By Amanda N. Wegner
Autumn afternoons are some of the best of the year. There’s a bite in the air, trees are ablaze with color, there are crisp apples and hayrides to enjoy plus there’s that perfect pumpkin to find, and luckily, there are multiple destinations in and near Walworth County for families to find fall fun. So here are four popular options to consider this season – check them out – and happy fall!
THE ELEGANT FARMER
Whether you’re continuing a family tradition or starting a new one this fall, The Elegant Farmer near Mukwonago offers a family fun farm experience.
Home of the Smilin’ Barn, The Elegant Farmer invites visitors to its annual Autumn Harvest Fest, held Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 7-Oct. 26, when the orchard is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the market is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Everyone is welcome to the orchard to pick from our 12 varieties of apples right from the tree or choose the perfect pumpkin from the patch,” says Penny Molina, who represents The Elegant Farmer.
Enjoy beautiful fall colors aboard a tractor-pulled hayride, pony ride or train ride, try the five-acre farm scene corn maze, or jump on the East Troy Electric Railroad’s historic trolleys or interurban railcars, which depart from and return to The Elegant Farmer Depot.
Of course, no visit to The Elegant Farmer would be complete without an award-winning apple pie in a bag. Named “best pie in America” by the The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, Food Network and generations of happy customers, the Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag® features mounds of fresh, juicy, sweet-tart Ida Red apples.
“The method of baking in a paper bag creates a unique, crunchy, sugar cookie-like top crust and a light, flaky, old-fashioned bottom crust,” says Molina. “This all combines to make this nationally acclaimed classic pie a taste treat.”
Another don’t-miss treat is The Elegant Farmer’s ever-popular cider donut, made fresh in the Donut Shack on Saturdays and Sundays.
1545 Main St., Mukwonago | 262-363-6770 | elegantfarmer.com
PEARCE’S FARM STAND
Pearce’s Farm Stand, near Fontana, provides the opportunity to buy the very best locally grown produce and other goods. This season, notes Karen Pearce, that includes but is not limited to pumpkins; squash; potatoes; peppers of all types and colors; sweet corn; popcorn; jams and jellies; maple syrup; fall mums and other fall decorations; cheesy beer dip; and much, much more!
But Pearce’s is much more than a farm stand. The property features a 13-acre corn maze, free hayrides to the pumpkin patch on the weekends and plenty of free activities for children, including the chance to check out a real John Deere combine, human hamster wheel and tube rollers. And they certainly won’t want to miss Pearce’s famous “jumping bales” – a series of hay bales that kids can jump and play on.
“We have music on weekends. Come enjoy a free hayride to the pumpkin patch with a cup of hot cider or hot chocolate, then enjoy the music while the kids are playing on the jumping bales or finding their way through the corn maze,” says Pearce, who helps run the farm stand with a number of other family members.
To fuel all the activity, Pearce’s offers its popular concession stand, which features brats and hot dogs, hot cappuccino, hot and cold apple cider and hot apple cider donuts. They also offer a variety of baked goods and other sweets. Make sure to try Pearce’s famous cranberry nut crunch cookies and don’t leave without a caramel apple, made by scratch in a copper kettle.
Pearce’s premier annual event is its Customer Appreciation Weekend, Sept. 14-15, which includes live music and dancers, plus free cooked sweet corn on Sunday.
In addition, Pearce’s is hosting two events featuring one of the most recognizable names in Wisconsin agriculture: Alice in Dairyland. Pearce’s will host an Alice in Dairyland farm-to-table dinner fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 22 (tickets required), and Alice will visit the farm during Pumpkin Fest, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 19.
5740 N. Walworth Rd., Walworth | 262-275-3783 | pearcefarms.com
ROYAL OAK FARM
Tucked just over the state line, Royal Oak Farm Orchard, near Harvard, Illinois, offers a little something for everyone. “Our farm is a fourth-generation, family run farm that really focuses on giving families the ability to grow their own memories here,” says co-owner Sarah Bell. “Our desire is for this to be a place where families can come to get away from the business of life, spend quality time together and enjoy the beauty of creation.”
For children, the farm offers a free playground and petting zoo. There is also a train and carousel to keep kids occupied with rides just $3 each.
Royal Oak is also home to the country’s only apple tree maze, Amaze ‘N Apples. “Enjoy adventuring through three miles of trails planted entirely in apple trees and even pluck two apples to enjoy while you’re walking through,” says Bell. “Full of games, photo ops, and a climbing tower, this is a great family activity.”
For those who prefer shopping, there are three retail stores, including two that house fun food products such as delicious apples, cider and pumpkins. This year, adds Bell, Royal Oak is offering a new Sparkling Honeycrisp Cider and a new Apple Cider Vinegar produced from the farm’s cider.
A gift shop and bakery offer fun for all ages with great shopping, smells and eats. An on-site restaurant, known for its down-home country cooking and chicken pot pies, serves lunch daily.
If that wasn’t enough, the grounds are impeccable, studded with more than 20,000 trees offering 30 varieties of apples, including Honeycrisp, along with other new and heirloom varieties. “The orchard is beautiful. It’s very scenic here,” says Bell. “The orchard itself is gorgeous, but the grounds are full of rolling hills, open space, oak groves and gorgeous color in the fall.”
In addition to other harvest produce, Royal Oak also offers a pumpkin patch in October.
“There is so much to do, it’s hard to pack it into an afternoon,” says Bell, “but it makes for a fun trip for sure.”
15908 Hebron Rd. Harvard, Illinois | 815-648-4141 | royaloakfarmorchard.com
APPLE BARN WINERY & ORCHARD
Want a little fruit with that wine? Apple Barn Winery & Orchard near Elkhorn can accommodate both tastes with their abundance of apples and their varietals of wine. “Customers love our award-winning fruit wines made on site,” says Judy Jacobson, who owns the winery and orchard with her husband, Steve.
“They also love the taste and smell of cider donuts in the fall. And we have great tasting caramel apples made with our very own Holiday Apple,” says Jacobson. “Plus, families love our fresh apple cider … and there’s so much more to experience!”
Apple Barn offers pick-your-own apples on the weekends during the fall, with tractor rides through the orchard. Some great tasting apples to try, says Jacobson, are the Jona Gold, Autumn Gala, Holiday or Ginger Gold, in addition to the standard varieties such as McIntosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp and Ida Red.
While Apple Fest is held annually the last weekend of September, each weekend offers some sort of fall activity or event, says Jacobson. As an added bonus, entertainment is free, and the business doesn’t charge an admission or parking fee.
You can also pair your orchard visit with wine tastings, which are offered at scheduled times in the fall and can be found on the Apple Barn website. If you need a little more sustenance, Jacobson encourages visitors to stop by the new Duesterbeck Brewing Co., which just opened a “stone’s throw” from the orchard. “We will be working together to offer visitors a ‘Taste of Wisconsin,’” she says.
W6384 Sugar Creek Rd., Elkhorn | 262-728-3266 | applebarnorchardandwinery.com