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Fall fun in McHenry County

Fresh apples at Royal Oak Farm. (Photo ©2010 by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Fresh apples at Royal Oak Farm. (Photo by Leah A. Zeldes.)

Load up the kids and take advantage of the delights of autumn. Nearby McHenry Co. offers country fun just a short drive away. Pick your own apples and pumpkins, wander through a corn maze, shop for freshly harvested produce and just enjoy the changing fall landscape and some time away from the city. Some farms have special Halloween happenings, too.

Here are a few fun destinations:

  • Meadow View Farm in Harvard opened to the public for the first time this summer. It’s smaller and more accessible for little kids than other area adventure farms, with a 2-acre U-pick pumpkin patch, a 10-acre corn maze, a hay maze for younger children, hay rides, moon walks and more. The concessions stand serves freshly grilled sweet corn, excellent char-grilled bratwurst, hot dogs, burgers and snacks such as soft pretzels and kettle corn. Pre-picked pumpkins, gourds and decorative items are also available. Special events feature at Halloween. The $8–10 admission charge includes all activities except food and take-home purchases.

  • Richardson Adventure Farm near Spring Grove boasts the world’s largest, most intricate corn maze, encompassing 28 acres and more than 11 miles of trails, with a variety of games; a second maze spreads over 5 acres. You can see the design from a 50-foot-tall observation tower, which also offers a zip-line ride. Other activities include rolling around in a a giant orb. Pumpkins and mums are for sale and food concessions feature on weekends. Picnic tables, campfire sites and wagon rides can be reserved. Admission, $9.95–12.95, coversthe maze, observation tower, pedal bikes, pedal trikes, 50′ tube slide, and much more. Pumpkins, food, zip line, wagon rides, and Orb available for additional fees.

  • Royal Oak Farm Orchard, near Harvard, offers 29 varieties of U-pick apples on 12,000 trees plus pumpkins; a produce barn featuring pre-picked apples and other fruits and veggies; a bakery offering freshly made apple-cider doughnuts, fruit pies, cookies and seasonal baked goods; a sweet shop offering house-dipped caramel apples, fudge and various candies; and a country store selling gift items, jellies, jams, baking mixes and their own Royal Oak Farm Honey produced by the orchard’s 60 beehives. The orchard’s Country Kitchen cafeteria is open for daily lunch and Saturday brunch. The farm also offers hay rides, a kiddie train ride, a carousel, a petting zoo, kids’ events, gospel concerts and more. Admission to the farm is free, except on Saturdays when there is a $3 charge for parking. Rides are separately priced. Royal Oak is closed on Sundays,

  • Stade’s Farm & Market in McHenry sells a wide variety of homegrown fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins and gourds , plus their own apple-cider doughnuts and other baked goods. Through Oct. 31, Stade’s runs its “Shades of Autumn” festival, featuring U-pick pumpkins, hayrides, food concessions, pony rides, Frank the Combine, a petting zoo, mazes, craft sales, concerts, a pumpkin cannon and “The Dark” (a haunted Halloween happening), plus Sunday Christian services. Admission is free; activity fees vary.