It’s autumn in Wisconsin and nothing is better than that. Get outside with your kids this fall and create memories to last a lifetime. Here are a few of my favorite fall outings with links to help you create your own memorable adventures. Have fun and write to let me know your own favorites.
1. Hayrides: Kids love hayrides and so do adults. They are fun, relaxing and old fashioned. In our fast paced world, it’s delightful to slow down and take a ride in a tractor or horse drawn wagon. Contact your local parks department for hayrides or search the internet. Many are free or very low cost. The City of Madison offers low cost Hayrides and your town may as well. Many organizations host haunted hayrides like MacKenzie Environmental Education Center and Schumacher Farm Park. Halloween events in Wisconsin are everywhere.
2. Corn Mazes: Get lost and then found in a corn maze. Go to Wisconsin Corn Mazes to find a corn maze near you. I’m going to Mayr Corn Maze in a few weeks so I can let you know about that one. It’s haunted so that will fun. Many, like Treinen Farm’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, also offer other activities such as pumpkin picking, petting zoos and food. The Keep Wisconsin Warm Cool Fund’s Corn Maze in Fitchburg serves as a fundraiser. So, if you’re looking to help keep people warm this winter, attend this maze.
3. Pumpkin Patches and more: Picking out a pumpkin is a time-honored fall ritual. There is something about the smell and color of a pumpkin patch that is so soothing and peaceful. Once you get your pumpkin, you can carve it and decorate the house. Many pumpkin patches also have hayrides, corn mazes, animals and lots more. So if you’re looking to spend an afternoon outside, go to Wisconsin Pumpkin Patches, Corn Mazes and More for a complete listing.
4. Fall Color Hike: I love hiking with kids. There’s a state or local park near you and many of them have programs that are free. Wisconsin State Parks and Forests offer free events or just stop by for a hike or picnic. Wisconsin State Parks charge $7 for a day pass or $25 for an annual sticker. A one hour pass is $4. Nature Net lists nature centers in Wisconsin where you can enjoy fall and take in a program. As always, call your local parks department for hiking information.
5. Bike a State Bike Trail: Biking is fun for kids and bike trails make it easy. The trails are flat and often pass through towns so you can stop for food and other activities. There are bike trails throughout Wisconsin and local trails in most cities and villages. Check with your local recreation department for locations and biking events. Bike shops are also good resources for trail information.
6. Make a Leaf Fort/Pile: I love this activity because all you need is a leafy tree and a rake. You can make a fort anywhere. Jump in it, play in it and love it. Enjoy the crunchy, munchy sounds and earthy smells of autumn before bagging the leaves. Better yet, mulch the leaves and put them on the garden or your neighbor’s garden.
7. Bird Watch: Look up. You never know what you’ll see. Sandhill cranes and geese and two easy to find birds that migrate in Wisconsin. Teach your kids to look up and listen when you go out to get your pumpkin and they’ll learn to cue in to the seasons. Teach them to say, “Goodbye geese, see you in Spring” and then welcome them back in March. This is a great opportunity to talk about migration and to get your kids thinking. Where are the birds going? How far are they going? You don’t need to be a scientist to engage them. It’s enough to say that they are going south where it’s warmer. If they’re older, they can look things up on the internet. The main thing is to look and listen. Check you local nature center and parks department for kid friendly bird outings. There are birding hotspots in Wisconsin, but you really just have to look and listen and you will see birds everywhere.
8. Visit an Apple Orchard: My favorite orchard is Ski Hi Orchard near Devils Lake State Park, but there are countless orchards in Wisconsin. I wish I could bottle the smell at Ski Hi. They have 30 varieties of apples, fresh cider, homemade apple and berry pies, caramel apples, apple turnovers, cider donuts, jams, honey, sorghum, maple syrup, potatoes, onions, squash, gourds, indian corn, and an over 100 year old log house on the property. Are you hungry yet? Enjoy and don’t forget to eat a caramel apple.
9. Night hike: Kids rarely venture out at night anymore. That’s why I try to plan a night hike each fall to let kids enjoy playing outside at night. They enjoy the stars, the moon, and just being outside in the cool air. This year, I’m taking kids to Governor Nelson State Park. Add a campfire and cook s’mores and you’ve created a memorable event that your kids will remember forever.
10. Bonfire: Last but not least, a bonfire makes any event memorable. Kids love cooking marshmallows over an open fire and fire warms them inside and out. Many hayrides, corn mazes and other fall events have bonfires associated with them. Just ask. Or ask your local or county parks department for fire pit locations.
Well, that’s my list for now. Please let me know of your favorite fall outings. I’ll happily add to the list. Happy fall outings to you!
Diane Schwartz is the Site Coordinator at Schumacher Farm Park in Waunakee. She also leads hikes for children at the Goodman Community Center. You can find her gearing up for fall outings which includes nearly all the above activities.