Beautiful colors illuminating the trees, crisp air and gray frosts, delicious seasonal treats at the farm – there’s plenty to make this time of year unforgettable. And the best places to make those memories are hiding in the countryside outside suburbia. Down-home farms, beautiful barns, quiet country roads and delicious foods are on full display this season.
Orchards/Christmas Tree Farms
We love them in September and October for their fresh apples, warm cider and irresistible doughnuts, but by November it’s time for another seasonal favorite: Christmas trees. Richardson Adventure Farm, in Spring Grove, offers pre-cut trees and cut-your-own fields. At the farm store, find handmade wreaths and garlands for home accents, as well as late-season treats.
Barn Quilt Tour
Give the kids something fun to seek out while Mom and Dad enjoy a quiet drive. In DeKalb and McHenry counties, official barn quilt tours add to the vibrant colors you’ll find in rural Illinois.
These fun and colorful displays are affixed to historic properties and painted to resemble quilt patterns.
Barn quilt tours are self-guided, so it’s entirely up to you where you’ll start and end. Visit mchenrycountyhistory.org for a trail map in McHenry Country, or dekalbcountycvb.com for a trail map in DeKalb County.
Rustic Road Trail 11
This paved, 10.3-mile road is located just east of Lake Geneva, off state route 50.
Enjoy the quick rise and fall of each hill and lean into those sharp turns. Keep an eye out for local wildlife, rustic barns, horses and a local game farm.
If you get lost, that’s OK. These winding roads eventually lead to the city.
Rush Creek Distilling
Housed in a former industrial building, this distillery has large garage doors that let in plenty of natural light and views of the surrounding scenery.
This distillery crafts its own vodka, gin and whiskey, sourcing its grains from Harvard-area farmers who’ve been working their land for generations.
Try something different and explore Rush Creek’s extensive recipe list, filled with custom cocktails such as the hometown mule with vodka, lime and ginger beer. The American gold fashioned plays on a supper club favorite, combining Rush Creek’s American Gold whiskey with sugar, bitters, an orange slice and two cherries.
D&J Bistro, Lake Zurich
Try a different kind of scenic drive and discover a cozy, upscale French bistro that claims to have been the first of its kind in the Chicago area.
This Lake Zurich favorite has monthly specials appropriately titled “True Bistro Dish.” November brings the Le Cassoulet de Carcassonne, another French dish made with confit of duck, pork and sausages and served with Northern beans.
In true French style, the bistro celebrates the arrival of the 2020 G. Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, a fresh and fruity wine, on Nov. 19.
Duck Inn Supper Club, Delavan
This classic Wisconsin supper club serves up casual, fine dining in an elegant country setting that’s a welcome throwback to another time. Don’t blink or you might miss it at the juncture of two country roads a few miles northwest of Delavan.
The Duck Inn’s menu is loaded with classic American fare, including roasted duck served with wild rice and Alaskan salmon served with dill sauce.
There’s an extensive wine list that includes sparkling, dessert, red and white wines. Old fashioneds are a must.
Carry-out is available.
Broken Earth Winery, Long Grove
How many local wineries can claim a direct connection to California wine country? This one stands apart because it’s the first expansion of a vineyard based in Paso Robles, Calif.
The extensive wine list covers all of the bases. Look for reds such as the 2012 Petite Verdot, a drier wine with dark fruits, cinnamon and nutmeg. Or, try a sparking wine, like the 2015 Sparkling Merlot, with lingering cherry, licorice and red currant notes.
Unsure what to try? Consider a wine flight and sample several wines before making a selection.
Whatever new things you try this season, make an adventure out of it. ❚