In September, summer moves gently into autumn in western Illinois' Henry County. Bright sunny days and cool, crisp evenings beckon you to hit the back roads, discover charming villages and sample the smells, tastes and terrors of fall. Chock-full of farmers markets, produce stands, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and haunted attractions, Henry County is the quintessential destination for that annual leaf-peeping country drive. Check out these destinations and events, and be sure to visit websites for additional information, dates, times and driving directions.
JORDBRUKSDAGARNA - SEPTEMBER 29-30
You may think the name sounds spooky, but it's actually just Swedish for Bishop
Strolling the brick sidewalks in Bishop Hill, Ill.
Hill's "Agriculture Days." Come celebrate a fall festival with a touch of old country charm in this National Historic Landmark and Illinois State Historic Site. Celebrate Bishop Hill's Swedish and agrarian heritage with 19th century harvest activities and demonstrations, music, farm produce, vintage baseball and Colony Stew.
While here, explore the history of this 1840's "utopia on the prairie" in five museums. Shop for local arts and crafts, lunch on Swedish meatballs and Limpa bread at the Bishop Hill Bakery, and take home genuine Swedish imports from the Colony Store. www.BishopHill.com.
Just east of Bishop Hill in Galva is Jacobson's Bakery. Stop here to take home authentic, sorghum-rich Swedish rye bread, rusks and cookies. The shop is not staffed; you leave money for your purchases in a tin box.
COUNTRY CORNER & FALL FUN PARK: SEPTEMBER 15 - OCTOBER 28
Located 20 miles southeast of the Quad Cities, and just north of Alpha, Country
Country Corner near Alpha, Ill.
Corner grows more than 80 acres of fruits and vegetables that are sold field-fresh at its farm market all summer. But from mid- September through October, this 2012 "Illinois Agri Tourism Business of the Year" costumes itself in fall foliage and becomes Fall Fun Park, a celebration of all things autumn.
Ride a hayrack into the fields to pick your own pumpkin, get lost in an eight-acre interactive corn maze and introduce your kids to more than 25 farm animals in the barnyard zoo. Hike prairie trails through the timber. Visit the learning center and bee barn. See pumpkin and corn cannons, the cow train, kid's playground and timbered picnic area. Stock up on fall produce and decorative items, jellies, jams and canned goods, too. Be sure to check the website for special event weekends, including an old fashioned fall festival at Country Corner, September 22-23. www.Country-Corner.com.
HALLOWEEN HAPPENINGS AT TERESA'S TASTY PRODUCE - OCTOBER WEEKENDS
Teresa's Tasty Produce is a family-run farm-to-table produce operation on 35 acres
Teresa's Tasty Produce near Atkinson, Ill.
near Atkinson. From spring through fall, Teresa's offers a full lineup of vegetables from asparagus to zucchini, plus melons, squash, sweet corn, berries and cherries. But on weekends during October, Teresa's becomes Halloween central.
Bring the family out for a day in the country at Teresa's Halloween Happenings. Enjoy a hayrack ride, corn maze, kiddie train, straw bale bowling, miniature golf, petting zoo, pumpkin painting and scarecrow making. Pick your own pumpkin and choose from a large selection of squash, fall produce, gourds, corn stalks and other decorative items. Munch on burgers, hot dogs, brats, nachos, popcorn, cookies, donuts, apple sundaes, "walking tacos," hot and cold cider and other beverages. www.TeresasTastyProduce.com.
TORMENT AT TWELVE HUNDRED: SEPTEMBER 28 - OCTOBER 31
Everyone wants to be frightened around Halloween, but Torment at Twelve Hundred, a bone-chilling theatrical experience near Orion, takes this phenomenon into the realm of bloodcurdling. It's time to get your scream on!
Rated by USA Today as one of the nation's top 10 haunted houses, Torment is much more than a house. It's a 30-acre indoor/outdoor trail of horror, populated by creepy, costumed actors who will make you shudder, scream and laugh, all at the same time. Actually a horror-filled saga - with a new chapter added each year - Torment snakes you through dark buildings, vehicles, wooded paths and open fields, above and below ground in an adventure that will totally disorient and frighten you to death (well, almost). Caution: open toed and high heeled shoes not allowed. Not recommended for kids 12 and under.
Torment at Twelve Hundred is open Saturday and Sunday evenings from September 28 through October 28, plus Halloween night, October 31. www.tormentwelve.com.
LAVENDER CREST WINERY - OPEN DAILY ALL FALL
A must-see stop on your fall drive is Lavender Crest Winery, nestled amid rolling farmland in the Rock River valley near Colona. Lavender Crest produces wines from grapes grown exclusively in the Midwest, from full-bodied reds to crisp, light whites, blushes and fruit wines, too. On arriving, stroll the vineyards and gardens. Join a tour of Lavender Crests' production facility and stop off in the tasting room to sample dozens of varietals. Enjoy a glass of award-winning Ritt's Reserve or Colona White with lunch in the dining room, and browse the gift and sweet shop afterward for something to take home. www.LavenderCrest.com.
While driving the back roads, you'll come across more farm stands, fall festivals and haunted experiences in Henry County. Check them out, stop in for pie and coffee at the cozy little cafes in each town, where you'll meet locals who call the area home.
Henry County is located in western Illinois, between the Quad Cities and Galesburg, Ill. The fertile farmland is bisected by the Hennepin Canal and dotted with charming small towns replete with antique shops, bakeries, farm markets and country cafés. For information on everything you need to plan a getaway, including historic sites, attractions and places to stay, contact the Henry County Tourism Bureau toll-free at 877-436-7926 or visit www.VisitHenryCounty.com.