The Land of Lincoln is rich in agritourism adventures. Groups can enjoy a variety of agricultural excursions with trips to orchards, pumpkin patches, farms and even Amish country.
Duration: 3 Days
This Itinerary is Ideal For: Everyone
Go behind the scenes on a tour at Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch in Champaign. Your group will discover the world of honey bees, see how cider is made and taste some of the apple varieties grown at this family farm that has entertained several generations of visitors. Tour members get an apple cider donut and cider in a keepsake apple cup. There’s time to shop
for apple butter, apple fritters and other goodies in the country store and bakery. For lunch, your group can enjoy Italian beef or pulled pork sandwiches, with iced pumpkin bars for dessert, at the farm’s Flying Monkey Cafe.
Learn about small-scale sustainable farming on an educational tour of Champaign’s Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery. In addition to meeting with the goats that produce milk for the farmstead’s cheeses and gelato, your travelers will walk through the vegetable garden and orchard, and taste some of the products. There might be a chance to pick peaches, apples or berries.
Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in nearby Rantoul keeps visitors busy with corn mazes and tractor-driven tours focusing on its 16 Alaskan reindeer and Christmas tree farm. Have your picture taken kissing a reindeer.
For dinner at Hardy’s, schedule an outdoor weenie roast or a Texas BBQ dinner with stage entertainment in the Western- style banquet facility.
On your way to Illinois Amish Country, stop by Sundrop Alpacas in Bement. See the adorable animals and shop for yarn, socks, mittens and other products made from alpaca fleece, which is as soft as cashmere and warmer than wool. The town of Arthur is the hub of the 2,000-strong Amish community in Douglas and Moultrie counties. Local tour operators can work with you to set up an Amish farm visit. They also can arrange for you to see master craftsmen making Amish furniture or watch horse-drawn buggies being constructed.
For lunch, your group can dine on hearty fare in an Amish home or at Yoder’s Kitchen, a large, group-friendly restaurant famous for its fried chicken meals in Arthur, one of Illinois’ great agritourism attractions, celebrates the season with fun exhibits and displays of over 100 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds. The farm’s Homestead Bakery, open year-round, tempts the sweet tooth with cinnamon rolls, cookies and angel food cakes. For more treats, spend some time in downtown Arthur. Specialty shops offer cheeses, fudge and baked goods, along with fabrics, crafts and antiques. The old- time soda fountain at Dick’s Pharmacy whips up scrumptious ice cream creations. Another Amish Country option: a wagon tour any time of year at Aikman Wildlife Adventure, a drive- thru wildlife park populated by exotic animals, including zebras, camels and water buffalo, as well as bison, horses and more familiar creatures. The walk-thru area has a petting zoo and other habitats for smaller animals.
The cheese made at Marcoot Jersey Creamery in Greenville is really creamy because milk from grass-fed Jersey cows has a high cream content. At the artisan creamery that opened on a seventh- generation dairy farm in 2010, one-hour group tours include samples of five or six cheeses. Visitors see workers stirring the tanks of whey through a large viewing window; the calf barn; and milking parlor, where cows are hooked up to a robotic milker. Try your hand at milking a simulated cow. Among 20 cheese varieties for sale are the popular cheese curds (plain cheddar or with garlic herb or sriracha flavoring). For more insight into the local dairy industry, take your group to The Milk House at Rolling Lawns Farm.
Don’t leave Greenville without stopping at the quirky DeMoulin Museum, which is housed in a former church. Your group will learn about one of the largest manufacturers of marching band uniforms and enjoy hands-on encounters with lodge-initiation devices—like the spanking machine, bucking goat, trick chair and electric branding iron—once made by Greenville’s DeMoulin company.
Follow Route 127 down to Carlyle and stop at Ten Pin Antiques, an antique mall that occupies a former bowling alley complete with the old signage, score-keeping monitors and bowling lanes. Continue on to Nashville and Rainbow Ranch Petting Zoo, where Alan Blumhorst shows you his menagerie. Besides pigs, goats and other farm critters, the tour features exotic animals like camels, zebras, kangaroos and emus. Your group will enjoy mingling with the donkeys and miniature horses. There’s a macaw show, too.
Pinckneyville is home to the Illinois Rural Life Museum, a treasure house of farming implements and other antiques. Charles and Mary Greer, who ran a local hog farm, will take your group through two huge buildings filled with everything from tractors to rope-making machines. Perhaps the lard kettle, sausage stuffer or apple cider press will catch your eye. Period displays include a farm house, general store, and doctor and dentist offices from way back when. Then visit Pinckneyville’s 1871 Perry County Jail Museum and see the prisoner art inside the cells where Perry County housed its bad guys. There’s also a bedroom in the building where incarcerated women stayed. The sheriff and his family lived in the jail-residence complex until the 1970s.
For dinner, travel to Du Quoin’s St. Nicholas Brewing Company, an upscale brewpub in a historic hotel building dating from 1879. Menu favorites range from catfish filets with fries and hush puppies to gourmet mac & cheese and sourdough-crust pizzas. Wash it down with craft beer made on site.