Here's an easy day trip to the country, perfect for fall.
La Porte, Indiana, located less than 1.5 hours from Chicago, offers a little bit of everything for everyone in your family: spooky trains for the toddlers, an old-fashioned diner for the tweens and apple and pumpkin picking for all.
Our family started our trip with a visit to the Hesston Steam Museum, where we boarded an old-fashioned steam train that led us through a spooky, haunted forest. In actuality, the forest was everything but scary. It was lovely, bathed in late fall sunlight and glowing in reds and yellows. Every once in awhile we passed by a scarecrow, a ghost made of an old sheet or a hay-stuffed witch. It was just spooky enough for my 4-year-old daughter and just corny enough to get many chuckles out of my 12-year-old son and his pal who tagged along with us. While the haunted train only runs on weekends in October, the museum is a must-visit for train lovers year round and features a number of fun, family centered events throughout the year.
For lunch, we headed to downtown La Porte, where we ate sandwiches at an old-fashioned diner, B&J's American Cafe. Not much has changed in this diner since it opened in 1915. The kids loved the zinc countertops and the old-fashioned soda fountain. We tucked into burgers, fries and shakes, and saved room for the delicious pies. If you're heading out of Chicago earlier in the morning, consider skipping breakfast and heading straight here for a tasty diner-style brunch.
Finally, we headed to Garwood Orchards to gather a few pumpkins, only to arrive and discover that the Fuji apples were ripe for the picking! We grabbed a wagon and headed out to the orchards.
My daughter loved that many of the apples were low enough to the ground that she could just reach up and grab one from the branch. With a little help, she also climbed the ladder to reach some that were a bit higher up.
My son and his pal had a blast positioning and climbing the taller ladders to reach the big Fujis that were hiding in the upper branches.
The apples were so sweet and crispy; they tasted like autumn.
We left La Porte with lots and lots of apples in our bellies, a gallon of fresh apple cider, 10 pounds of apples, and a few pumpkins and gourds in the trunk.
A fall day to La Porte makes for a beautiful and fruitful family experience!
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
See more of Amy's stories here.