Pumpkin, and Apple, and Squash Picking! Oh My!
If you’re anything like my father, you live for autumn when it’s finally apple picking season. Maybe you even have the date marked on your calendar when your favorite apple variety is ready for picking (as my dad probably does). If you’re not such a fruit picking (or vegetable picking) fanatic and don’t have a favorite farm, I’ve got some suggestions on which orchards and pumpkin patches to visit in the months of September and October, all under two hour’s drive from downtown Chicago.
Chicago Area Orchards & Farms
19412 Shabbona Rd., Malta, IL 60150; 815-825-2158
Jonamac Orchard offers over 20 apple varieties ready for picking from early September to mid-October. They’ve also got a pumpkin patch for those individuals itching to select their own special carving or baking pumpkin. If you still want to visit the farm, but don’t want to get your hands dirty, visit the store where you can find pre-picked apples as well as a huge selection of other apple products: apple donuts, apple cider, apple pies, caramel apples (to name a few). They also have a haunted corn maze and petting zoo, and, if you’re feeling a little destructive, an apple launcher and cannon.
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
Kuipers Family Farm
1N318 Watson Rd., Maple Park, IL 60151; 815-827-5200
Kuipers Family Farm, besides its apple orchards and pumpkin patch, has a bunch of very unique attractions. In the mood for a corn maze? They’ve got three of ‘em for all skill levels. Want to occupy the kids for a couple hours? Set them loose on the Tractor Tire Mountain, an enormous heap of tractor tires piled sky high, or in the hay bale play area complete with tubes to slide down. They also have a petting zoo with potbellied pigs and goats and a Haunted Forest with skeletons galore. And if you’re already thinking ahead to the next holiday, namely Christmas, they’ve got pre-cut trees or a grove where you can cut down your own.
Hours: Tues.-Sat.—9 a.m.- 6p.m., Sun.—10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch
42W813 Reinking Rd., Hampshire, IL 60140; 847-464-5952
This farm has a full day’s activities in store for you. They’ve got a petting farm with a Goat Mountain and a Bunny Town (sounds pretty adorable, right?), a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch, a cornstalk maze, a haunted maze, pig races (once again, adorable), pony rides, a magic and illusion show on the weekend, and a pumpkin eating dinosaur. Yes, you read that right: a 20-ft. electronic dinosaur that munches on pumpkins daily. That alone should be worth the trip.
Hours: 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. daily
Dollinger Family Farm
7502 E. Hansel Rd., Channahon, IL 60410; 815-467-6766
In the family since 1852, this farm has every kind of pumpkin under the sun (their website lists “fat ones, tall ones, round, smooth or warty”), train rides for the kiddies, a corn maze whose design changes yearly, horse drawn hayrides, a petting zoo, and one heckuva scary haunted house. Plus a Civil War Reenactment is staged on the grounds every year with horses, cannons, and all the period dress you could ask for.
Hours: 10 a.m.- 6:30 p.m. daily
24936 S. 80th Ave., Monee, IL 60449; 708-534-8801
Butterprint Farm is incredibly idyllic and no wonder; they are the winners of a Conservation and Native Landscaping Award from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Chicago Wilderness. Of course all the farm activities will leave you little time for standing around and admiring the scenery: go get your face painted, hike the nature trails, take a walk through the Scarecrow Corn Maze, visit the Butterprint Prairie Museum, join in on the Rubber Duck Races, learn how to crack corn and then feed it to the animals of the petting zoo, and pick out your very own pumpkin, winter squash, or Indian corn. Open for groups only, please call to schedule your visit.
Garden Patch Farms & Orchard
14154 W. 159th St., Homer Glen, IL 60491; 708-301-7720
For those looking for no frills fruit picking, Garden Patch Farms & Orchard is your spot. With a few extra activities for the kids like a huge bouncing castle and a flock of chickens that can’t wait to be fed, this farm puts its pick-your-own fruit fields front and center. They’ve got quite the selection to choose from too. Fall means apples and pumpkins (naturally), squash, eggplant, special peach and pear varieties, and even blackberries and raspberries. They also run a fruit and vegetable stand including items like honey and jam, and sell a variety of plants, fruit trees, and berry bushes.
Hours: Mon.-Sat.—8 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun.—8 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Long Grove Apple Festival
Just about an hour from Chicago, Long Grove, IL hosts its annual Apple Festival weekend in early October. Always a seasonal favorite amongst city folk and regional residents alike, the festival puts its namesake on display with its famous brown bag apple pies, apple cider donuts, hot apple cider, apple martinis, apple butter … pretty much anything you can make with apples they’ve got. Local restaurants set up food stands offering other apple delicacies, of course, as well as food and drinks. Stay for the live music and bring the kids along for pony and carnival rides.
And just a friendly note: it’s always recommended to call farms ahead of time to see what’s ready for picking on any given day (especially if you’re looking for one thing in particular). Like the weather (and often because of it), harvests are unpredictable and what ripened in October last year may begin to ripen much earlier the next year.