Fall adventures with the kids
By Maribeth Pjosek-Durkin
Go apple picking at County Line Orchard (Courtesy County Line Orchard)
The end of summer doesn’t necessarily mean the end of adventures. In fact, fall is a fantastic time to venture outdoors for family activities! In the Midwest, it’s easy to find “falltastic” fun every kid in the family will enjoy. There are golden forest to be hiked, apples waiting to be picked, fall fests to be enjoyed, and, of course, football.
Let these five family-friendly outdoor adventures inspire you to explore some new autumn escapes in your neck of the woods.
Celebrate everything apple by apple picking
At County Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana, hop on a tractor ride to the orchards and fields to pluck apples right off the trees, and gather pumpkins and other fall harvests. The West Corn Maze is family-friendly, but the dirt pathway is best for walking not strollers. Get a maze map and let the kids lead the way! Families with young children will enjoy the mini corn maze and goat feeding in the Kids Farm. Taste a pumpkin or apple spice donut from the Orchard Store. TIP: Wear gym shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy, and save apple picking until the end of your visit. The orchard is open from Labor Day through November 1. Children 2 and under are free. Admission ranges from $1 to $10.
Where to Stay: Residence Inn Merrillville
Kick off football season with a stadium tour
Tour Lambeau Field (Courtesy CBS 58 Newsroom)
You may not be able to score tickets to the big game, but most NFL – and some college teams too – offer stadium tours. Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, offers the popular Champion Stadium Tour. On this family-friendly guided walking tour, your family will stroll through the famed player’s tunnel, stand on the side lines and get photos in the end zone. A tour highlight is Lambeau’s rooftop, where your family catches bird’s eye views of the stadium and Green Bay. All tours are completely stroller and handicapped accessible. Tours are available nearly every day, except home game days. Children 5 and under are free. Check the website for ticket prices, tour schedules and other tour options. TIP: Tickets cannot be purchased online, they are only sold at the stadium.
Where to Stay: Residence Inn Green Bay
Gather for stories around a toasty campfire
On Saturdays in October, Starved Rock State Park Lodge in Oglesby, Illinois, the hotel within Starved Rock State Park, offers free campfire stories under the stars. Storytime begins at 7 pm and lasts about an hour. It is a nighttime event, but the campfires are very kid-friendly. Don’t worry about packing snacks, popcorn and s’mores kits are sold onsite – so your family can roast marshmallows over the fire. The seating area is rustic wooden benches. If that’s not your family’s style, feel free to bring chairs and blankets. Campfires are free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. TIP: Illinois State Parks do not charge entry fees.
Where to Stay: Starved Rock Lodge is beautiful, but books up quickly. The Days Inn Oglesby/Starved Rock is a great back-up.
Celebrate the harvest at local fall festivals
Emma Krumbee’s Scarecrow Festival (Courtesy Emma Krumbees)
Scarecrow loving families should visit Emma Krumbee’s Scarecrow Festival in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. Meander down the Scarecrow Path lined with about 100 handmade friendly scarecrows. Then fill up your afternoon with the many kid-friendly attractions. Take a wagon ride to the u-pick pumpkin patch, climb on the Rainbow Tire “Caterpillar” or “board” a pirate ship. TIP: This festival is ideal for kids 9 and under. Open daily from 10am to 6pm from mid-September through October 30. Admission is $5.50 (children 2 and under are free).
Where to Stay: Embassy Suites Bloomington in nearby Bloomington
Take a Fall Color Hike in a State Park
Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites (Photo: Picasa)
During autumn, Midwest forests burst with vibrant colors. Weston Bend State Park in Weston, Missouri (near Kansas City) has eight trails that take hikers along the Missouri River up to breathtaking scenic overlooks and through colorful forests. The paved Overlook Path (a must see!) is a short, woodsy walk that ends with spectacular views of the Missouri River and the surrounding forests. Perfect for teens and tweens, the moderately rugged North Ridge Trail has a new tech twist. Missouri State Parks are piloting an app that plays audio tours via smart phones and other hand-held devices at specific points along this trail. Be sure to download the app before you go. Check the website for information about the app and other trails. TIP: Missouri State Parks do not charge entry fees. Fall colors in northern Missouri peak in early October.
Where to Stay: Residence Inn Airport Kansas City
Maribeth Pjosek Durkin contributed this to MiniTime.