Break out your sweaters because fall is officially upon us. A season that brings cooler weather and changing leaf colors. Every season has its' own associated activities and events but fall ones seem to be slightly more liked above the rest and more recognizable. Pumpkin picking and carving (pumpkin spice if you're into it), hayrack rides, football games, apple orchards, and jumping in a pile of leaves are just naming a few. There are several activities for the whole family in our Curious Communities that embrace the fall season. The ones on this list are some local favorites.
In between Iowa City and Solon sits 88 acres of beautiful valley that make up Wilson's Orchard & Farm. Wilson's is most known for their apple orchard which opened in 1985. Visitors can walk the many lines of apple trees and pick from over 120 varieties of apples, filling buckets and purchasing them to bring home. Eat them straight up or use them for pies and apple crisp. Over the years they have expanded their u-pick options to include pumpkins, sweet corn, strawberries, and blackberries. These and other items can also be purchased pre-picked inside their farm market. You may notice an amazing smell inside when you walk in. That is because their bakery makes a wide variety of must-have homemade goodies including their famous apple turnovers. Kids will surely enjoy a ride around on the back of their tractor named Bessie.
There are two locations to get food on the farm grounds. Next to the market is the outdoor Smokehouse, making up delicious smoked BBQ meats with related sides. Down the lane is Rapid Creek Cidery, a sit down restaurant on the fancier side with a menu that offers farm to table style meals. Wilson's makes alcoholic craft ciders and seltzers in a variety of flavors that can also be found in stores. In the works right now is a new amphitheater where they will host concerts and other sorts of entertainment. There is truly something for the whole family here.
Colony Pumpkin Patch sits in the heart of North Liberty giving you a little country feel inside the city. They are open Mid-September through October and is the perfect spot for those looking for a traditional pumpkin patch. Walk through the field and pick out that perfect pumpkin to carve and put on your front porch. They have a variety of sizes and shapes sure to satisfy everyone's needs. Colony has the only corn maze in our Curious Communities at the size of 10 acres. On Friday and Saturday nights in October they have flashlight maze events where you can challenge yourself going through the corn maze in the dark.
Colony Pumpkin Patch has several other activities that can make your visit even better. Kids will enjoy a ride in the barrel train pictured above or hop behind their tractor for a hay rack ride around the farm. They have a playground with swings and slides, a human hamster wheel, corn cannon, a low zipline, and grain bin basketball among even more. You can make reservations for birthday parties or field trips each offering different activities. Every year at the end of October, Colony host the Miles in the Maize 5K Run. It is a challenging run on the farm where runners get to enjoy the sights and sounds of the country one last time before snow falls. There is a costume contest and all participants get to take home a pumpkin.
Walker Homestead, just west of Iowa City, started out as a five acre farm and had a vision for a little bit of Napa Valley in the Iowa countryside. They have now grown into 85 acres and describe themselves as "a boundless venue for agriculture and culinary celebration". Guests can interact with free-range animals and walk through the flower gardens, also home to veggies and herbs which are used to help make meals on their seasonal menu. Many enjoy their wood-fired pizzas. A variety of veggies can also be bought to take home. Walker Homestead also makes their own wine from grapes grown from their on-site vineyard. They have nine wine varieties right now.
Often used as a wedding venue and private parties, the farm still offers events and classes for the public featuring their farm-fresh foods and house-made wines. They host weekly open hours on Sundays which is a good time to try wine and relax. Select Wednesdays through November are Walker Homestead’s Evening on the Farm. People can take in the views while enjoying appetizers, pizza, and wine. The venue also hosts a monthly seasonal dinner series called Farmer’s Table in the fall.
One of Iowa's most authentic Oktoberfest experiences runs the first weekend of October. The Amana Colonies Oktoberfest brings out the German culture that the Amana Colonies are known for with dirndl and lederhosen filling the streets. Enjoy beer, live music, games, German food, and so much more. The ceremonial tapping of the first keg by the Burgermeister kicks off the event on Friday, while Saturday is started with a parade. When you are not busy eating brats and drinking beer from a stein, take some time to walk around the many shops and stores Amana has to offer.
The Northside Oktoberfest benefits Iowa City area nonprofits while showcasing the Bohemian nature of the cities Northside Neighborhood. Enjoy great craft beers, neighborhood food, live music, and much more. Watch or take part in the many appropriately theme games including a brat eating contest, yodeling contest, and a stein holding contest. Part of the festival is also the Iowa City BrewFest where ticket holders can taste beer from 40 different vendors with most being local to Iowa. The Iowa Children’s Museum will be hosting SodaFest open to all ages with many different fall activities.
Fall means football season. Specifically in this part of Iowa it means Iowa Hawkeye Football. Game day at the University of Iowa is a sea of black and gold with over 100,000 people outside the stadium. Walk along Melrose Avenue to take in the tailgating festivities. Lawn games, great food, and cold drinks are encouraged. Doors open two hours before game time. Inside Kinnick Stadium is an experience unlike any others in the Big 10. The Hawkeyes enter the field as a swarm to Back in Black by AC/DC, alongside waving gold “I – O – W – A” flags. Cheer alongside 70,000 fans, sing the Iowa Fight Song with the Marching Band, and wave to the kids inside the Stead Family Children’s Hospital towering just behind the stadium, dubbed the Iowa Wave. It's an unforgettable environment and chills worthy every single time.