Fall is settling in once again. We Midwesterners collectively say goodbye to the heat of summer and prepare to settle in for the cold of a Midwest winter. The transition can feel unwelcome at first, but slowly becomes bearable, then even enjoyable, as we embrace the warmth of fall family traditions.

This year, our family created a new seasonal tradition: a fun, family-friendly, fall weekend in the Aurora Area of Illinois, and we invite you to do the same!

Disclosure: We were provided free admission to these attractions courtesy the Aurora Area CVB. 

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Catch a production of Disney’s Newsies at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre

We kicked off our weekend of new fall traditions on Friday night with Disney's Newsies, a Broadway Series production at Aurora’s crown jewel, the award winning Paramount Theatre.

The show that Chicago Tribune calls “family-fun” and “visually spectacular,” and Chicago Theatre Review touts as an “outstanding production… gorgeously sung… brilliantly choreographed” was an absolute hit with our family. The moment the curtain was down, our tween was asking if we could see it again!

This was no surprise, as we have loved every production we have seen at the Paramount. This spectacular theater is single-handedly changing the way devoted Chicago-area theater fans feel about the work being produced outside the city. Paramount boasts the second largest subscription base of any theater in the country, and currently has two productions nominated for Best Large Musical in the annual Joseph Jefferson (aka "Jeff") awards, Chicago's version of the "Tonys." To view showtimes and reserve your seats to Disney's Newsies at the Paramount Theatre, visit ParamountAurora.com. 

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Experience Pumpkin Daze at Abbey Farms

Yes, it’s called Abbey Farms Pumpkin Daze, but the most anticipated element of our visit to Abbey Farms was their donuts!

Having won “Best Donuts in Kane County” numerous years, Abbey Farms’ donuts were the first stop on our visit. With three choices —apple cider, pumpkin spice, and pumpkin spice with icing— we decided it would be irresponsible to try anything less than all three. After confirming these donuts were worthy of their top honors, we got an extra dozen to take home!

Insider tip: score a free donut by posting a farm review. Details at the farm Emporium and on the back of the farm’s Pumpkin Daze guide.

Explore One of Chicagoland's Biggest Corn Mazes

At 12 acres, Abbey Farms’ corn maze —the largest in Kane County— gave us a good challenge, physically and mentally. We spent more than an hour winding through the maze, tracing and retracing our steps, listening to the abbey’s nostalgic clocktower chime out our efforts at 15-minute intervals. Due to its size, the corn maze can be a challenge if you don't use the map. Study it from the very beginning for a chance at completing the maze faster than we did.

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Watch the Game at the Craft Beer & Wine Tent

This attraction almost speaks for itself. A spot to sit and rest. Away from the sun (or out of the drizzle, depending on the day). With football games on tv. And bean bag seats for lounging. Plus craft beer and wine for adults. Right next to an apple and candy bar for the kids. All surrounded by crisp, fall country air. This was a perfect mid-afternoon break. Be sure not to miss the kettle corn, a perfect pairing for a craft beer!

Abbey Farms U-Pick Pumpkin Patch

So much more exciting that unceremoniously dropping a pumpkin into a grocery cart with the rest of the week’s shopping, choosing a pumpkin right out of the patch will definitely be a cherished part of our family’s new fall traditions! In addition to choosing a pumpkin, don’t miss Grandma’s Garden at Abbey Farms, where you can pick more fall produce. Inquire inside the concession stand to learn which vegetables are ready for harvest at the time of your visit.

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Catch a Movie Under the Stars

On Saturdays, weather permitting, Abbey Farms hosts a double feature on the lawn behind the craft beer and wine tent. Bring your own blanket or lawn chair, then grab a drink from the tent and some treats from the concession stand and settle in for a throwback to the days of drive-in movies; this time, farm style. Rent a fire pit on the movie lawn to add a real fall feeling to your movie night. 

More Fun Attractions at Abbey Farms

Other highlights loved by our tween—and Abbey Farms’ visitors of any age—include: a jumping pillow, pedal go-karts, lasso challenge, mini maze, zip line, potato sack races, a petting zoo, and more. The human hamster ball and the corn cannon attractions were also huge hits, but do note that these incur an additional fee. For Pumpkin Daze tickets, schedule, and further details, visit AbbeyFarms.org.

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Visit the Farmstead Store at Nagel Emporium 

House-made fruit butters, sauces, dips and spreads, pies and baked goods, and even traditional children’s toys mean there’s more to shopping at Abbey Farms than just donuts. Our tween loved the stuffed animals. And we parents can’t wait to come back for the pie! Besides being a delicious place to shop, the Nagel Emporium is also a relaxing place to find a seat and recharge if the day gets hot or wet or tiring.

Where to stay in the Aurora Area of Illinois

We are lucky enough to live just minutes from Paramount Theatre and Abbey Farms. But if you’ll need a place to stay while creating your fall family traditions in Aurora, the Aurora Area Convention & Visitors Bureau has hotel listings for friendly and affordable lodging options as well as getaway packages to get the most out of your stay. 

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Julie Ap is the founder of Open Wide the World, a travel website centered on the premise that “knowledge enriches travel and travel enriches life!” When Julie and her family are not researching and writing about destinations in the Aurora and Greater Chicago areas, they can be found camping, hiking, boating and traveling all over the Midwest and beyond. Julie has previously written for the #EnjoyAurora blog about kayaking the Marge Cline Whitewater Course in Yorkville, Illinois