These “flyover states” are worth driving through.
The Midwest has earned itself a reputation for being a bit vanilla. It’s a region of the U.S. known for casseroles and politeness, as well as cornfields and flat land that seemingly stretch on for days. But though the region is often known as one you drive through to get from one location to the next, the Midwest, its states, and the people who make it up are far from bland, and there is no better time to see it than in autumn.
From late September through November, the Midwest is quintessential fall. Trees turn the perfect shade of auburn while pumpkin patches and fall festivals line the streets of small towns. For those looking to hit the road this fall and explore the wonders offered by a Midwest autumn, we found the perfect activity happening in each state. Whether you’re picking apples, drinking them, or exploring one of the world’s largest yard sales, a Midwest fall offers much to see and do.
Top Picks for You
Richardson Adventure Farm Corn Maze
WHERE: Spring Grove, Illinois
A short drive from Chicago at the Northern end of Illinois sits Richardson Adventure Farm Corn Maze, something you’ll have to see (and explore) to believe. Each year, the Richardson Farm creates the world’s largest and most intricate corn maze, taking up 28 acres with up to 10 miles of twists and turns. The farm introduces a new theme (annually), 2020’s being Earth Day. From an aerial view, you’d be able to see the theme come to life but from within, the theme(s) simply brings a new trail ready to be explored.
And while the corn maze is the main attraction, the activities don’t end there. This farm also hosts a beloved and family-friendly pumpkin patch, an observation tower to get a bird’s eye view of the corn maze before (or after) you take it on, a petting zoo, hayrides, and more. It’s kind of Illinois’ one-stop-shop for celebrating the arrival of fall.
Conner Prairie Fall Festival
WHERE: Fishers, Indiana
While many indoor museums might be closed until further notice, Conner Prairie, a living museum, welcomes visitors to their outdoor learning center each October for an annual fall festival. During the day, you’ll learn about prairie towns and life in the 19th century, while at night you can welcome the Headless Horseman (mildly spooky and totally family-friendly). With corn mazes, hayrides, and several other activities, a visit to the Prairie in October offers a little more excitement (and festivity) than your standard day at the museum.
Walnut Antique Fall Festival
WHERE: Walnut, Iowa
Though a small Iowan city with a population of only 780, Walnut has a sizeable reputation in the antique community. This is a town known for its vintage shops, so to honor their claim to fame, Walnut throws an antique festival each fall. Sellers set up booths inside and out, giving you a chance to enjoy the brisk fall air while offering an escape from the occasional autumn rain. This year’s festival will be held on October 10 and 11 and offers visitors a chance to explore the city and the unique antiques it has to offer.
Columbus Hot Air Balloon Regatta
WHERE: Columbus, Kansas
Those in Kansas can head to Columbus Industrial Park on Friday, October 9 to experience the fall through a glowing and unique display of colors. The Columbus Hot Air Balloon Regatta is an annual event that gives pilots a chance to show off their hot air balloons to the public. And after Friday night’s display of light and color comes Saturday and Sunday’s races, where you can watch the balloons float up into the air. It’s a truly magical spectacle.
Detroit Wild Lights
WHERE: Detroit, Michigan
Why not experience the zoo in an entirely new way? At the Detroit Zoo, you can see what this animal sanctuary might look like as a real-life snow globe. Lighting up the park, this event invites viewers to get into the holiday spirit. It opens on November 21, so make your plan to see this zoo through a new lens.
WHERE: Minnetrista, Minnesota
Apple picking can be found throughout the Midwest. It’s a fall favorite that transcends state lines and loyalties. Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings can agree on one thing: a day in the orchard picking through bright reds and sour greens is on the calendar. What sets Minnetonka Orchards and other Minnesota orchards apart from others found throughout the Midwest are their individuality (a quick thank you to science). A recent favorite of fruit connoisseurs, Honeycrisp Apples were invented at the University of Minnesota and can be picked here!
Eureka Scarecrow Festival
WHERE: Eureka, Missouri
Just outside of St. Louis, the small town of Eureka becomes home to something incredibly unique come October. This town celebrates its artists by hosting their yearly Scarecrow Festival, where they highlight the work of their local crafters by displaying their creations throughout the town. Outside of businesses, restaurants, and schools, you’ll find one-of-a-kind scarecrows that call Eureka home. And for those looking for something a little more, visitors can partake in the yearly Great Scarecrow Hunt—the premise is pretty simple, find as many scarecrows as you can, take some pictures, post them, and bam, you’re eligible for a cash prize. While we love any fall event, we really don’t mind one with the promise of a prize.
AppleJack Harvest Festival
WHERE: Nebraska City, Nebraska
Apple fans, it’s time to heed the call. Nebraska City’s annual AppleJack Harvest Festival is happening this September and October and invites you to indulge in apples the way you’ve always dreamed. With everything from pie to cider to donuts to salads, this festival has found a way to sneak apples into just about any diet, leaving everyone who visits happy and full. This year, to keep the event safe, the AppleJack Harvest Festival will stretch over a few weekends to allow crowds to stay small.
The Big One Art and Craft Fair
WHERE: Fargo, North Dakota
This October, Fargo will be welcoming the 32nd Annual Fall Art and Craft Fair to the Fargodome, where visitors can shop the works of local artists. Last year’s craft fair hosted more than 320 booths, so expect to be wowed, and quite possibly, overwhelmed. This festival is perfect for those looking to get a head start on their Christmas shopping or just those wanting to partake in a Fargo fall tradition—sometimes window-shopping can be just as fun as spending money.
WHERE: Ostrander, Ohio
We’re not going to go through this whole list and not mention a pumpkin patch. In quaint Ostrander, Ohio, you’ll find a farm that’s far from ordinary. Because at Leeds Farm, there’s much more than just pumpkin picking to be done. The site also hosts huge zip lines and climbing courses for your teenager who may feel a little too adult to be joining in on the family pumpkin-picking this year. And, while postponed until 2021, the farm also hosts an annual Witches Night Out, which is more than just a “ladies night out;” it’s a huge (and exciting) yearly fundraiser for Pink Ribbon Girls.
INSIDER TIPThough Witches Night Out has been canceled, Leeds Farms is asking those able to donate to Pink Ribbon Girls to continue doing so (with a reminder that they’ll be back next year).
Drive Along Needle Highway
WHERE: Black Hills, South Dakota
Let’s put the festivities aside for a moment to appreciate the fall for what it is: beautiful foliage and crisp air. There are few places to better and more efficiently take this in than along Needle Highway, which twists and turns through the Black Hills region of South Dakota. This easy drive gives you stunning views of South Dakota’s landscape in the fall while giving you the comfort of solitude (not everyone is quite so ready to be back at festivals yet). It’s both easy and picturesque. While people might say the Midwest is a series of drive-through states, this is one stretch of highway travelers will go out of their way to drive through.
A Trip to Door County
WHERE: Door County, Wisconsin
There’s no better place to take in a Wisconsin autumn than from Door County—a peninsula on Lake Michigan—which is why so many Wisconsin residents make the trip each fall. The trees turn their magical variations of red while night skies are clear and cool. Enjoy a stay at a cabin, days spent shopping and eating in town (plus there are some fall festivals to stop by), and a night around the fire—Door County is quintessential fall. And, according to the county, the best time to see fall foliage is mid-September through early October, so it might be a good time to get planning.