It’s OK to admit it. Fall is one of the best times of the year, and for good reason. Cooler temperatures, mysterious corn mazes and those apple cider doughnuts are just part of the fun.
Spend a day at Richardson Adventure Farm, in Spring Grove, and you’ll squeeze it all into one fall afternoon.
“Our farm is just about having fun on a fall day,” says George Richardson, a fifth-generation family member who co-owns the farm with his wife, Wendy; his brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Carol Richardson; and his son and daughter-in-law, Ryan and Kristen Richardson.
The farm opened for the fall season Sept. 9, and the fun continues through Oct. 29 this year.
The beauty of this sprawling farm, located in northern McHenry County, is that there’s something happening year-round. In addition to the fall activities in September and October, there’s also a tulip festival that happens in the spring, a craft beer festival that happens in the summer and a Christmas tree farm that opens the day after Thanksgiving.
Of course, autumn is a favorite time for many to visit, and one of the main attractions is a massive corn maze that spans more than 28 acres. The Richardsons work with Shawn Stolworthy, owner of MazePlay.com, to help create designs. The cornfield is planted in early June with a specialized planter hooked to a computer and a global positioning system.
In years past, the farm has shown off corn mazes inspired by the likes of Star Trek, The Beatles, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears, to name a few. This year’s maze celebrates dinosaurs.
Visitors to the farm might see a figure flying high above them. It’s not a bird or a plane; it’s someone riding a zipline across the grounds. Guests can climb the observation tower to soar across the farm on a 700-foot-long zipline.
Snoop Pigg, Taylor Swiftfoot and their friends have a muddy good time as they race around Richardson Adventure Farm’s pig race track on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“Wendy and I do most of the pig races every two hours with live pigs,” George Richardson says. “Each pig gets their own musical introduction and my wife and I do some funny banter, so that’s entertaining.”
Immediately after the fall season ends, the Richardsons and their team turn their attention to Christmas with the help of their Christmas tree farm. People from miles around come to select and harvest their own Christmas trees.
Back in the 1980s, part of the farm was filled with oak and hickory trees on a dairy cow pasture. Richardson and his family began thinking of a better way to use the space.
“We asked what we could do with the smaller area and we decided on the Christmas trees,” George Richardson says. “We bought 1,000 Christmas tree seedlings and planted those back in 1981, and six years later those trees grew to 8 feet.”
Today, the farm has more than 50,000 trees with plenty of variety available across 75 acres, so anyone who comes looking for the perfect tree will have a good chance of finding it.
Richardson Farm staff make the process even easier because they offer wagon rides to and from the fields – and they’ll even haul the tree. While this is going on, people can thaw out indoors with hot chocolate, coffee and a homemade doughnut.
The autumn festival and Christmas tree farm are busy enough, but the Richardson family’s farm has still more.
Every summer brings a brightly colored sunflower field that is unlike anything else. The sunflowers are planted with more than 3 miles of walking paths, so visitors can spy a range of colors like orange, yellow, gold, red and peach.
The sunflowers typically are in full bloom through September and might last into October, depending on the weather.
A MUDGIRL obstacle race takes place on the grounds in July. It’s a 3-mile mud race with more than 17 obstacles geared toward women.
Then, a craft brew festival happens on the grounds in June. Hosted by the Richmond-Spring Grove Area Rotary Club, the Craft Beer Adventure Festival features craft beer, wine and spirits.
Don’t forget about the tulips – all one million of them. Since the Richardson Tulip Festival started in 2021, the farm has added more than 300,000 new bulbs from 30 varieties. They typically bloom from mid-April through mid-May with all-out color in the spring landscape.
“Our farm is about having fun,” George Richardson says. “We get high school kids, young couples, and guests with or without kids. People can even bring their dogs if they’re well-behaved. We’ll also get the 40, 50 and 60-year-olds who’ll let their kids and grandkids run around while they sit around the campfire. We get people of all ages who visit, and that feels really good for us.”
Richardson Adventure Farm is located at 909 English Prairie Road, in Spring Grove, (815) 675-9729.