It’s hard to believe that crisp fall days and sweater weather are lurking around the corner. Resist the urge to mourn another summer in the books and look ahead to those sweet-spot autumn temps that are perfection for outdoor exploring. Over half of Wisconsin is covered in forest, making it an ideal place to view the stunning colors of the harvest season. Take a quick day or weekend trip to partake in the beauty of Wisconsin and enjoy everything from pumpkin patches to train rides.
Pick (or Catapult) Your Perfect Pumpkin
Orange or white, short and squatty or tall and slender, pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. You'll have your pick at one of Wisconsin's numerous pumpkin farms.
Waldvogel Farm starts its season Sep. 18 and being the biggest in the state, you won't be at a loss for activities. You'll find more than 60 attractions, including the world's largest inflatable pumpkin. Have you ever tried pumpkin bowling? If that's a no, here's your chance. Burch Barn lets you try your hand at knocking down some pins before you start searching for your take-home pumpkin. And at Mommsen's Harvel Hills in Rice Lake, you can catapult pumpkins 300 feet into the air with their medieval trebuchet catapult.
Get Lost & Found in a Corn Maze
After pumpkin-picking, wind your way through a corn maze and then rest up at one of the rented bone fire areas at Schuster Farm in Deerfield. For those who prefer to do their corn-maze-conquering in the dark, the farm keeps the 20-acre maze open until 11 p.m.
In a mash-up of art, outdoor game and social experiment, Treinen Farm's unique corn mazes have a specific theme each year, with an entire experience built around that theme. Once you enter the maze, you'll be handed a map with missing pieces that are gathered as you make your way to different stages that take you to the finish line. This year's theme is Cat and Other Thought Experiments.
Gather Apples (& Maybe Some Peaches, Too!)
It doesn't get any more midwest-fall than picking apples. Eau Claire's The Glass Orchard is a combo orchard and glass blowing studio. After picking apples, take a peek at their shop where customers can find glass-blown pumpkins and ornaments. While you're in the area, stop by Dixon's Autumn Harvest Orchard and Winery that offers free hayrides and mazes for kids on the weekends.
If you're looking for something more than apples, Ecker's Apple Farm grows Wisconsin peaches in the fall and offers local brews at Hog's Back Brew Farms, a unique beer garden nestled among the apple trees.
Chug, Chug the Day Away on a Train Ride
Make your harvesting fun uniquely special and view the fall foliage aboard a historic train ride with Mid-Continent Railway. They offer a Pumpkin Special ride that lets riders hop off to pick their pumpkins halfway through at Quartzite Lake.
Can't-Miss Harvest Festivals
Press your own apple cider using historic traditional equipment from the Washington Island Farm Museum at the Fall Fun Fest & Cider Pressing Party. While you're there, sip on local cider while the kids snack on freshly dipped caramel apples.
Did you know Wisconsin has a state fruit? Yep, it's cranberries. The Warrens Cranberry Festival, Sep. 24-26, includes a guided tour of the surrounding cranberry marshes that provide fresh local cranberries.
Cedarburg's Wine and Harvest Festival, Sep. 18-19, will delight the adult palates in the group, but kids will be entertained watching the pumpkin carving demonstration, pumpkin regatta, grape stomping contests and the giant pumpkin weigh-in.
Orchards from across the county come together for the Bayfield AppleFest, Oct. 1-3 as a celebration of fall, nature and agriculture. The apple peeling contest is always a highlight, as is the crowning of the Apple Queen. There are more than 15 apple orchards within a few miles of the city limits, making it the perfect place for an orchard visit. Be sure to stop by Superior View Farm, a 100-year-old orchard that is home to the one-of-a-kind Merlot apple that was started right there on the farm.
— Maria Chambers