Pumpkin patches, apple orchards and corn mazes to visit in central Iowa this fall
This recipe adds pumpkin into the batter of the breakfast classic, making deliciously moist waffles that give you a dose of vitamin A and fiber. It also incorporates heart-healthy walnuts in the homemade syrup, for an extra boost of nutrients.
Fall will soon be upon us, bringing with it cooler temperatures and turning leaves. That means it's almost time to visit your local apple orchards, pumpkin patches and corn mazes.
Several locations also sell recipe-worthy fall produce, pies and other baked goods, local honey, apple cider and, of course, cider doughnuts. And there are plenty of games and activities for the entire family.
Here are places where you can make memories and enjoy the best of Iowa's 2020 harvest season:
Center Grove Orchard
With 25 acres of ripening pumpkins and gourds and more than 6,000 assorted apple trees, Center Grove Orchard is a pick-your-own paradise. Farmyard admission gives you access to more than 25 fun-filled activities including a five-acre corn maze, 135-foot super slides and pig races.
With many eating venues, a gourmet coffee shop and The Country Store retail shop all within close proximity, finding food is not a problem. Nosh on apple nachos, sip on the Apple Cider Shake-Up at Shucks or grab soup in a bread bowl at Hay Cafe. But be sure to save room for The Feed Bunk's famous applesauce and homegrown, hand-cut fries. And no visit to Center Grove Orchard is complete without taking home farmhouse pies, turnovers, cake rolls and, of course, cider donuts from the bakery.
Follow daily life at the orchard by following @CenterGroveOrchard on Instagram.
Location: 32835 610th Ave., Cambridge
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
Contact: (515) 383-4354; centergroveorchard.com; Facebook
Admission: Monday through Thursday, $11.95; Friday-Sunday, $15.95; children age 2 and younger are free. CGO Express Train included with admission. Because of to COVID-19 precautions, each ticket is currently sold for a specific day.
Pumpkins are the passion at Geisler Farms. But there's plenty more to find, including outdoor decorations like straw bales, heirloom pumpkins and gourds. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Geisler Farms at its current location and the 15th anniversary of the famous corn maze.
Edible produce — pie pumpkins and butternut squash — are also available. And homemade pies and jams are found in the Red Shed. Kids can zoom on over to the Fun Zone, which has over 30 attractions including six new attractions such as grain wagon hoops, a pumpkin punch rope maze, the barrel roll and steer roping.
Location: 5251 N.E. 94th Ave., Bondurant
Hours: September: 10 a.m-6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. In October, also open 1-6 p.m. Fridays and 1-6 p.m. Oct. 12.
Contact: 515-964-2640; geislerfarms.com; Facebook
Admission: Farm admission, $8 each. Children age 2 and younger are free. Pumpkin patch visitors pay no admission.
Harvest Barn Marketplace
You may know the Boyer family from their stand at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market. In addition to raising and processing beef and making other delicious items such as fudge, cheeses, salsa and more, they also take pride in their assortment of pumpkins and gourds. Visit the Harvest Barn to select a pre-picked pumpkin, and make sure you bring the kids and come with an empty stomach.
Fall Farm Fun for the whole family is in full swing now through the end of October. Enjoy family dodgeball, the human hamster wheel, round bale hay maze, zip line and much more. On the weekends, go for a wagon ride. Concessions are available every weekend at Trixie’s Feed Bunk, including farm-raised BBQ beef, breezy bacon burgers, apple crisp caramel sundaes and more.
Location: 2721 U.S. Hwy 34, Osceola
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 9 a.m-5 p.m. Saturdays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays.
Contact: 641-342-4039; harvestbarnmarketplace.com; Facebook
Admission: Fall Farm Fun admission $6 Wed.-Fri; $8 weekends. Children age 2 and younger are free. Pay no admission to shop pumpkins or in the Harvest Barn.
Uncle Bill's Farm
Pumpkins are ready to pick at Uncle Bill's Farm in Grinnell, but because of the pandemic, derecho and drought, things will look a little different there this year. Activities available at this farm include a Derecho-Kissed Corn Maze, scenic wagon ride, giant jumping pillows, farm animals and photo ops. Shop for barbecue sauces, jams, fall decorations and goods from local artisans.
Dine on take-out food at the concession stand. Don't forget to pick up some fall mums in a wide assortment of colors and sizes.
Location: 244 400th Ave., Grinnell
Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday beginning Oct. 1.
Contact: (641) 236-7043; unclebillsfarm.com; Facebook
Admission: $10 per person. Children 2 and under are free. Admission includes all attractions.
Howell's Pumpkin Patch
At Howell’s Pumpkin Patch, it's all about having fun on the farm. You can pick your own pumpkin or buy one pre-picked. There are plenty of attractions to go along with the popular corn maze — including a bathtub train, two-seater trikes and push-pull go-karts. Kids can take a ride on a wagon with the price of admission or a pony for $5 more.
Hunt for fall decorations and dried flowers in the gift shop and then refresh yourself with a fall treat from Greenhouse Cafe, such as hot dogs, homemade ice cream and freshly baked pumpkin bars and cookies — a full menu is served on the weekends, including kettle corn and slushies. And don't forget to shoot some fall produce into the air with the corn and pumpkin cannons and take a thrilling zip-line ride down the hill (two rides for $7).
