Before the first hard frost come the fruits of farm labor. Wisconsin’s bounty seems especially plentiful this year, thanks to long-lasting, agreeable weather that even makes me look like a master gardener of tomatoes.
The harvest is one big reason to celebrate and appreciate autumn. Changing leaf color is another. In the Badger State is no shortage of fall festivals, fresh apples and lovely autumn drives.
Check TravelWisconsin.com for details about events statewide and for a map with up-to-date info on where fall color is at its peak. Now is the time for prime views of changing hues throughout the Northwoods.
Here are 10 ways to deepen your immersion into the changing seasons.
Children and Teen’s Book Festivals, Sheboygan: As weather cools, more book festivals pop up with ideas about what titles to hunker down with as snow flies. These Oct. 13-15 gatherings are all about literature of interest to the younger generation. Book lovers can meet authors and book illustrators and get inspiration for putting together their own bestseller at these free workshops, demos and discussions. sheboyganchildrensbookfestival.org, 800-457-9497
Comet Sky Ride, Wausau: Granite Peak at Rib Mountain State Park is best known for its 75 downhill ski runs, but now it the time for chairlift rides that show off falls colors from above the treetops. Roundtrip cost is $11 (free for ages 3-5). These rides happen, weather permitting, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Oct. 22. skigranitepeak.com, 715-845-2846
Crane Congregations, Baraboo: Say farewell to the flocks of sandhill cranes that converge at the Wisconsin River before heading south for the winter. The Aldo Leopold Foundation arranges three types of narrated tours of the area: weeknight ($35); in addition to a wine-cheese reception and Leopold Shack/Farm tour ($75); and a photography blind reservation ($150). On select dates, Nov. 3 through Dec. 9. aldoleopold.org, 608-355-0279
The Fall 50, Door County: Romp or jog from Gills Rock at the county’s peak to Sunset Park in Sturgeon Bay by rugged yourself or in teams of two to five. The 50-mile route on Oct. 21 snakes through villages, serene farmscapes and – if nature cooperates – brilliantly colored wooded areas Registration is $180 per ultra-marathoner or $125 per team member. A similar autumn event happens in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. fall50.com/doorcounty, 920-743-4456
Great Pumpkin Train, Green Bay: The National Railroad Museum for 60 years has preserved train and railway history. For this special time, historic passenger cars this month head to a pumpkin patch, where riders disembark and look for the pudgy orange orb of their dreams. A ticket to ride, Oct. 14 and 21, is $13 (free for ages under 2). The museum adds kid-friendly, indoor crafts, games and music. nationalrrmuseum.org, 920-437-7623
The Little French Bakery, North Freedom: Turn up the oven and immerse yourself in a little something buttery or sweet. Instead of a cooking class that lasts an hour or two, this business offers one-day immersions in a rural culinary studio. Coming up: croissants and pain au chocolat, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 4. Cost: $200. littlefrenchbakery.com, 608-522-4981
Rural Arts Roadtrip, Calumet County: It is not unusual for groups of artists to share their studios with the public as fall colors flourish. This Oct. 13-15 event adds more. At least 40 artisans are represented at nine stops that include farms and retail shops, most in rural Calumet County. Shop for glassworks, pottery, carved fish decoys, body lotions and balms, cheese, raw honey, fiber arts, iron sculptures, rolled oats, handmade pastas and more. ruralartsroadtrip.com, 920-286-0971
Splash of Red Cranberry Tours, Pittsville: Students in the nation’s only cranberry science class lead two-hour tours of cranberry bogs, berry harvesting and processing. The outing ends with a cranberry-themed lunch, made by the school’s food class. Proceeds are used for Future Farmers of America scholarships, trips and other activities. Tours cost $20 per person, are 9:30 a.m. to noon and end Oct. 27. visitwisrapids.com, 715-884-6412
Treinen Farm, Lodi: The trilobite is the official state fossil, and nowhere is one larger than here. On the 200-acre and third-generation family farm is a corn maze with a trilobite design that is 480 feet long and covers 15 acres with its six miles of curvy trails. Just walk it or look for clues to solve a puzzle and win a prize. Open through the second weekend of November. Admission is $10 ($6 for ages 3-5). Also on the farm: a petting zoo, pumpkin patch, hayrides, play and activity areas. treinenfarm.com, 608-622-7407
Wisconsin Fear Grounds, Waukesha: Only one ghostly attraction in the state earns an “America’s Best Haunts” seal for its degree of fright, and this is it. One price covers admission to three spooky buildings at the Waukesha Expo Center grounds. Open on Friday, Saturday and other select dates, through Oct. 28. New this year: a creepy, hour-long “escape room” experience. “Mingle with a Monster,” starting at 11 p.m. this month on Friday the 13th, includes a “behind the screams” tour and bonfire. Cost: $15 to $75. wisconsinfeargrounds.com, 262-844-5611