Chicago

The Best Pumpkin Patches You Can Drive to From Chicago

Bengtson's Pumpkin Farm
Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm
Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm

It’s fall in Chicago, which means that for six weeks, we’ll be alternating between sweltering 90-degree days and perfect, brisk sweater weather before a giant sheet of ice blankets our fair city for five months. Why not get into the spirit and enjoy the few precious moments of fall that we have left with a wholesome trip to a pumpkin patch? Here are 15 of our favorites from all around the Chicagoland area.

a./Flickr
a./Flickr
a./Flickr

Bengtson’s Pumpkin Fest

Homer Glen
Distance: ~90 minutes from downtown

There’s so much to do at Bengtson’s, and the farm is well known for it. Of course, they have their share of pumpkins available for purchase (over 300 tons worth, apparently), but that’s not the reason you make the trek to Homer Glen. Admission to Bengtson’s includes access to a wide variety of attractions including 90-foot-tall slides, haunted barns, petting zoos, and much more. They also even have pony rides available for an additional $5 if you’re bringing any young ones. Be prepared to make a day of your Bengtson’s trip — there’s certainly enough there to keep you entertained.

Patch 22

Wadsworth
Distance: ~1 hour from downtown

Patch 22 may be smaller than some of the other entries on this list, but it makes up for a lack of insane attractions with the fact that it’s not just a fall pop-up business; Patch 22 is a real, working, active family farm. They even have horses and ponies for sale, in case you’re looking to line up a particularly extravagant Christmas gift for somebody.

Didier Farms
Didier Farms
Didier Farms

Didier Farms

Lincolnshire
Distance: ~50 minutes from downtown

Though Didier Farms and their impressive farmstand featuring local produce from across the Midwest are open year-round, their Pumpkinfest deserves special mention. Of course, there are plenty of pumpkins for you to take home, but they also feature camel rides, hay rides, and, uh, pig races as well. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you’re itching to check out their “Silly String Asylum,” where they pretty much just give you a bunch of cans of silly string and tell you to blast other folks with it.

Sonny Acres

West Chicago
Distance: ~70 minutes from downtown

Sonny Acres has some longevity in the pumpkin farming game — they’ve been around since 1883. Another family-owned and -operated farm, their name comes from the fact that the first owners of the farm had seven sons. From September 22 on through Halloween, they’re hosting a fall festival featuring food trucks, giant slides, haunted hayrides, and (of course) acres and acres of ginormous pumpkins.

Puckerville Farms

Lemont
Distance: ~1 hour from downtown

Puckerville Farms is a mainstay in seasonal farm tourism, and for good reason. They focus primarily on pumpkin farming, with 150 acres dedicated to those wonderful gourds, but they also make their own honey as well. Even better, admission is completely free.

Celebrate Highwood
Celebrate Highwood
Celebrate Highwood

The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival

Highwood
Distance: ~40 minutes from downtown

Bad news: The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival is only open for one weekend from October 5 through October 7. Good news: If you show up there, you’ll be part of an effort to set the world record for the most pumpkins carved at once. There will be pumpkins available, as well as live music, rides, and pie-eating contests, so why not be a part of history?

Goebbert’s Garden Center

South Barrington
Distance: ~70 minutes from downtown

A year-round farm and farmstead, Goebbert’s Garden Center boasts over 200 acres of pumpkins and other produce, so if you’re looking to stock up on local produce while finding the perfect pumpkin, look no further. Oh, and did we mention they have a wide variety of attractions available too, including a giant corn maze and a huge mechanical dinosaur whose hunger for pumpkins can never be sated? No, we’re not making this up.

Konow's Corn Maze
Konow’s Corn Maze
Konow’s Corn Maze

Konow’s Corn Maze

Homer Glen
Distance: ~1 hour from downtown

The 3.4-mile corn maze at Konow’s is the main attraction, but they don’t skimp on other fall festivities, either. They have an ongoing fall festival, a corn pit (exactly what you think it is — a ball pit, filled with dried corn kernels), a putting green, and a barn chock-full of pumpkins to purchase. Just don’t get lost while you’re there.