Location: 3145 Howell Court, Cumming
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., until Nov. 1.
Contact: (515) 981-0863; howellsgreenhouseandpumpkinpatch.com; Facebook
Admission: $11 per person; children under age 2 are free.
When fall sets in, Iowa Orchard's unmistakable display of pumpkins appears — one of the largest in this roundup. The apple cider is famous here, as well as 22 varieties of family-recipe pies with a sought-after flaky crust. But keep your appetites open for fruit crisps and caramel apples made from scratch using maple syrup, molasses, brown sugar, butter, sweetened condensed milk and pure vanilla.
On the weekends, check out the corn box, big slides, straw bale maze, jumping pillow and giant Legos. It's also a great time to nibble on apple cider doughnuts Iowa Orchard makes for the Iowa State Fair. And if you're looking to pick some apples, visit the orchard at 13140 NW 102nd Avenue in Granger.
Location: 9875 Meredith Drive, Urbandale
Hours: 9 a.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week through Halloween.
Contact: 515-276-0852; iowaorchard.com; Facebook
Admission: Free. Hayride and Farm Fun Zone, $5 per person; children 2 and younger are free.
Pierce's Pumpkin Patch
Since 1981, Pierce's Pumpkin Patch in Chariton has been the place to go for more than 120 kinds of pumpkins and gourds. Look for the annual Pumpkin Festival Oct. 10-11. Enjoy a hay bale maze filled with tame animals and a country store filled with decor and costume ideas.
Take a tour of the grounds to discover a 1942 World War II-era twin-engine Beechcraft airplane, fire truck, antiques and collectibles, and perhaps the largest private collection of about 180 handcrafted model trains.
Location: 2491 IA-14, Chariton
Hours: Open daily, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. through October.
Contact: (641) 344-1344
Admission: Free for all ages. Call ahead for group tours.
The Pumpkin Ranch
There's something for everyone at The Pumpkin Ranch, but the main attraction is the corn maze. It's 10 acres and includes two mini-games to boot — a checkpoint hunt and a fun mystery game to solve. But while you’re there, don't forget about the two 30-foot tunnel slides, the Toddler Town playground, the Ninja Farm obstacle course, corn pool and the jumping pillow. Also, adults and kids alike can soar down a fun zip line. Note that because of COVID-19, some activities will run at 50% capacity.
Shop for gourds and pumpkins or pick your own perfect pumpkin from the patch. Sip on some specialty cider or snack on walking tacos, breakfast sandwiches or fresh popcorn or sample some tasty morsels from the food trucks parked on the farm. Be sure to check the online calendar for horseback rides, visits from the United States Air Force and Iowa Wild, caricaturists, face painting, family photos and more. On Fridays, enjoy socially distanced pumpkin picking for free. See the website for more information.
Location: 2425 Hiatt Apple Trail, Winterset
Hours: Fridays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Sept. 18 through Oct. 31.
Contact: (515) 490-9281; thepumpkinranch.com; Facebook
Admission: $7 on Fridays and $9.50 on Saturdays and Sundays. Children age 2 and younger are free.
Pumpkinville & Cornmaze
You can use your GPS to navigate your way through the 20-acre "scavenger hunt" big maze at Pumpkinville and Cornmaze in Mitchellville or you can let the kids loose in the 15-minute mini-maze. This year's maze is “Mystery Van,” and new this year is a GPS option. Show your strength with a game of "Tug a Pumpkin," closely resembling tug-of-war, or show your speed with a sack race.
There's no shortage of straw here — kids can jump around a straw train or jump into a big pile of straw. Shop for a wide variety of pumpkins, savor some cinnamon-spiked cider and hot chocolate, and nibble on tasty treats, including nachos, burgers and hot dogs.
Location: 618 Center Ave. S., Mitchellville
Hours: Open daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., beginning Sept. 19.
Contact: (515) 710-2843; pumpkinvillecornmaze.com; Facebook
Admission: Free to visit; $7 for the big maze, ages 6 and over; $1 for the mini-maze, ages 3 and up; children 2 and younger are free. Campfires are $25 for the first two hours and $10 for each additional hour.
Wills Family Orchard & Pumpkin Farm
It's Apple and Pumpkin Fest time at Wills Family Orchard on Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 25. Pick your own pumpkins or choose from a pre-picked selection. Pick-your-own apples will be available in limited supply, but pre-picked apples will be available for purchase. Brats, hot dogs, chips, pie by the slice, cider doughnuts and caramel apples are available to whet your appetite.
When you're not roaming through the rope maze, take a ride on the hay wagon or pet the barnyard animals. Then go shopping for cider, wine and other treats made from apples picked right on location. Let the kids loose in the expanded kids’ area and the hay bale maze or bring out their inner Picasso with gourd painting.
Location: 33130 Panther Creek Road, Adel
Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays; noon-6 p.m. Sundays. Sept. 19 through Oct. 25.
Contact: (515) 321-1847; willsfamilyorchard.com; Facebook
Admission: Free to visit the farm store and pumpkin patch. $7 plus tax for the corn maze and activities; children 2 and under are free.
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