Fall Activities around Fond du LacOct 13, 2014 02:21PM ● By Julie Henning
Group Karting at Road America
Let's start with the Group Adventure Programs at Road America. Drawing visitors to Elkhart Lake for more than just racing and vehicle performance runs, Group Adventure options range from geocaching to paintball, disc golf, paintball, snowshoeing, go karting, and half-day adventures on an ATV.
Ideal for family gatherings, birthday parties, and even corporate outings, fall is the perfect time to take a one hour hayride tour around the 640 acres in the heart of Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine.
New to the list of activities is a 1200-foot twin zip line that travels at speeds of 60 miles per hour (two participants race to the wooden platform shown in the photo below).
Tapping into the nostalgia of yesteryear is the Sunset Cruise. For $20 per carload, families can bring their own vehicles onto the racetrack for a three lap spin around the grounds (each lap is 4.084 miles and has 14 turns). Cruises begin at 6PM and advance registration is required.
The Little Farmer Orchard & Farm Market
A fall favorite for families in the Lake Winnebago area, The Little Farmer Orchard & Farm Market is located on the Niagara Escarpment, a geological formation predominant in the Midwest and is (as the name implies) what you would see at Niagara Falls. (Read more on Wikipedia.) Between the rolling hills and the glimpses of Lake Winnebago through the ridge of trees, the location is quite bucolic.
More crowded during the weekend, attendants will help you find a spot in the parking lot that can accommodate up to 2000 vehicles. Kids will love a hayride out to pick their own pumpkin; plan to spend time in the play area and feeding the goats (handfuls of feed are 25 cents).
Inside the Apple House kitchen, apples and pumpkins picked from the orchard are transformed into muffins, pies, breads and other homemade bakery items (the line may extend out the door, an indication of their deliciousness). Another tradition of fall is enjoying a caramel apple dipped in caramel and covered with the topping of your choice (options are sliced or on a stick and the experience is like a salad bar for dessert junkies).
And if the weather is too beautiful to head back inside, head to the nearby Calumet Harbor Marina to climb the 70 foot Columbia Park Tower (a breathtaking vantage point for photos of Lake Winnebago).
Specializing in agricultural tourism, the Meuer Farm include the largest corn maze in the area (this year's theme celebrates the 25th anniversary of The Simpsons television series).
The maze itself is 10 acres and is divided into two separate mazes: Phase 1 (smaller maze) and Phase 2 (larger maze). Navigating both Phase 1 and Phase 2 require participants to answer trivia questions on a passport (an incorrect answer leads you to a dead end).
Other fall farm attractions are an educational hayride, farm animals, and "play" stations (duck races, a corn box, 80's tube slide, and corn cannons).
Before you leave, make sure you purchase a bag of fresh popped kettle corn or a jar of maple syrup or honey (both are harvested seasonally).
Horicon Marsh: Boat Tours and International Education Center
The largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States, the Horicon Marsh is a reminder of the glaciers that shaped the region's landscape during the Ice Age.
Spanning both Dodge and Fond du Lac counties, the marsh is a popular place for birdwatching, hiking, and snowshoeing/skiing in the winter months. Located in downtown Horicon, Horicon Marsh Boat Tours continues to offer one hour sightseeing tours through October 25 (Monday-Friday tours depart at 1PM and Saturday and Sunday tours depart at 10AM, 1PM, and 3PM). Tours offer an "up close and personal" view of the flora and fauna and is a relaxing way to get out onto the water one last time before it freezes solid.
On the outskirts of Horicon is the Horicon Marsh International Center, a state-of-the art facility for learning about the history of the marsh (it's recovering from a period of abuse during the industrial revolution), the local ecology, and attending educational programs. Kids will enjoy the discovery area, filled with crafts, books, educational material, and even live animals.
Ghosts of Galloway Haunted House and Village
Between October 10 and November 1, the historic Galloway House and Village is converted into the Ghosts of Galloway Haunted House and Village. During other times of year, visitors experience a self-guided tour through a settlement of historic buildings preserved to the mid-Victorian era, including a grist mill, one room schoolhouse, dress shop, courthouse, dress shop, blacksmith shop, and 30-room Galloway mansion).
Perfect for teenagers and thrill seekers, doors open at 7PM and the last ticket is sold at 10PM (the wait was quite long on opening night and if you are in a hurry, fast past tickets are available for $20 per person, which is twice the general admission price).
A better option for the younger crowd (or those of us who still sleep with a nightlight) is the toned-down version available on October 19 and 26 from 11AM-2PM (admission is only $3 per person and includes family-friendly activities).
Lakeside Park Lighthouse
Open through October 15, the Lakeside Park Lighthouse is one of the iconic places to visit in Fond du Lac. Overlooking "the foot" of Lake Winnebago, the marina, and the 400 acre park, a climb to the top of the 40 foot wooden structure is the perfect vantage point for a souvenir photo or two.
In the summer months, Lakeside Park is a popular place for families of young children and includes attractions like an antique carousel, miniature train, petting zoo, picnic pavilion, sports fields, and playgrounds.
A family-owned goat farm open to the general public, kids and parents will love LaClare Farm. Highlights of a visit to the farm include feeding the goats (you will need 25 cents for food) and watching the 4:30PM milking from inside the viewing room. Note that while goat milking starts at 4:30PM, it does not end until around 6PM (if the room is crowded, just wait a few minutes or arrive towards the end of this time frame).
Inside the retail shoppe, visitors will find local wines and a variety of Wisconsin artisan and farmstead cheeses (made with goat, cow, and sheep milk), ice cream, and craft beer and soda. LaClare Farms makes 10 different varieties of cheeses (cheesemaking rooms can be viewed through the windows inside the cafe). If the weather is beautiful, pair a drink with the 2011 U.S. Championship Cheese, LaClare Farms Evalon on the outdoor courtyard patio area.
Kelley Country Creamery
If old-fashioned premium ice cream is more your style, make the drive out to Kelley Country Creamery on the south side of town. In the national media spotlight, Kelley Country Creamery has been featured on Good Morning America and rated by USA Today as Wisconsin's best ice cream shop (and we concur).
With 22 daily flavors of ice cream ranging from banana nut french toast to Kahlua almond fudge and swinging monkey (there are over 300 in all), you'll have to get out of the car and sit for a spell. Kelley Country Creamery will never have a drive through window, as they feel their product is best enjoyed one lick at a time (sit indoors, at a picnic table, or one of the wooden rockers lined up under the wrap-around porch).
Fondy Sports Park
Open daily through the end of October, Fondy Sports Park is a nice option for family entertainment. Activities include arcade games, mini golf, go karts (and off road go karts shown in the photo below), trampolines, climbing wall, crazy maze, and driving range. Admission is based on tickets or time (print a a "buy two tickets, get one free" coupon here).
Note that the bumper boats are not available during this time of year.
Where to Stay: Retlaw Plaza Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown, the Retlaw Plaza Hotel is one of the original lodging destinations in Fond du Lac.
Offering guests perks like baked-to-order omelets and complimentary access to the Retlaw Health Club, a 6,600 square-foot athletic facility with indoor swimming pool, sauna, and hot tub, the hotel is within walking distance of restaurants, shops, and attractions (like the THELMA Center for the Arts and the swanky Trinity Restaurant and Hall).