Terri Reifsteck with Visit Champaign County shares fall activities.
Since it is officially fall, despite the warm temperatures, we all want to get to those fun activities which often includes pumpkins and apples. We’re fortunate to have to amazing options here in East Central Illinois with Curtis Orchard and the Great Pumpkin Patch. Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch offers up so many activities to explore, whether you’re picking apples and pumpkins or engaging in one of their many activities. New this year is their Emerald City Rope Maze and a Pumpkin Jumping Pad which will surely keep the kids entertained. The Great Pumpkin Patch offers a unique experience with over 300 varieties of pumpkins and squash to find. Their love for their crop is on full display throughout the patch, but don’t forget to explore their various mazes and the Homestead Bakery on site for those insanely delicious pumpkin cookies.
Farmers are out in the field harvesting the corn, but there’s 10 acres in Rantoul that will stick around for awhile. Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch has their massive, 10-acre corn maze ready for you to tackle. It’s a great fall afternoon activity with friends, but if you want to add in an extra layer of challenge, go to their flashlight maze after sunset.
We were recently asked for our favorite places to check out fall foliage in our area, and there were just too many options to pick one. Area parks like West Side Park and Meadowbrook Park offer stunning colors that are perfect to see out on a stroll. Lake of the Woods offers up views from above when you climb the Bell Carillion, but also the Japanese Gardens are spectacular this time of year. Homer Lake also offers up a peaceful setting on and around the like as you explore those hiking trails. Of course, Allerton is unrivaled with its 14 miles of hiking trails with spectacular view, especially surrounding the public art in the park.
Also be sure to check out the new Kickapoo Rail Trail which opened in late August. The first 6.7 miles of the trail runs from Urbana (starting at the Walmart on 130) and runs into St. Joseph. You’ll check out great views of the prairie in Central Illinois and see some great fall colors as you bike, run or walk the trail.
When you get into St. Joe, you can check out one of the newer restaurants in town that utilize local ingredients. The Wheelhouse is a great farm-to-table restaurant right at the end of the trail who’s menu changes almost daily due to their use of fresh ingredients!
Speaking of local flavors, two organizations have great events coming up supporting the use of ingredients from local farms. First up is the Artisan Cup & Fork which will feature chef Ryan Rogiers from the Wheelhouse, as well as four other Central Illinois chefs that are paired with local farms. This is a fundraiser for the Land Connection and will happen this Sunday at the City Center. Next week, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Local Flavors series showcases bacaro on October 19. Bacaro continually works to utilize local ingredients and this event will continue to support that mission.
Finally, October brings along plenty of haunted houses to check out. Don’t miss Baldwin Asylum in Rantoul which has consistently been voted one of the top ten haunts in the state. Midway of Madness at the Champaign County Fairgrounds features crazy clowns and carnies, in another terrifying experience if you’re brave enough to make your way through.