Fabulous Fall Color and Celebrations
Light Up LaPorte County
Autumn casts a magical spell in Indiana’s Northwest corner with lively fall festivals, spooky Halloween fun, and quiet moments of pure enjoyment as nature puts on her best show. A glorious blaze of reds, oranges, and golds turns every bike trail and byway throughout LaPorte County into colorful corridors that beg exploration.
And there’s so much to explore! Pick your own apples, shop for vintage finds in refurbished barns, and experience old-time fun at festivities that celebrate every fall icon from scarecrows to pumpkins. Goosebumps are guaranteed as you ride a ghost train or tour a mansion that breathes mystery after dark.
So, slip away to LaPorte County, and revel in warm days and crisp nights in the most splendid of seasons. You’ll experience autumn in amazing ways.
Endless Festival Fun
Door Village Harvest Festival – Sept. 7-8 (7:30am-5pm Sat. and 10am-4pm Sun.) – LaPorte
History comes to life in Scipio Township Park. Visit the Civil War Encampment, Native American Camp, and 1832 Pioneer Settler’s Camp. Crafters display and sell their wares. The festival also features demonstrations of old-time skills, musical entertainment and tours by horse-drawn wagon. Enjoy plenty of downhome cooking with a French toast breakfast, plus ham and beans, chicken and noodles, and pork chop dinners.
Polish Heritage Fest at Friendship Botanic Gardens – Sept. 15 (10:30am-5:30pm) – Michigan City
Polka, polish sausage and pierogis make everyone feel at least a little bit Polish at this lively festival. Enjoy dancers in colorful traditional costumes, bands, and displays that detail Polish heritage. Visitors can buy everything from t-shirts to intricately decorated eggs. Festival goers rave about the traditional food, such as stuffed cabbage and paczki, a rich Polish donut. Start the day with a bilingual mass.
Sunflower Fair – Sept. 21 (8am-4pm) – LaPorte
Experience hometown fun at its best during this day-long festival that fills block after block downtown with rides, live music, sunflower and scarecrow contests, and the rib cook-off contest (stroll that area and you may be offered a delicious sample). With more than 100 vendors and loads of other activities such as the 5k walk and fun run, it’s a great day for laid-back family enjoyment.
Wanatah Scarecrow Festival – Sept. 27-29 (4-9pm Fri., 9am-9pm Sat., 9am-4pm Sun.) – Wanatah
Visitors flock here each year for three days of old-fashioned family festivities that include, of course, a scarecrow sculpting contest. Children enjoy rides and making their own crafts. The festival features a parade, car show, a huge craft fair, and lots of live music and variety acts. Don’t miss the great food, including specialties served by local organizations.
Pioneer Days at Creek Ridge County Park – Sept. 28-29 (10am-4pm) – Michigan City
The aroma of kettle corn and apple butter brewing over an open fire sweep you back to pioneer times and the chance to experience the past. Take a wagon ride and watch demonstrators dressed in pioneer garb who will tell you about long-ago lifestyles as they quilt, woodwork and give visitors a chance to try their hand at some old-time crafts such as tin punching and candle dipping.
Westville Pumpkin Festival – Oct. 4-6 (all day each day) – Westville
Celebrate the pumpkin harvest in true Midwestern style with a big parade, live entertainment, car show, fun run, tractor pull, 5k run/walk, and best of all – PUMPKINS! There’s pumpkin decorating, a pumpkin pie-eating contest, a pumpkin pie bake-off and loads of pumpkin pie for celebrants to enjoy. You’ll find plenty of food and arts and crafts booths. In addition, churches and civic groups prepare delicious dinners.
Special Events Galore
Barn Shop Hop – Oct. 4-6 – LaPorte and Rolling Prairie
Shoppers love this tour that takes them through the colorful countryside to five special shops, some in refurbished barns, selling antiques, folk art, handcrafts, salvage, re-purposed and vintage finds, primitives, furniture, yard art, and more. Pick up a tour map at any of the stores on the tour: Fawn Run Farm Mercantile, Plain and Fancy, Freckle Farm Primitives and Antiques, Barn Style, and It’s All About the Barn.
Hesston Ghost Train – Oct. 12-13, 19-20, 26-27 (noon-5pm) – Hesston
All aboard for some spooky fun when the Hesston Ghost Train rolls out at the Hesston Steam Museum. Watch out for the Mad Lumberjack as you ride through the haunted woods aboard the Flying Dutchman Railroad. But it’s all in fun and the ride is family-friendly, appropriate for small children. Just in case, the smallest riders can enjoy a tour with no scares whatsoever Oct. 14 and 25 (noon-5pm).
Boo at the WP Zoo – Oct. 19 (11:30am-1:30pm and 3:30-5:30pm) – Michigan City
Kids can don their costumes, go trick-or-treating, and see all the animals too at the Washington Park Zoo. The zoo’s pathways are transformed into a spooky wonderland with plenty of friendly ghosts, goblins and pumpkins along the way. Area businesses and groups sponsor booths where the kids trick-or-treat for candy. Two sessions are scheduled, and reservations are recommended.
Flame + Flair Uptown Halloween Festival – Oct. 26 (5:30-8:30pm) – Michigan City
The Uptown Arts District fills up with spooky creatures and candy for everyone at this festival, sponsored by the Michigan City Mainstreet Association. Kids can trick-or-treat from business to business. The Artspace Uptown Artists Lofts go ghostly and ghoulish after being transformed into a haunted house. There’s lots of entertainment too, with local performers and a flaming finale as a fire dancer thrills the crowd.
Plenty of Picking
Apples and pumpkins seem to be the poster children of autumn in this fertile region of Indiana. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as heading to the orchard or patch on a sunny fall day and picking your own. Here are some options:
Radke’s Orchard, Michigan City – From Gala to Granny Smith to Golden Delicious, this orchard, family-owned since 1894, grows numerous varieties and they’re yours for the picking. Make sure to try the homemade donuts too.
Garwood Orchards and Farm Markets, LaPorte – John Garwood got this business started in 1831 and the Garwood family still runs it today. Take a wagon ride to pick apples and your own pumpkin in the fall and enjoy live music and grilled food on the weekends. The orchard’s annual Arts and Crafts Festival takes place from 9am-4pm Sept. 7 and 8.
Pavolka Fruit Farm, Michigan City – From Labor Day weekend through October, harvest your own apples at this small family-owned farm that grows more than 20 varieties. Make sure to pick up some of the pressed apple cider too.
Fischer Farm, LaPorte – Take a wagon ride to the pumpkin patch and pick your own. Then try to maneuver your way through the corn maze at this family-owned operation which also has a guest house with lovely rooms for rent.
Coulter’s Produce, Westville – The pumpkin patch brims with every shape and size and you can take a hayride to get there and pick your own. The kids will love the corn maze, face painting, and pony rides. Take home cider, apples, Indian corn, and mums too.
Insider Tip: Fall Color Focus
When is the best time and where is the best place to see fall color in LaPorte County? It’s an age-old and not-easily-answered question until the season is upon us, but here are some tips:
● Generally, Northern Indiana reaches peak fall color in early to mid-October, according to the online site “Trip Savvy – A State-by-State Guide to Fall Colors.”
● The best color is found along forested roadways and in state and county parks. Back roads in LaPorte County, some mapped as bicycling routes, are great for leaf peeping by car or bike.
● Michigan City serves as the unofficial gateway to the new Indiana Dunes National Park, which has been voted one of the Top 10 places for fall color in the state. Miles of forested trails, ablaze with fall color, head inland from Lake Michigan beaches.