Down on the farm
Farms with all the fixins make McHenry County fall road-trip central.
We admit it—we’re not too sure what exists beyond Cook County. But we discovered apple picking, pumpkin patches and gigantic corn mazes in three tricked-out farms a stone’s throw away in McHenry County. Nestled in the Fox River Valley and an hour-and-a half's drive northwest of Chicago, they’re ripe for your fall road-tripping.
Meadow View Farms
17020 Streit Rd, Harvard (815-482-0908, meadowviewmaze.com)
Family-run and wholesome as heck, Meadow View has that cozy farm feel, with hayrides, a pumpkin patch and campfire sites—but jazzes things up with hay-bale mountain climbing, moon walks, corn kernel sensory tables (like sandboxes, minus the mess), corn-husk slingshots and a ten-acre corn maze. Brats, sweet corn and other treats mean there’s no need to pack a picnic, and a one-time entry fee means once you’re in, everything’s included. Check the website for themed events like Scout (Oct 1–3) and Haunted Maze (Oct 29–31) weekend. Open weekends through Nov 1; $10, kids ages 4–12 $8, 3 and under free (with group rates and coupons online).
Royal Oak Farm Orchard
15908 Hebron Rd, Harvard (815-648-4141, royaloakfarmorchard.com)
This you-pick apple orchard blurs the line between amusement park and farm with a petting zoo, pumpkin patch, carousel, restaurant, bakery and a play area where kids can pretend to drive their own John Deere. Though you might not know where to look first—the life-size tepee? The Christian rock-music videos playing on a large-screen TV in the market? The alpaca babies named McIntosh and Crispin?—don’t leave without grabbing a bushel of Honeycrisps and apple-cider doughnuts. Open Mon–Sat through Nov 15; prices vary per activity, see website.
9407 Richardson Rd, Spring Grove (815-675-9729, richardsonadventurefarm.com)
The strapping sons and sons-of-sons of pig farmers here decided they wanted something more, and voilà—what’s billed as the world’s largest corn maze was born. Called the “Richardson experience,” this farm offers paintball, zip-lining, a tube-slide playground, pumpkin patches, pig races, a petting zoo, wagon rides, campfires, an on-site brewery, “orbiting”—a.k.a. strapping yourself into an 11-foot ball and rolling head over heels down a steep hill, which is surprisingly fun—and the enormous, 33-acre maze (that turns haunted on Halloween night), with multiple paths and games built in. Open Wed–Sun through Oct 31; $13 general admission, kids ages 4–12 $10, zip-lining and orbiting separate fees, see website.