It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Andy Williams may try to convince us otherwise, but that doesn’t change facts. It is fall. Autumn. Spooky season. Fall is never long enough in Central Illinois. We are still dealing with 80 degree temperatures in October, which is generally unacceptable. Give me jeans, hooded sweatshirts, cozy socks and cardigans, hot apple cider or mulled wine, bonfires, and a high temperature of 68. Ideally, there would be at least three solid months of this. Alas, this is not how things work here. We will have summer, a flash of fall, and it will be winter.


So, let’s make the most of these October days. I’m offering you a C-U fall “choose your own adventure” of sorts this month. Some of us are more interested in the leaves and the cider and the cozy. Others are more interested in the skeletons and the scares and the costumes. You may want a little of column A, a little of column B. I have some mild suggestions and spicy suggestions. Do with this information what you will, just don’t waste the best season of the year.

Festive fall

Photo from The Great Pumpkin Patch Facebook page.

Get some fall fun photos for the ‘Gram

This year The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur is back in action, after a subdued COVID season last year, and if you are looking for a full on fall fun experience, I think it’s your best bet. I do have an appreciation for Curtis Orchard, but it tends to be uncomfortably packed on October weekends. The Great Pumpkin Patch has a lot more space, with numerous elaborate pumpkin/gourd/mum/cornstalk/hay bale displays for your fall aesthetic photos. There are mazes, music, artists, cider slushes, baked goods, llamas...oh my. If that feels overwhelming, my more chill pumpkin experience recommendation is Negangards. You can still snap some photos, gather up a solid selection of pumpkins and gourds (and it’s cheap!) then mosey over to Sidney Dairy Barn for some pumpkin ice cream or apple pie a la mode.

Have some school spirit?

Okay, so our football team isn’t great. But you know what is great? Tailgating. There have been numerous times during my life as a C-U dweller when I have thrown on my orange and blue and spent a glorious Saturday afternoon tailgating, without even buying a ticket for the game. You can hear the fireworks from the stadium if something good happens, and you can bring your own food and beer and yard games and sportsballs and have a grand old time. Bonus: You get to choose the people you surround yourself with, rather than sitting shoulder to shoulder with a mixture of vaccination statuses. Grange Grove has all sorts of bells and whistles, but it’s also crowded. Grab a single game spot way out by the tennis center and enjoy the space. Check out the schedule to find dates for remaining home games. This Saturday is Homecoming!

Photo by Julie McClure.

Engage your senses

Late fall is primo hiking time. And though we don’t have rigorous hiking trails here, we do have trails with lots of trees. Take an afternoon to immerse yourself in natural beauty as the leaves change to red and orange and yellow. Busey Woods is a perfect in town option. If you’re willing to drive a bit, I’m partial to Allerton or Homer Lake if you really want to feel immersed in the woods. Hear the crunch under your feet, inhale that fall haze of leaves burning in the distance, feel the slight chill in the air…it’s wonderful. 

Frightening fall

Photo from Baldwin Asylum Facebook page.

Let people scare the living daylights out of you

You can get a double dose of ghouls and gore by heading up to Rantoul for a night. A couple of years ago, we took a look behind the scenes of Baldwin Asylum, a massive haunted attraction with a backstory featuring a misunderstood woman accused of witchcraft and a cursed asylum. If you can handle it all in one swoop, Necrosis Haunted House is in Rantoul as well. It bills itself as a “nightmare realm infested with evil and consumed by darkness...where the line between the living and the dead is rotting away.” Follow the links for dates, times, and ticket info.

Image from Harvest Moon Drive-In Facebook page.

Let movies scare the living daylights out of you

Each year, Harvest Moon Drive-In hosts Frightfest throughout October, with different Halloween-themed movies each weekend, both family-oriented and horror flicks. The weekend of October 15th and 16th has a solid selection of scream worthy options. On one screen you have the latest Michael Myers installment Halloween Kills paired with The Shining, and on the other you can get your fill of demonic possession with The Exorcist and The Conjuring. While at Frightfest you can enjoy lots of fall treats and walk through the Haunted Forest. Beware, there are costumed monsters roaming. I went last year and I was not ready. You can buy tickets at the door, but I prefer to get them in advance and reserve a front row spot. 

Let real historical events scare the living daylights out of you

Dig into some dark and twisted history at the Dark History & Horror Convention. Happening on October 23rd at the iHotel, you’ll learn about “true crime, gangsters, serial killers, spree killers, assassinations, public enemies, women's suffrage, the civil rights struggles, Native massacres, tragic events and just about anything not covered in the ‘history books’” through art, authors, experts, and more. Sometimes the real is scarier than the imaginary. You can purchase tickets here.

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Whatever adventures you choose this month, please be safe and take care of those around you. Oh and here's some info on upcoming vaccination opportunties. Just 'cause.

Top photo by Julie McClure.