I have the best memories of hayrack rides my family used to go on as a kid. The details are hazy -- maybe they were at a farm owned by a friend of a friend? -- but I remember those nights as just magical. They would always wrap up with s'mores around the campfire.
But luckily, you don't need to have a friend who owns a farm to enjoy a hayrack ride this fall. Here are a number of spots offering hayrack rides over the coming month, in addition to the apple orchards and pumpkin patches where hayrack rides are also common. Know of more? Please post them in the comments section.
* The St. Charles Park District offers "Moonlight Hayrides" at Primrose Farm, which is located in northwest St. Charles, west of Randall Road. You'll take a 30-minute tractor-drawn hayride around the fields of Primrose Farm at the height of the fall harvest. You can also participate in a marshmallow roast and treat yourself to hot chocolate or mulled rider. The rides are offered Oct. 12-13, Oct. 19-20 and Oct. 26. The cost is $8 each for residents, $12 for non-residents. Registration is required.
* Cantigny in Wheaton will offer hayrides on Saturday, Oct. 13, during its Fall Harvest. The fee is $2 per person, and there is a $5 parking fee for admission to the park. The Fall Harvest, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will also feature pumpkin decorating, children's craft projects, a book fair, children's concert, pumpkin ring toss, a petting zoo, face painting and more. Cantigny will also offer hayrides on Saturday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 27, from noon to 4 p.m. Those rides will be free with regular parking admission.
* Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton offers horse-drawn hayrides on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3:45 p.m. through Nov. 4 (except the weekend of Oct. 13 and 14.) You'll take a 30-minute ride through the forest preserve's prairies and woodlands and learn about the features of the historic preserve. The cost is $5 per person for ages 13 and up, $2 for ages 5-12 and under free are free. If you have a group of 15 or more people, you can arrange a private hayride by calling 630-668-6012.
* Blackberry Farm in Aurora regularly offers hayrides, but it is now in its limited autumn hours before closing for the season. Hayrides will be available during its "Pumpkin Weekends" from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends in October, as well as 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Columbus Day. Park admission will be $4 per person during these weekends, which will also feature a pumpkin patch (visit it for a free); a pumpkin decorating station, the carousel and train.
* The Batavia Park District is offering tractor-pulled wagon rides the evenings of Friday, Oct. 12 and Saturday, Oct. 13. You'll be picked up in the parking lot of West Main Community Park and pulled through the woods to a camp fire for hot chocolate, lemonade and the makings of s'mores. The cost is $10 each for residents, $13 for nonresidents. Pre-registration is required, but children under 3 are free. For more info, please click here or call 630-879-5235.