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Best Fall Leaf Viewing and Farmers Markets in Illinois

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.


Leaf Peeping in Rockford, "The Forest City"

The counties of Northern Illinois, including Rockford's Winnebago County, are centers for Fall Foliage Tours accessible by driving or hiking, although some Fall Foliage Train Tours extend over a period of days and are popular around Illinois as well.One of the most popular trees in this area is the fast growing American Beech or Fagus grandiflora, whose leaves turn bright orange in this part of the country in autumn and may not fall to the ground at all during the fall and winter.

The fall colors are brilliant from September through the end of October in Northern Illinois, but intensely so in the botanical gardens and state parks of Rockford, a far suburb of Chicago to the southeast on Lake Michigan. The entire area is good for travel. Along the foliage routes are many large U-Pick and pre-picked farmers' markets with indoor and outdoor venues.

The farmers' wares include anything from free range chickens and eggs to home raised honey, apples, berries, vegetables, cheeses, pumpkins, and gifts from attached shops. Hayrides and other autumn activities are prominent and make for a good vacation or weekend getaway in which travelers come away with fresh foods grown with sustainable methods. All this makes the fall season more enjoyable than if travelers stayed indoors when temperatures begin to drop and did not discover these places.

The peak of colors occurs during the first two weeks of October.

Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford.

Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford.

The best sites for a driving tour through the fall foliage of the Rock River Valley lie on a diagonal through Rockford, Illinois. Beginning in the southwestern part of the community, there is the Severson Dells Forest Preserve, part of the reason that Rockford is known as "The Forest City." Driving to the northeast, visitors will find Kehlm Arboretum and Botanical Park, Nicholas Conservatory and Gardens, Sinnissippi Gardens, Sinnissippi Park, and Rock Cut State Park.

The Great Gardens of Rockford:

A series of botanical gardens called the Great Gardens in Rockford include six sites that welcome visitors. Among them are:

  • Anderson Japanese Garden,
  • Heritage Gardens and Midway Museum,
  • The Kehlm,
  • La Paloma Gardens,
  • The Sinnissippi, and
  • Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens.

Find them all on the map below.

Nearby Attractions Among the Foliage

City Market in Rockford

Winnebago County, Including Rockford

CITY MARKET - The largest and most popular market int he state is City Market in Rockford, open Fridays 3 PM - 8 PM from June through October. In conjunction with this market, the city offers Forest City Queen Riverboat and Trolley Car36 rides to market from the downtown trolley station. Longer riverboat cruises are offered on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and sign language interpreters are offered for cruises. Call 815-987-1685. The market operates on Water Street in Downtown Rockford between State and Jefferson Streets.

Bethkes’ Farm Apples and Raspberries
Location: 6587 Cherry Valley Road in Cherry Valley to sell Royal Gala, Big Jon, Ozark Gold and apple cider. June – October, 10 AM to 6 PM 7 days a week. Phone: 815-522-2215.

Curran’s Orchard - Tart cherries, apples, raspberries, autumn/Halloween straw maze, hayrides, pumpkins. Open June through November for various U-Pick/Pre-Packed items and the farm store. 9-6 Monday through Saturday; and open especially for Christmas throughout December until 5pm. Petting farm and a cutaway bee hive are great attractions. The shop had jams, jellies, apple butter, salad dressings, real maple syrup.

Location: 6385 Kilburn Ave/Route 70 in Rockford. Phone: 815-963-7848.

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Edgebrook Farmers Market - Every Wednesday morning through lunchtime from June through October. Fresh-picked produce, free range meats and poultry, roasted nuts, baked goods, cheeses, plants, fresh flowers, and hanging baskets.

Location: Edgebrook Shopping Center at the corner of North Alpine and Highcrest Roads in Rockford.

Harrison Market Gardens - Asparagus, beans, beets, blackberries, broccoli, carrots, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, flowers, herbs and spices, various melons, onions, peas, peppers, red raspberries, rhubarb, summer and winter squash, strawberries, tomatoes, others. At various times they have potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, spinach, turnips, tomatillos, okra, pumpkins, kale, Swiss chard, edamame, and gourds.

Location: 9024 Harrison Road, Winnebago IL. Phone: 815-629-2126. 7 miles northwest of Rockford.

Hazzard Free Farm - All-natural agriculture. Beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, flowers, herbs and spices, melons, onions, peppers, summer and winter squash, tomatoes, others. Picnic area available. Fine place for weddings and receptions, school tours, birthdays and special events.Open May through October, 7 days a week.

Location: 5111 Ahrens Road, Pecatonica IL. Phone: 815-289-1431.

Valley Orchard - Apples, beans, blackberries, blueberries, corn, pumpkins, red raspberries, yellow raspberries, rhubarb, winter squash. An on-site Cider Mill presses cider daily. U-pick and pre-picked produce, large farm market, gift shop, picnic area.

Location: 911 East State Street, Cherry Valley IL. Phone: 815-332-9696.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 25, 2012:

Me, too! I'll be driving around this weekend.

Sommer Dalton on September 25, 2012:

Voted up and more! Very educational and looking forward to fall now!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 25, 2012:

@vespawoolf - I had a friend that lived there for several years and she loved it , too. I hope you are able to return to visit soon and wish the markets could last all year round!

@carol7777 - How wonderful to be able to stay on a farm as you did! Thanks for reading my Hub; I'm ready to go back and visit.

carol stanley from Arizona on September 25, 2012:

Writing about Rockford, Illinois brought back some old memories. When my first husband was in Dental school at Northwestern we were invited there. We stayed on a farm for the weekend and went skiing nearby. It was a lovely place. Love your photos and information. UP.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on September 24, 2012:

This is another great resource! I'd love to take an autumn foliage tour, stop at a few farmer's markets and the botanical gardens, too. You chose beautiful photos. Now I'm homesick! : ( Thanks for another interesting hub.

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