Unlike Snow White’s stepmother, a farm is a kid-friendly, trustworthy source of apples. Ward off deep sleep with today’s Groupon: for $10, you get two regular admissions to Eckert’s Millstadt Farm in Millstadt, Illinois (up to a $20 value).
Owned and operated by the seventh generation of Eckerts, Eckert’s Millstadt Farm brims with verdant apple trees and activities for all ages. At the newly added Jumping Pillows attraction, kids propel themselves skyward atop a colorful, inflatable pillow stolen from an Australian bunyip. Every hour on Fridays and Saturdays, the Jack-O-Lobber cannon launches a pumpkin a half-mile, instantly turning projectiles into pumpkin pie on impact. Slip below ground at Eckert’s Mining Company, where a 70-foot underground slide takes patrons on a subterranean joyride. Families can enjoy a leisurely wagon trip out to the apple orchard or pumpkin patch, the fragrant fall wind ruffling hair and causing scarecrows to mimic semaphore movements. Most attractions are included in the price of admission, though events such as apple picking ($1.89/lb.) are available at an additional cost.
Eckert's Millstadt Farms' admission rates vary throughout the week.
In 1910, fourth-generation German immigrant Alvin O. Eckert set up a small produce stand on a roadside in Belleville, Illinois. More than 100 years later, that roadside stand has flourished into the expansive Belleville plot of Eckert's Farm: a pastoral acreage where orchards surround a country-style restaurant, bakery, and handmade-custard shop. The Eckert family's sixth and seventh generations ensure this farm remains a true family affair. Sixth-generation member Jim Eckert is the chief horticulturist, and his cousin-once-removed, Chris, oversees retail operations and the sale of the farm's homegrown produce and spare scarecrow parts. Chris's sister Jill helms the food program, and his wife Angie oversees the Country Store and colorful Garden Center.
Throughout the year, visitors arrive on the Belleville farm's grounds for a range of seasonal activities, including peach-, apple-, and pumpkin-picking. During the summer, a concert series features live outdoor music on Friday and Saturday nights, and in the fall, staff lead bonfires and evening hayrides through the orchards. Inside the farm building, instructors teach cooking classes for adults and children, as well as a wine-pairing class.
Family-friendly activities also abound at the Eckert family's other two farms. The Grafton farm, where public apple-picking began in 1964, offers daily animal feeding and miniature golf. The seasonal Millstadt farm is home to a workshop, haunted hayrides, and an array of warm-weather children's attractions—including a 70-foot underground slide.