When we first arrived at Edward’s Apple Orchard, all of our senses were touched by the things that characterize this glorious time of year – the sight of rows and rows of fat, bright orange pumpkins ready to be taken home and carved, the feel of the damp leaves strewn across the farm grounds beneath our feet, the smell of freshly baked donuts somewhere off in the distance, and the sound of squeals of delight from children whose outstretched hands touched the happy heads of farm animals.

I looked down happily at my niece, whose eyes darted from one scene to the next, as if she was taking into careful consideration where she should lead us to first. It wasn’t her first trip to the farm, but each year she relishes our fall family trip with renewed wonder.

Fall is the best time of year to corral the kids and head to the country. We were just an hour and a half drive from Chicago, but everything felt different.  It felt the way the fall season described in books feels, with the trees sporting leaves of bold reds, golds, and browns and the fields and orchards ripe with the season’s harvest.

Edward’s Apple Orchard is a family owned and operated orchard packed with family-friendly activities and a reliable destination for taking advantage of the fall season. Once devastated by a tornado, the orchard has since grown into a well-established mecca for all-things-fall-related.

We decided to start our tour of the farm’s seasonal activities in the main barn, with its traditional red siding and signature pointed roof.  Inside it was bustling with people exploring displays of handmade food products like corn salsa, pumpkin butter, or tangy BBQ sauces in varying flavors, or handmade crafts and bath products, all from local Midwest producers. As we browsed, we indulged in sampling the various flavors and products at stations throughout the barn. My personal favorite: the orchard’s signature apple butter – a not-too-sweet spread made with the orchard’s own fruit, perfect for slathering on morning toast.

This year we had decided not to pick our own apples, though the option is definitely popular. The orchard has acres of trees to select the finest fruit, and huge pumpkin patches to snap a future jack-o-lantern right off the vine.

Instead, we made our way to the crates of pre-picked apples for sale, but made sure to taste slices of Honeycrisp, Jonathon, Granny Smith, and more at the tasting station first. After filling up our old-timey wood shopping baskets with bags of our choice, we made our way to the donut bakery – and consequently, right into a long line. But don’t be dismayed, everyone knows the orchard’s freshly baked apple cider donuts are the best around. It was well worth the wait when my niece and I took our first bites of our shared donut before we were even two steps out of line – we just couldn’t wait to try the apple-y, crispy treat.  

With our shopping baskets starting to weigh us down with our fall-themed purchases, we made one last stop in the barn at the fudge station, where a dozen of homemade varieties like M&M, white chocolate, truffle, and double fudge were on display. I wasn’t shying away from taking advantage of the season to splurge a little, and opted for the double fudge after a mouth-watering sample.

Once outdoors, we found ourselves again greeted with plenty of activities to take part in, and tromped through the fallen leaves over to a smaller barn housing pigs, chickens, turkeys, and goats. We took turns feeding the greedy black and white goats much to my niece’s delight, and then made friends with the sweetest, big-eyed baby cow on earth. Hordes of smiling kids were huddling around the animals in the petting zoo, some took guided pony rides while waving to their parents, and others played on the farm’s playground or took pictures as scarecrows and farmers in one of the your-face-in-a-hole cutouts. There was absolutely plenty to keep the kids entertained while I recovered from my donut-and-fudge over-indulgence.

Midday, we had lunch at the granary, a third structure on the farm grounds filled with picnic tables and a hot food line serving up the popular pulled pork BBQ sandwich and other items. Though a simple menu, I appreciated the fact that like the products sold in the main barn, the food served was also produced locally. Even the fare served in the popular “baked potato tent,” a yellow-and-white-striped tent just outside the granary where farm goers piled mounds of cheese, sour cream, and bacon upon their freshly baked potatoes, were locally grown.

While we ate, we listened to an upbeat live bluegrass band and tried to decide if we had taken part in every fall activity available at the farm.  We decided we had after counting off on our fingers – Apples? Check. Cider donuts? Check. Farm animals? Check. BBQ? Check.– and I had never felt more satisfied. Sometimes it can be hard to pack in all that this country day trip has to offer, but like us, you’ll be happy you tried!