Hop on a Hayride at Local Fall Festivals
Autumn leaves, brittle and brown, crunch underfoot. Fall winds, crisp and cool, blow autumn kisses on rosy cheeks.
Fall is the perfect time for outdoor festivity. Not too hot or too cold, autumn is just right for reviving your senses and venturing out on a hayride at one of the nearby places that celebrate Fall and family traditions.
Whether it be a tractor pulling a wagon to the pumpkin patch, through the brilliantly colored woods or on its way to see the Headless Horseman, kids and hay are a winning combination (provided you don’t mind a little hay stowing away in shoes, clothes and hair)!
Visitors to Stonycreek Farm’s 34th annual Pumpkin Harvest Festival will find no shortage of fall festivities. The 50-acre farm off of Ind. 38 east of Noblesville offers everything from an inflatable haunted house to a gourd slingshot and a giant straw pile for kids to frolic in.
Now through Halloween, visitors can pick their perfect pumpkins from the patch and take in as many other games and crafts as their budget allows. Admission is free on weekdays and $5 per car on weekends. Pumpkins are priced by diameter, and other amusement is priced a la carte, with most activities $1 or $2. The Country Market sells elephant ears, apple dumplings and other festival food. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Now through Oct. 20, Tuttle Orchards also offers wagon rides to its 8-acre pumpkin patch, where pumpkins are priced by diameter. Kids can see live farm animals and play in a children’s activity center, while adults and older children will enjoy navigating their way through a 5-acre corn maze.
If hauling oversized pumpkins and running through the cornfield causes you to work up an appetite, don’t forget to stop by the market for fresh-baked goodies and other seasonal produce. Mom of five and Highlands at Geist resident Michelle Grelle never lets the season pass without picking up a few gallons of Tuttle’s fresh-from-the-orchard cider, made from 23 varieties of apples grown on the farm (which is about 10 minutes east of Oaklandon).
“They’ve got the world’s best apple cider,” Grelle said. “However you serve it, it is so yummy. It’ll make you smack your lips.”
Urban families searching for a taste of the pastoral life may also enjoy Smith Family Farms, just a 20-minute drive up I-69 near Pendleton. There, the 30-minute hayride doesn’t just stop at the pumpkin patch; it doubles as an educational tour of the working grain and livestock farm.
The century-old farm plants about 3,000 acres each year, with corn, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins – 15 varieties of them! Cows and sheep also are raised on the farm, which sells its own “Farm Fresh Freezer Beef,” from grain-fed, hormone-free cattle. Kids can try their hand at cattle farming, with a calf roping area and a pretend milking station in the play area. The cost is just $3, with children under 3 free.
The Nature Center at Fort Harrison State Park is also offering a fun way to mix history and harvest time. To celebrate the park’s 10th anniversary, Naturalist Leslie Nocton has planned a fall festival and birthday party the last weekend in October, featuring children’s activities, hayrides and Civil war re-enactment.
“We’ll have everything Fall,” Nocton said.
On Oct. 28, families may participate in a pumpkin-painting contest, make corn-husk dolls and enjoy hot dogs and s’mores around the campfire while listening to the folksy music of the Indianapolis Dulcimer Society. The cost is $5 per family, with tickets sold at the event, which begins at noon.
Oct. 29 will be a free, birthday party event for the community, with kids’ crafts, an appearance by Smoky the Bear, and continued war re-enactment, from noon to 4 p.m.
If you prefer a more low-key approach to soaking up the natural colors of fall, schedule your own hayride at the Saddle Barn by calling 541-1866. It’s $3 per person (minimum of six people) for a 45-minute hayride, including a bonfire at the end of the ride. The stables are also open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day through the end of the month for trail rides and pony rides.
And Halloween just wouldn’t feel complete without a scare from Conner Prairie’s Headless Horseman. The festival runs Oct. 18-22 and 25-29 (gates open from 6-9 p.m.), and includes storytelling by campfire, barn-dancing, kids games and crafts – and, of course, the legendary haunted hayride.
Visitors may choose from two hayride options. Spooky Tales Twilight Hayrides run until 8 p.m., for families who would like a tamer ride with interactive storytelling. Scarier “Haunted Hayrides” run from 8 p.m. until closing. Arrive early to designate the time you’d like to ride.
Tickets for the Headless Horseman may be purchased at Marsh for $6 Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, or $8 Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets at the door cost $2 more.
Special features during the event include the “Indiana Monsters” kids’ program on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., and stilt-walker/magician Johnny Magic on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 6-8 p.m. Special tickets may be purchased to hear from Indiana folklorist Wanda Lou Willis on Oct. 18 and 25 for $15, including dinner and admission to the Headless Horseman. The legendary Sammy Terry will be at The Eatery on Oct. 19. Tickets are $8 and may be purchased by calling Conner Prairie at 776-6006.