Picking a pumpkin is one of the great rites of fall, the first step toward that greatest of all kid holidays: Halloween.
But these days, choosing the right pumpkin is just the beginning. Pumpkin farms have added corn mazes, pony rides, hayrides and other activities to draw families for the day, rather than just the hour.
Here is a list of some of the pumpkin farms in and around the Chicago area. Many of these farms are open seasonally, so call before you go.
Illinois Bengston’s Pumpkin Farm 13341 W. 151st St., Homer Glen (708) 301-3276, www.pumpkinfarm.com The stroller-friendly Pumpkin Fest includes Mr. Scarecrow’s Corn Maze, a hayride, the Haunted Barn and a shop. Yellow and white pumpkins are 29 cents per pound. Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily through Oct. 30. Admission: $10, $9 kids 3-11, free kids 2 and under. Check Web site for coupons.
Blackberry Farms Pioneer Village 100 S. Barnes Rd., Aurora (630) 892-1550, www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org Pumpkin weekends are Oct. 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30. Kids can ride a pumpkin train, carousel and ponies at this living history museum. And, of course, pick a pumpkin. Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Call for admission.
Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch 42W813 Reinking Rd., Hampshire (847) 464-5952, www.pumpkinfarms.com The Fall Festival (through Oct. 31) features a 3-D Haunted Mine, wagon and pony rides, corn maze, roast corn on weekends and u-pick pumpkins (39 cents per pound). Eat at the Farmer’s Wife Café. Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Admission: $6 weekends and Columbus Day, $4 Monday-Friday, free kids 2 and under. Additional fees for some activities. Check Web site for coupons.
Johansen Farms 710 W. Boughton Rd., Bolingbrook (630) 759-8711, www.johansenfarms.com This stroller-friendly farm has a petting zoo, pony rides, hayrides, a craft barn and pumpkins. Wash your hands after petting the animals. Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Admission: $8 weekends, $7 Monday-Friday, free kids 2 and under.
Keller’s Farmstand 721 S. Route 30, Plainfield (815) 439-0420, www.kellersfarmstand.com Pre-picked and u-pick pumpkins and a 14-acre corn maze. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends and Columbus Day. Admission: $6, free kids 4 and under.
Kinsch’s Autumn Fun Fest 301 W. Johnson St., Palatine (847) 289-7178, www.kinschflorist.com This stroller-friendly area includes pumpkin patches, a toddler play area, a corn maze, feeding zoo and a monster slide. Wash your hands after feeding the animals. Check the Web site for weekend entertainment. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily in October. Admission: $7.50 weekends, $5.50 weekdays, free kids 2 and under. Extra fees for some rides.
Kuipers Family Farm 1N318 Watson Rd., Maple Park (815) 827-5200, www.kuipersfamilyfarm.com A Bunny Barnyard, grain train and playground add to the fun at this kid-friendly complex. You can also go on a nature walk and climb a straw mountain. Pre-picked and u-pick pumpkins. Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekends in October. Check Web site for coupons.
Lambs Farm I-94 and Route 176, Libertyville (847) 362-4636, www.lambsfarm.org This is a great place for little ones. Ride the Train of Terror along haunted Lambs Lake ($5), play 18 holes of Graveyard Golf among the tombstones ($5) and take a walk in the luminary-guided farmyard ($3). Also, pumpkins, gourds, corn and straw bales. More than 250 developmentally disabled adults live and work at this center. Hours: 6-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday Oct. 7-29. Admission: $15 (all-night pass), free kids 3 and under.
Quigs Orchard 300 S. Route 60/83, Mundelein (847) 566-4520, www.quigs.com A haunted barn (weekends only), pony rides and tractor-pulled hayrides through the apple orchards. There’s also a restaurant, country store and pumpkins—while they last. Routes 60 and 83 merge into one road for several miles, so call for directions. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends. Admission: $3 per activity.
Richardson Farm and Corn Maze 9407 Richardson Rd., Spring Grove (815) 675-9729, www.richardsonfarm.com Richardson’s boasts the world’s largest corn maze—25 acres. This year’s maze celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl Championship. There are four mazes—one honors Walter Payton; the smallest is stroller accessible. Along with pumpkins, there’s a soybean maze for kids (soybeans are shorter than cornstalks). Hours: 3-9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 3-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday through October. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Columbus Day. Admission: $8.50, $6 seniors and kids 5-12, free kids 5 and under.
Indiana Buckley Homestead Corn Maze 3606 Belshaw Rd., Lowell (219) 755-3685, www.lakecountyparks.org No pumpkins here, but a good maze—this year, it’s in the shape of Lake County, Ind., where the maze is located. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends through Oct. 30. Admission: $5, $4 kids 5-12, free kids 4 and under.
Garwood Orchard 5911 W. 50 S. Rd., LaPorte (800) 588-0260, www.garwoodorchard.com Get pre-picked or u-pick pumpkins and apples. Horse-drawn wagons and live music most weekends. Hours: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
Wisconsin The Elegant Farmer 1545 Main St., Mukwonago (262) 363-6770, www.elegantfarmer.com Carmelize an apple and take a $2 hayride to the fields to pick a pumpkin. Pick a free gourd, too. Apples also should be available. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
Thompson Strawberry Farm 14000 75th St., Bristol (847) 679-8140, www.thompsonstrawberryfarm.com Take your vehicle out into the field for pumpkins and gourds. $50 for a car or truckload, $100-200 for truck beds and $200 for a utility van. Call for produce availability. Hours: 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends.
Karen Stoner is a Chicago Parent contributor who lives in Oak Park with her 8-year-old daughter.