I was basically kidnapped and brought to my first Chicago land orchard by my enthusiastic roommate. After the drive and the parking, I became fully committed to the Midwest experience and was eager to try everything. Harvest Time Orchards in Twin Lakes, WI warmed my heart through the lovely horse-drawn wagon ride, their plentiful snack options of corn dogs, ears of corn, donuts and cider, and by charming me with their baby animals. Petting a joey will always ease me of any inhibitions. 

The season is running out, but there is still time to make memories! Skip the multiple searches, the reviewing of the top 10 lists and get in your car. I did the research for you and organized the key attractions to help you choose the right direction. 

 For the Most Attractions

1. Bengtson’s Pumpkin Fest - $$ 4/5 Yelp Reviews  

  • Located South West of Chicago: 13341 W 151st St Homer Glen, Illinois 60491
  • Open through October 30, 2016, Hours: F 9am – 9pm, Sa 9am-8pm, Su-Th 11am-9pm 

This is literally the perfect "farm" for people like me that actually prefer as little as an authentic farm experience as possible. Too much fresh air does not agree with my allergies in the fall. This is more like an amusement park. There are so many rides, everything is paved, and there's several places to get a meal or snack throughout the "farm." Besides the rides, my kids loved the awesome corn pit. It's just what it sounds like, a big old pit of corn. The kids were diving in and out of it for a good 45 minutes. They also liked the dancing chickens and the haunted barn. My advice is to go during the week. It's cheaper and there aren't crazy crowds.” Amber S.  

TIPS: Cheaper prices and fewer people during the week.

SPECIAL FEATURES: food trucks, amusement park like, pumpkin launchers and corn pit,  parking free, rides unlimited

2. Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm - $$$ 3.5/5 Yelp Reviews

  • Located South West of Chicago: 17250 Weber Road, Lockport, Illinois 60441
  • Open 10am – 6 pm daily

“The farm has many things for your family to do and have fun. The attractions can keep your kids busy all day. The food is very good. The smoked turkey leg can feed 3 people. Dave’s seafood shack was very good also. It should be moved closer to the attractions to get more exposure. The prices were reasonable and you got a big portion. Recommend doing away with coupons and lower the price to enter a bit for everyone to get more people to attend with their families. Not everyone follows the website to get coupons. The overall experience is recommended as good clean family fun.” John G.

TIPS: Pay online to get a discount and print your tickets.  

SPECIAL FEATURES: 30 attractions for kids, paintball, zip line, variety of food

For The Cider and Donuts

County Line Orchard - $$ 3.5/5 Yelp Reviews 

  • Located South East of Chicago: 200 S County Line Rd, Hobart, IN 46342
  • Open to October 31, 2016 daily from 9 am - 6 pm

 “The line on County Line Road leading up to the orchard can get long but the orchard is worth the wait! Right off the bat when you get out of your car, you can smell the wonderful apple-tastic and fried aromas wafting through the air. There is plenty of fried delicious food to eat or if you're in the mood to just eat dessert, you won't have a problem finding something you want here. We started with half a dozen apple cinnamon donuts, caramel apples with different nut toppings, and two kinds of fudge. The donuts are of course a must but everything else was great too. There is a tasting station in the back if you want to taste something before you commit. You'll also be able to find all sorts of unique condiments and gifts in the store, ranging from chipotle ketchup and maple bacon peanut butter to Christmas jam and tomatillo salsa. Other sweets that are definitely worth trying: the peach berry pie (peach, blueberry and cherry), the oatmeal caramel apple cookie, and the donut parfait. When you're done in the store, there are plenty of activities to try. Besides the apple picking with tons of different varieties, there is a themed corn maze (this year was election-themed: choose Trump, Clinton, or Dory!), a pumpkin patch, and of course, the Moo choo tractor ride! You'll leave feeling full of fall and food!” Stephanie T.

TIPS: Go during the week or early.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cherry Apple Cider and donuts, petting farm, corn maze, bee house, u-pick, bathrooms, themed corn maze

For the Farm Animals

Johansen Farms Children’s Zoo – $$ 3/5 Yelp Reviews 

  • Located South West of Chicago: 710 W Boughton Rd. Bolingbrook, IL 60440
  • Open until October 31, 2016 from 9am – 7pm

“Came here on the last day of the season last year and it was semi-cold, but the sun was out so we thought we'd give it a try. Had a Groupon which saved some $$$, I'm not sure I'd come back to pay full price. We spent a good few hours here - which is good when trying to entertain your little ones. But we brought lunch and ate in the picnic area. If you don't eat there, I'm sure you'd spend much less time there as well.
 - Many different types of animals to see, some to hold/pet
 - Apple cider mini donuts, fresh and warm
 - Giant slides & bounce house for kids
 - Covered picnic area, so bring your own lunch!
 - Pumpkin patch
 - I loved the bunnies! So many to see, but can't pet them. “ Ashley A.

TIPS: Check for a Groupon online before you go.