The Butterprint Farm Pumpkin Patch

Monee
Distance: ~50 minutes from downtown

For those of you who aren’t really looking to ride a huge slide or a camel or anything, The Butterprint Farm is an environmentally conscious alternative to some of the other, larger patches on this list. The farm itself has won multiple awards for its protection of nearby native prairie lands, and there’s a small museum on-site where you can learn about the farm’s conservation efforts. You can also enjoy hayrides, shows, rubber duck races, and a petting zoo there as well.

Sugar Grove Pumpkin Farm & Produce
Sugar Grove Pumpkin Farm & Produce
Sugar Grove Pumpkin Farm & Produce

Sugar Grove Pumpkin Farm and Produce

Sugar Grove
Distance: ~1 hour from downtown

Though it’s not as big of a name as some of the other entries on this list, Sugar Grove has plenty to offer along with its free admission. They have insanely low prices on all of the produce that they grow on-site, and though they don’t offer u-pick, their selection of pumpkins is gigantic. Plus, they have a corn maze as well.

Richardson Adventure Farm

Spring Grove
Distance: ~90 minutes from downtown

We know what you’re thinking: What’s an “adventure farm”? Apparently, it’s a spot that features a 28-acre corn maze, gigantic corn pits, zip lines, a 50-foot observation tower, pig races, a gigantic trampoline, a paintball shooting gallery, and more. Oh, and of course, they have a gigantic pumpkin patch featuring over a dozen different varieties of orange beauties.

Lincoln Park Zoo‎
Lincoln Park Zoo‎
Lincoln Park Zoo‎

Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park
Distance: ~10 minutes from downtown

Here’s one for those of you that don’t have a car. Did you know that Lincoln Park Zoo has a fall festival that’s been going on for three years now? This year’s festivities include a corn maze, live music, and a ferris wheel — and of course, a pumpkin patch complete with professional pumpkin carvers to show you how it’s done. For the adults, they’re also hosting a late-night fall festival event where you can explore the zoo at your own leisure without the crowds or kids while sipping on a cocktail or beer.

Jerry Smith Produce and Pumpkin Farm

Kenosha, WI
Distance: ~90 minutes from downtown

If you’re OK crossing state lines, Jerry Smith Produce and Pumpkin Farm offers a ton of attractions at a very reasonable price. $10 will get you access to their gigantic pumpkin patch, as well as unlimited access to their other attractions including a maze, petting zoo, giant bounce pillow, and hay rides. For an additional $5, you can hop on a haunted hay ride as well!

All Seasons Apple Orchard
All Seasons Apple Orchard
All Seasons Apple Orchard

All Seasons Orchard

Woodstock
Distance: ~90 minutes from downtown

Why not get two classic fall activities in at once, so long as you’re driving outside the city? All Seasons Orchard features a gigantic pumpkin patch with both pre-picked and u-pick varieties available, but stick around and check out the orchard, with over 15,000 trees ripe for the picking!

Kregel’s Pumpkin Patch

Lowell, IN
Distance: ~100 minutes from downtown

At first blush, there’s not all that much that may make you pick Kregel’s Pumpkin Patch over any of the other entries on this list, until you learn about their slingshot challenge. Kregel’s features a corn maze, a giant slide, and u-pick and pre-picked pumpkins available at both a farmers market and a patch once it opens on September 29. But for fans of the Discovery Channel, the slingshot challenge allows you to load up a small pumpkin in a gigantic rubber slingshot to attempt to hit a target hundreds of feet away. If that’s not worth the trip to you, you may be a robot.Sign up here for our daily Chicago email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Sam Greszes is a Chicago-based writer.

Chicago

Robyn DaCultyre Is Doing It for the Culture

"The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone."

Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi
Photo by Kayode Omoyosi

I was introduced to Robyn DaCultyre at an Untitled Queen show at C’mon Everybody in late January, and it was one of the most unique drag shows I’d seen in a while. Afterwards, I tracked down this self-described “drag creature” and video chatted about her drag origin story, the state of drag in her native Ohio, and the dual identities that make up her persona. Thrillist: I want to ask you about how Robyn DaCultyre came about and your point of view behind your performance.

Robyn DaCultyre: I’ve been travelling around the country from a young age in ministry and Christian studies. I moved to Chicago right after high school. Four years later, moved back to Columbus and decided I didn’t really want to do church anymore; that wasn’t where my heart was.

