The leaves have just started changing, but fall activities are already out in force.
One fun family activity is the challenge of the corn maze. A variety of locations in the suburbs feature mazes along with pumpkin patches, hay rides and petting zoos. So plan a trip, enjoy the autumn weather and take advantage of the season before it's over.
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Autumn Fun Fest at Kinsch Village Florist
301 W. Johnson St., Palatine, (847) 359-1182, kinschflorist.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday through Oct. 30
Price: $2; $7 for kids ages 6 months to 12 years old
Autumn Fun Fest features a special 3,800-square-foot Little Tyke tent for kids younger than 5, complete with its own maze and inflatables.
"It's really geared for the littler guys, which is nice," said marketing director Diane Kinsch. "Back in '04 we were just starting our own family, and my husband said 'We go to all these farms, and there's nothing for the tykes and toddlers.'"
Kinsch's corn maze has gotten bigger each year, though this year it served as a home for a huge number of blackbirds that bent the plants in odd directions and made them look a bit spooky. The event also features a farm animal zoo, a haunted house, a game area where parents can play with their kids, and an activities tent offering crafts, storytelling and visits from characters like Snow White.
"I think people are making it more of a destination each year," Kinsch said. "They find they can spend a good afternoon here and not get bored. We're very proud of it."
Konow's Corn Maze
16849 S. Cedar Road, Homer Glen, (708) 301-8845, konowscornmaze.com
Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Oct. 30
Price: $9; free for kids younger than 3
The 13-acre corn maze has five miles of trails geared toward younger kids with nothing scary or spooky. Families can also pet and feed the farm's collection of gentle animals including calves, sheep, miniature horses, alpacas and two litters of piglets. For more farm-themed fun, you can take a hayride or ride in train cars shaped like cows or wagons. Kids can also bounce on a 40-by-60-foot inflatable jumping pillow and play in a pit filled with 2,000 bushels of shelled corn. Konow also added a mechanical bull this year.
"The kids just absolutely love it," owner Walter Konow said. "You're not trying to throw somebody off. It just goes up and down, and the parents get absolutely incredible pictures and video. It's been a real positive attraction this year."
Meadow View Corn Maze
17020 Streit Road, Harvard, (815) 482-0908, meadowviewmaze.com
Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday; through Oct. 30
Admission: $10; $8 for kids ages 4-12 and seniors; free for kids younger than 4
This is the second year that Meadow View Farm has dedicated part of its land to building a corn maze. The 10-acre maze's theme this year is "Every Day Heroes" and it commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with images of a police car, firetruck and the Twin Towers. Maze explorers get a map and a punch card, where they have a mission to get punches at all 12 stations inside. The exploration is timed, and the person who gets through the maze fastest at the end of the season will receive an iPod shuffle. Meadow View also has weekly drawings for a set of four passes for a return visit. During the last two weeks of October, the maze becomes haunted after dark.
"The maze is full of staff that are in costume, and they hide in the corn and can jump out and scare people," general manager Julie Pelletier said. "There's sound effects throughout the maze."
Other activities include a pumpkin patch, a hayride, a bounce house and a corn kernel pit. Visitors can also take home decorations including cornstalks, bales of hay and gourds.
Richardson Adventure Farm
9407 Richardson Road, Spring Grove, (815) 675-9729, richardsonadventurefarm.com
Hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 3 to 11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday; through Oct. 31
Admission: $12.95; $9.95 for kids ages 4-12; free for kids younger than 4
Billed as the home of the world's largest corn maze, Richardson's actually boasts five interconnected mazes through 33 acres of living corn. Before or after you spend time navigating the maze, you can scope it out from a 50-foot tall observation tower. You can tour the maze at night with the assistance of glow sticks and flashlights. On Halloween night local firefighters and other volunteers will haunt the maze, with the night's proceeds benefiting local charities. The farm is packed with other activities for families including a pumpkin patch, a shelled corn sandbox, pig races and a jumping pillow.