Drive with us to U-Pick apple farms in the Illinois countryside. Pick a farm near Rockford, Caledonia, Winnebago or other towns near Chicago, or head southwest to Alton orchards near the Mississippi River and St. Louis, Missouri.
In our family, a day trip to pick fruit, go on a hayride, or buy fresh baked goods is a fall highlight. Make it the perfect staycation if a tight budget keeps you close to home. Here are some tips about apple picking, pumpkin patches and fall fun in Illinois. For a complete guide to apple picking orchards and farms across the country, visit FTF’s Apple Picking USA Directory.
Illinois Apple Farms Near Rockford in Chicago Metropolitan Area
Illinois’ rural Rockford, about an hour’s drive out of Chicago, is a city of 150,000 folks who enjoy 150 public parks. Sprawling apple orchards and pumpkin patches occupy the surrounding county. It’s a good place to find seasonal fun such as hayrides and craft fairs for Christmas shopping.
Edward’s Apple Orchard West is an autumn staple that’s kept its original location. More than 60 acres of family-owned farmland are used to raise apples, pumpkins, raspberries, squash and other gourds. Don’t miss the 2,200 chrysanthemum plants. Kids will love the farm animals and horse-drawn wagon rides out into the apple orchard. Parents will love the Apple Barn, a revamped barn turned modern shop with preserves, home décor items, and of course, apples. They open for the season in August. Make sure to call ahead to book your cider donuts — they sell out fast.
On Rockford’s west side is another must-visit, Curran’s Orchard, in business for more than 35 years. They specialize in non-chemical orchard maintenance and use pure juice in their ciders. As a farm that doesn’t spray their fruit, it’s impressive that their cider, apple donuts and caramel apples win awards each year. Younger children can find their way out of a mini-maze of straw bales, or peer at massive beehives through glass while parents shop for jams, apple butter, caramel apples, salad dressing, and homemade maple syrup.
Apple Picking Near Alton, SW Illinois & Near St. Louis MO
The southwest corner of the state around Alton is another hotbed of apple picking and fall festivals. The downside here is that Fuji apples — our family’s favorite — don’t even ripen till mid October. It is, nonetheless, a beautiful area to explore. Great Rivers National Scenic Byway is the basis for a scenic, foliage-packed road trip through Illinois.
Families from all over Illinois and the nearby city of St. Louis, Missouri (just west across the Mississippi River) visit the Alton region to go apple picking. Everyone loves Eckert’s Orchard in Grafton, which dates to 1837 and is run by seventh generation family members.
Like its four sister farms in Illinois and Kentucky, you’ll find delicious produce. Partake in hay rides, pick over pumpkin patches, and shop vendors of everything from hot dogs to funnel cakes. Even better, they teach lessons in sustainable agriculture. Weekends bring lots of extra activities.
Eckert’s Orchard in Belleville welcomes U-pickers of fruits and vegetables from May to December. This branch of the Eckert’s empire gives parent and child cooking classes, too.
Challenge yourselves to the 12-acre corn maze at the Eckert’s in Millstadt. If you escape, visit the petting zoo and bounce house. Sit aspell and relax at the pig races held fall weekends. Did we mention Millstadt’s big underground slide, camel rides or parakeet encounter?
An Illinois Corn Maze Without Apples or a Farm
In addition to a fun corn maze, there are hay wagon rides, a cow train, jumping pillow, concerts and lots of food. Little ones can roll in corn kernels in the Corn Crib or navigate their own Hay Bale Maze. The third weeknd of September is dedicated to the Corn Festival. Come October, free spirits come to frolic in Haunted Maze. What’s better suited to older kids 10+ looking for some supernatural fun? Plus, the modest admission fee is a bargain.
Plan Ahead to Pick Your Favorite Apples… and which are they?
The late summer and early fall is prime apple picking time. Before you head out, think about what you’ll do with your apple harvest. Different varieties are better suited for different purposes. That’s why it’s best to call ahead and see what’s ripe on the trees at local orchards.
The most popular varieties for eating include Macintosh, Empire, Idared, Red Delicious, Honeycrisp and Jonathon. Make the richest apple sauce with Cortland, Golden Delicious, Russet, and Mutsu varieties. Be location savvy. Call ahead to find out what’s ripe around metropolitan Chicago, Since the riverfront climate in southwest Illinois produces different crops, you may visit that region another week.
Pick Your Own Orchards near Chicago, Illinois
Edward’s Apple Orchard West, 8218 Cemetery Rd, Winnebago, Illinois 61088 – 815/963-2261
Curran’s Orchard, 6385 Kilburn Ave, Rockford, Illinois 61103 – 815/963-7848
The Lindbergh Pumpkin Patch, 3178 Illinois Route 173, Caledonia, Illinois 61011 – 815/765-2587
Pick Your Own Orchards and Farms near southwest Illinois & Kentucky
Eckert’s Grafton Farm, 20995 Eckert Orchard Road Grafton, Illinois 62037 – 618/233-0513
Eckert’s Belleville Farm, 951 S. Green Mount Road, Belleville, Illinois 62220 – 800/745-0513
Eckert’s Millstadt Farm, 2719 Eckert Orchard Lane, Millstadt, Illinois 62260 – 800/745-0513
Eckert’s Versailles Orchard, 1396 Pinckard Pike, Versailles, Kentucky 40383 – 859/873-3097
Joe Ringhausen Orchard and Apple House, 267 South Street, Jerseyville, Illinois 62052 – 618/498-6951
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.