Open for just one month every autumn, The Pumpkin Ranch seems more like a scene from a child’s dream than a family-run business. But that’s the way the Handsaker family planned it, hoping to create a family-friendly hub that celebrated their love of all things autumn. They began by cultivating their 9-acre cornfield into a complex maze, incorporating 12 checkpoints that make sure guests are on the right path and offer clues to the ranch’s Farm Scene Investigation mystery. Alongside the maze, the Handsakers have built up a 10-acre patch of pumpkins and gourds, where squashy specimens wait to be carved into jack-o’-lanterns or stomped into wine.
The hayrack ride transports guests to and fro on the ranch, speeding up walks so guests can spend more time reveling in the play zone’s bounce houses, climbable straw bales, and tire towers. For more exhilarating pastimes, the ranch offers tennis-ball launchers that send the bright orbs soaring at water-based targets, exhilarating zipline courses, and fire pits to warm up chilly fall afternoons. Inside the concession stand, staffers sell steamy cups of specialty ciders and hot chocolate alongside homemade baked goods, giving guests a taste of fall, and outside, vendors serve up larger bites such as grilled and smoked meat to fuel the outdoor fun.
Two Saints Winery holds fast to the belief that wine should be representative of its region. That's why to create its award-winning Iowa wines, Two Saints uses only grapes from its own property or grapes grown by local farmers. Embedded within the rippling countryside of rural Warren County, the facility produces up to 30,000 bottles per year. And instead of using juices retrieved from faraway sources, such as California or the mini refrigerators inside seashells, Two Saints spurns flavor enhancements and lets the natural flavors of Iowa's land emerge by aging bottles for at least a year. Customers, meanwhile, can enjoy those products right at the winery, especially during free tastings and live events held frequently on the property.
Pleasantville Golf & Country Club's nine-hole course blankets the Marion County countryside with a circuit of tree-lined fairways. Originally opened in 1965, the course boasts the trademarks of a mature layout, with well-defined greens, tall timbers, and fairways that are starting to show flecks of gray. The semiprivate club also encompasses an outdoor swimming pool and Bogey's, a grill with a full-service bar and a menu of sandwiches, burgers, and other casual eats.:
A shimmering butterfly hovers suspended in a pink glass teardrop. Glass bands wind around each other like ribbons of pulled taffy to form a glass icicle. Intricate and distinct, the glass artwork at Indianola Glass Creations reflects the diverse specialties of the shops’ glassworkers. Shop partner and lampwork instructor Bobbi Oelmann says it’s this versatility that first drew her to the medium. On any given day, you can find her and her fellow artists slumping glass in the shop’s kiln, blowing glass in the torch room, or meticulously cutting panes of stained glass into adorable geometric shapes. Artists can easily customize these glass pieces to suit customers’ specifications—they create earrings to match a prized pendant, for instance, or fire custom-blown glass ornaments.
Artists not only sell their artwork and jewelry, but empower budding artists to create their own one-of-a-kind creations with weekly classes. Groups of 3–10 students may learn to turn glass rods into beads during a lampworking class, or piece together a stained-glass ornament. To ensure a positive experience, Ms. Oelmann says that instructors strive to get to know each student and his or her goals for the class: “We want them to enjoy it just as much as we do.”
At Ridgetop Horse Ranch, students learn to ride in an indoor riding facility in the Iowa countryside. Lessons start for kids at age 3, and birthday parties give groups of budding horseback-riders a chance to ride astride a steed. During pleasure rides, visitors can trot down a wooded trail or gallop alongside a picturesque farm. For horse owners, the ranch also offers indoor and pasture boarding.