I had a really low point in my life and had a suicide attempt and then really found drag and started doing drag as a coping mechanism and way to let off steam. I started in July of 2019, and it was really a lot of punk and metal music. I created this drag creature of sorts and they were really out of this world and celestial and all of those fun alien type terms.

And then we went into a global pandemic and I had a lot of time to figure out who I wanted to be. Digitally I was still doing a lot of drag creature-esque numbers and all of that, but I had this moment where we’re on the front lines getting hit with pepper spray and rubber bullets and pepper spray-all of those lovely things. And I said, I have this platform and I need to start showcasing what’s happening.

Untitled [Queen] stepped in at the right time and messaged me and said, “I’m doing this show for Independence Day called Untitled in America with 52 different performers and I want you to be a part of it.” It was at that moment I was able to take the footage I had been recording on the front lines and incorporate it into digital content. I did a song called Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton that talks about white picket fences, but if you want to see how America is, then you should try being Black like me. The imagery of what’s literally happening in Columbus in that digital performance really spearheaded me into focusing on people who look like me.

Nina Simone is one of my biggest inspirations, and one of her quotes that resonates with me is that it’s the duty of the artist to resonate with the times. My art is politically charged. I like to entertain, but there will definitely be a time when you come to a show expecting to have your drink and be chill and that might not be the case.

How did the name Robyn DaCultyre come about?

I was smoking with Ursula Major, who was on season one of Dragula, and the first time I introduced myself to her I was Robyn Banks, which is my drag name originally. She said, “Well, do you just not want to be original at all?” [Laughs] And I sat with that for a couple of months, and I got really stoned one day and was listening to Janelle Monae, and she talks about doing it for the culture, and I said “I do it for the culture, too!” And the rest is history.

And you started a series called Melanated.

We started Melanated last February. I told the idea to my show director that there were no shows specifically run by Black people that only featured Black entertainers. I wanted to do this show for a night and she said, Why don’t we do it once a week for the whole month? The first show happens, and it’s a sold out crowd, and [my director] comes back and says we should do this every month. So I sucked it up and here we are a year later.

Melanated is the only fully Black show in all of the state. It’s a horrible marketing tool and not something I want to promote, but it is just a fact. It amazes me that we are the 13th largest city in America and there’s nothing here that’s fully focused on Black entertainers. The name also comes from Janelle Monae; she says she’s highly melanated and I said, that works.

Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)
Photos by Chay Creates LLC (left) and Bridget Caswell (right)

You refer to yourself as a drag creature, as opposed to drag queen or king…

This is actually the first time I’m making this public. I am in this place where I want to separate the alternative creature from who this melanated goddess or whatever is. DaCultyre is definitely the person who runs Melanated and then Robyn is this drag creature that is out of this world and really loves punk and alternative music. And both intertwine to make Robyn DaCultyre.

You also do pageants. Tell me about that.

In 2020 I was appointed by Nina West, who is from Columbus, as the representative from Ohio for National Entertainer of the Year in Louisville, Kentucky. I placed ninth out of 13 contestants and I really fell in love with the system and fell in love with the pageantry and loved the idea of reigning and being different. I want to show that we as alternative performers, as bearded performers, you can come into these systems and shake things up.

Is there a uniquely “Ohio” style of drag?

No, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it so amazing is that everyone has their own unique style, and it’s all pretty much accepted. I started as a performer and a drag creature and there was space that was afforded to me and I transitioned to more glamor and pageantry and that’s afforded to me as well. I’ve been a bearded entertainer for a year now. The cool thing about Ohio is that there is literally a place for everyone.

I think I have everything I need. Is there anything else I didn’t ask you about that you want to bring up, or‚Ķ

I don’t think so. Are there any generic questions you haven’t asked?

Generic questions‚ĶI think I asked all of them already [laughs]. I like to ask what you’d be doing if you weren’t doing drag?

It’s a great question. I have a day job that is very demanding so I need drag to get away. I’m also very creative and artistic. I used to do web design and all these other things to pull into my creativity. Drag is the longest thing I’ve stuck with in all parts of my life, so I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon.

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John deBary¬†is a drinks expert and writer. His first cocktail book,¬†Drink What You Want, is available now, and his next book,¬†Saved by the Bellini, is expected in early 2023. He is also the co-founder and president of the¬†Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of hospitality industry professionals through advocacy, grant making, and impact investing.

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