SPECIAL FEATURES: over 500 animals, corn maze, pumpkin picking, hayrides, pie house and bakery, free parking, no admission for general area.      

For Exotic Animals

 Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch - $$ 4/5 Yelp Reviews

  • Located West of Chicago: 2W813 Reinking Rd, Hampshire, IL 60140
  • Open through October 30th, 2016, 9am - 6pm daily 
Fun way to spend a few hours on a nice fall day! Parking is free and easily accessible. $12 admission covers 15 activities including pig races, wagon rides, a pumpkin eating dinosaur, exotic animal petting zoo and the ability to feed giraffes! They also have tons of pumpkins, a nice selection of mums/other fall plants as well as crafts and other country store type goods for purchase. Now I don't have kids so I found that I got a lot for my money. The food here is a little expensive, so I could see why some may think this place is a little overpriced. Will definitely be coming back here again soon!”
TIPS: Arrive early.

SPECIAL FEATURES: exotic petting farm, pumpkin eating dinosaur, paintball

 For the Pumpkins

Stade’s Farm and Market - $$ 4/5 Yelp Reviews 

  • Located North West of Chicago: 3709 Miller Rd McHenry, IL 60051
  • Season Open through October 30th, 2016 9am - 6:30pm
 This place is great! My wife, 13 year old daughter and I brought my twin two-year-old niece and nephew along with their 7 year-old sister. There were attractions and activities to satisfy all ages. We arrived Sunday morning at opening (10:00). We got in before the crowds and had no wait for any rides. We all enjoyed some rides, including the carousel and train. The older kids like the zip-line, and corn guns. There is so much to see and do. Bouncies, mazes, petting zoo. Lots of good food too. I enjoyed the cheese curds and sweet corn. The pumpkin cannon is a must! It shoots a pumpkin every hour on the hour. It looks crazy, but everyone loved it! We came here approximately 10 years ago when my children were young. Wow has it grown. I can't believe what it has morphed into! Keep up the great work.” Fred M.

TIPS: Check their calendar for in season produce.

SPECIAL FEATURES: smoke-free, Sunday worship, farmer’s market, petting zoo, semi-truck slide,

For The Adults

Jonamac Orchard - $$ 3.5/5 Yelp Review

  • Located West of Chicago: 19412 Shabbona Rd. Malta, IL 60150
  • Open until November 23, 2016 starting daily at 9 am, various hours for activities 

“Maybe it was the perfect autumn day - slightly cool, breezy, brilliantly blue sky - maybe it was the happy families laughing and plucking apples, maybe it was the biggest pumpkin field I've ever seen, maybe it was the apple cider donuts, but our visit to this orchard made my autumn! Yes, I think you pay a little more for apples, but c'mon, you or your adorable granddaughter are picking them from sturdy little trees and delight is all around. Priceless. I look forward to apple cider donuts and these are really scrumptious! My husband got an apple dumpling and if I had just a tiny bit less restraint I would've gotten that too. It's a pastry enclosing warm apple filling. So good. The grounds of the establishment are well manicured with bales of hay and baskets of flowers for great photo ops and resting places. There's a cider house - pretty crowded, not our thing with a 2 year old, but everyone seemed to be having a great time tasting the wines and hard ciders. There's a store (no samples, darn) with the usual farm and apple related items, and a very large kid's section with things to climb on, jump on, and pet. We definitely would have done that but the 2 year old was falling asleep. Next year for sure. Apples, apples, apples - rows and rows of them. This is a serious orchard! So many different kinds and the online schedule lets you know what's ready to pick and when, so you can plan your visit. Plus the store has lots of different varieties bagged and ready to go. We took a look at that "pumpkin patch" and I have to say I gasped when I came around the corner and saw the length and breadth of it! Truly impressive! There's a free wagon ride out to it and the apple launcher. So many fun things to do! Sounds like an annual tradition for us now.“ Paula F.

TIPS: Sit at a table for flight tasting,

SPECIALS FEATURES: cider and wine tasting, haunted corn maze Friday and Saturday Nights, bakery, u-pick, campfire sites

Best Over All Value 

Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm -$ 5/5 Yelp Reviews

  • Located North of Chicago: 13236 W Town Line Rd, Waukegan, IL 60087
  • Open M-Th 12 pm - 8 pm, F 12pm -10pm, Sa 10 am -10 pm, Su 10 am – 7pm
Such an awesome place, totally worth the drive from Chicago. Small farm where you only pay for what you want (no stupid admission fees). Went on a Saturday late morning/early afternoon and wasn't overly crowded. They have a great selection of pumpkins and gourds, which were reasonably priced. Homemade pumpkin doughnuts and hot cider were delicious. The corn maze was super fun and an absolute must. I'm so happy we found this place!” Melanie M.

TIPS: They only accept cash, but ATM on site. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: educational hay ride and animal farm, no admission fee, night corn maze, cider and doughnuts.  

There's still a couple good weekends to find your perfect orchard. I'll see you out there! I suddenly have a craving for cider ....