let a week go by, and sent the same email a second time. Again there was nothing. We received no response on her end, at all. I let a few more days go by and figured maybe I should try the phone number she gave. I called and was told Alana was busy but she would return my call as soon as she got off the phone. Days went by and nothing. I called a second time and asked if I could talk to Alana, I was asked, “Is this Jackie?” Surprised I said yes, and then was told she was unavailable.
    Shocked, I mentioned to the young man on the phone that I felt like now I was being avoided because I was inquiring about a gay wedding. He assured me that wasn’t the case and that she would return my call before the end of the day. Again, there was no response. I thought to myself, maybe Alana is on vacation and out of the office, so I had my sister send an email regarding the availability of the date July 28th. To my surprise, Alana responded to her email within a few hours. Heartbroken, I let another week go by and finally sent Alana an email that read: “After unanswered emails, phone calls, and messages, it is clear to me that All Seasons Apple Orchard does not support same-sex marriage to occur at your venue. It breaks my heart that I was completely ignored by the place I was most excited about having our ceremony at. We will move forward in search of a venue for our special day.”
    It is my strong recommendation to you as owners, to gather your management and staff together and conduct a meeting where you can formulate an appropriate rejection response for future couples like me and my partner. I don’t know if you are aware, but in January 2011 Governor Pat Quinn signed Illinois’ Civil Unions into law. For the first time in Illinois history, same-sex couples have been afforded many of the same rights as straight couples.
    This law took effect June 1, 2011, which is why it is necessary for your company to find an appropriate way to reject people as they inquire about your venue. Blatantly ignoring a couple who is inquiring about getting married at your business is unprofessional, and extremely hurtful, to say the least. Illinois is now the sixth state to recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Another five states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage. I imagine there will be many more same-sex couples that will try to wed at your orchard in the future. I can assure you that if you respond in the same manner as you did us, couples in the future will not disappear as quietly and respectfully as my partner and I have.
    Whether it was you as owners, who were uncomfortable, or Alana herself, the bottom line is that someone should have responded back. We strongly encourage you and your staff to adopt a more professional and productive response for future situations. We are extremely hurt and saddened at the way we have been treated, and feel like after all the time and effort that has been poured into this letter, it will probably be ignored. I hope that someone has learned something about equality, human rights, or just compassion by reading this letter.

    Here’s to your personal growth,
    Jackie and Bridget

    • Jane

      Just thought I should post this as I am good family friends with the folks that run All Seasons. They must have not seen this post as the letter was posted in a few places during the fall. They do hold weddings and do not discriminate. Here was their reply

      As written on 10/19/2011
      Hi Jackie and Bridgett,

      Thank you for your message. As we discussed over the phone, we apologize as we should have responded to you sooner. We are a family run orchard with limited resources and as a result during the busy apple picking season we are unable to be as responsive as we would like to be. This is something we will certainly work on. We would like to assure you that our orchard and all the events we host are open to everyone, irrespective of sex, race, creed or sexual orientation.

      Again, we are very sorry for not getting back to you in a more timely manner and regret any sadness caused. From our conversation, it is our understanding that you have found another venue for your event. In the event your venue plans change and would like to use our orchard, please let us know. We wish you the very best.

      Eddie Hong

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