Enjoy fall to its fullest with these family activities

Pumpkins are the stars of the season. An afternoon at a pumpkin farm can be for families of all ages, not just younger children. (Photo courtesy of Dollinger Farm)

Fall is here, the weather is turning cooler, and it is a perfect time to head outside with your family to explore nature. However, it can sometimes be hard to think of activities that will encourage everyone to head outside.

October and November are still good months to explore nature or to visit some recreation farms in your area for a day or afternoon.  If possible, plan a weekend away to explore fall in that region of the state.

Adventures in Nature

Don’t worry if you missed it this summer, the activities are all still available and the weather is cooler to get outside and explore. The activities focus on five areas: water, plants, animals, art in nature, and stewardship. Some of the activity areas have additional handouts which can be found here. They are designed to be easy to do with minimal supplies.

Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are another favorite activity for my family. University of Illinois Extension colleagues Brittany Haag and Nick Frillman created a great nature scavenger hunt list. (see box below).

One way to connect with each other and enjoy the fresh, fall air is getting on horseback and taking a leisurely ride on a trail or horse farm. (Photo courtesy of enjoyillinois.com)

This list offers great ways to incorporate technology in the scavenger hunt! And if you are still looking for some additional outdoor activities or perhaps some you can do inside on a rainy day, check out this great fall bucket list of activities.

Wonder through a corn maze

Seems every county has a few corn mazes it likes to tout as the best, so pick one each weekend to check it out as a family. Richardson’s Adventure Farm in Spring Grove is certainly the largest one — larger than 21 football fields and 10 miles of trails. The design changes every year. After completing the maze, you can also go on a hayride, have a campfire, or even ride a 100-foot slide. Check out corn mazes from the website www.onlyinyourstate.com/illinois/corn-mazes-il/.

Adventure Farm in Spring Grove features the state’s largest corn maze, encompassing 10 miles of trails. (Photo courtesy of Richardson Farm)

Pumpkin farms

Searching for the perfect pumpkin is not just for kids.  People of all ages can enjoy a visit to a pumpkin farm because it isn’t just about picking out a pumpkin to carve or decorate.  Pumpkin farms are usually much more than that.  There is sipping apple cider, indulging in sweet, seasonal treats or a tasty lunch, buying crafts and fall decorations, and more.  For a list of pumpkins across Illinois and neighboring states, go to https://web.extension.illinois.edu/pumpkins/pumpkinfarms.cfm.

Horseback riding

For those looking for a rustic adventure and love animals, think of planning a day or afternoon on horseback. Illinois has a variety of good horseback riding trails and horse farms that appeal to both the beginner and experienced equestrian. This is a good activity for a family outing in the crisp fall air and to take in the fall foliage.  To find some good horse trails. Go to https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/recreation/HorsebackRiding/Pages/default.aspx,

www.alltrails.com/us/illinois/horseback-riding, https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/illinois/horse-farms-il/,

Apple picking

The only fall flavor that rivals all things pumpkin is perhaps apple. There are many varieties of the fruit and each comes with its specific use and taste.  Illinois has some good apple orchards that are either standalones or are part of a multiuse farm that offer a wide variety of products and activities.  Go to https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/illinois/apple-orchards-il/ to find one near you.

Apple picking, offered at orchards and farms across Illinois, is a popular seasonal activity. (Photo courtesy of Curtis Orchard and Pumpkin Patch)

Hope these activities help get you and your family outdoors and exploring!

University of Illinois Extension Services and Chronicle Media

Scavenger hunt list

  • Find three different colors of leaves
  • Find a simple leaf
  • Find a compound leaf
  • Find a pine cone
  • Find an acorn
  • Take a picture of a spider web
  • Find a seed head from a flower
  • Find a fallen branch
  • Take a picture of a cloud
  • Find a round rock
  • Look for a bird
  • Take a picture of a hole in a tree
  • Spy on a squirrel or rabbit
  • Find a blooming flower
  • Look for a pill bug
  • Take a picture of something that smells good
  • Take a picture of something that is soft