Fall is beloved for many reasons, and now we can add “coronavirus-friendly” to its list of merits.
Go ahead and enjoy apple picking, corn mazes and pumpkin patches, which are outdoorsy by their nature. Many popular fall harvest destinations have this year added reservation policies and timed tickets to control crowds and promote social distancing.
We’ve rounded up some options in the Chicago area, all open through the end of October, but have excluded farms in Wisconsin and Indiana due to the city’s emergency travel order. Before heading out, be sure to check an individual farm’s website or social media accounts, as the status of activities like apple picking change frequently. A note to pet owners: Other than bona fide service animals, pets are not allowed at farms.
Inside city limits
Lincoln Park Zoo, North Cannon Drive and West Fullerton Parkway. The zoo is decked for fall with carved pumpkins, hay bales and corn husks galore, and boasts a pumpkin patch as well. Reservations are required. New this year is a pumpkin walk through the children’s zoo, tickets for which cost $3; the zoo itself remains free.
New Magnolia Garden Center, at The Plant, 1400 W. 46th Street. Swing by the seasonal pumpkin patch on Sundays, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., during the weekly Vegan Paradise farmers market. Pick up a pumpkin, hot cocoa, vegan S’mores kit and more.
Suburbs and beyond
Honey Hill Orchard, 11783 Waterman Rd., Waterman. Open daily for apple picking and pumpkin patch. Check the website or Facebook for the current schedule of which apple varieties are ripe for picking. No reservations required.
Royal Oak Farm, 15908 Hebron Road, Harvard. A highlight of Royal Oak is its unique apple maze, formed from apple trees trained to grow flat against a frame. No reservations are needed for the U-pick orchard or pumpkin patch.
Kroll's Farm, 13236 W. Townline Road, Waukegan. In addition to its pumpkin patch, Kroll’s has a corn maze, petting zoo, hay rides and pumpkin doughnuts made fresh daily. Like most farms, Kroll’s is open daily. Unlike most, it keeps late hours, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, when it closes at 10 p.m. Timed tickets required on weekends and Columbus Day.
Jonamac Orchard, 19412 Shabbona Rd, Malta. Jonamac sees other farms’ U-pick offerings and raises them an apple cannon. On Friday and Saturday nights, the family friendly daytime corn maze becomes a haunted nightmare.
All Seasons Apple Orchard, 14510 IL Route 176 Woodstock. In a case of one-upmanship, All Seasons has apple cannons and pumpkin bowling. And pedal karts. And duck races, a mini-zip line and about 20 other things to do, on top of apple picking and a pumpkin patch. Capacity is limited on weekends and holidays; purchase an online ticket in advance for admission.
Odyssey Fun Farm, 18900 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park. To shake things up, Odyssey lists a corn cannon among its numerous attractions. No apples here, but along with a pumpkin patch, there’s an Instagram-friendly pumpkin house. Odyssey also prides itself on its 15-acre corn maze, which in 2020 has been designed as a tribute to the late Kobe Bryant.
Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm, 3341 W. 151st St., Homer Glen. If you’ve got a surly teen, tell them about Bengtson’s selfie booth and pumpkin chucker. The apple cider doughnuts and pumpkin churros are also crowd pleasers.
Kuipers Family Farm, 1N318 Watson Road (pumpkin farm), 1N145 Watson Road (apple orchard), Maple Park. Pumpkins, apples and pig races, oh my! Kuipers has it all, and by all we mean a pedal tractor derby, corn maze, giant slide, duck races, tire mountain and more. No reservations are needed for the apple orchard but the pumpkin farm requires weekend reservations.
Goebbert's Pumpkin Farm, 42W813 Reinking Road, Pingree Grove. Apple picking season is over at Goebbert’s but that leaves more time to enjoy the pumpkin cannon, giant pumpkin slide and pumpkin-eating dinosaur.