Guide to Madison’s pandemic-conscious fall

COVID-19 has canceled a lot this year, but that doesn’t mean the season is canceled.
Pumpkin wagon at Enchanted Valley Acres
Photo courtesy of Enchanted Valley Acres
Tromping through the pumpkin patch is just one of our favorite ways to celebrate fall.

The weather is teasing us with temperatures dipping between the 40s and 60s as the leaves change to beautiful red, yellow and orange hues. But soon enough, whether we like it or not, winter will come. Have no fear, though: There is still plenty of time to soak up all the pumpkin-fueled, spooky attractions that autumn has to offer. We can’t guarantee how long it will be until frigid chills are an everyday occurrence, so we may as well take advantage of these socially distanced events and activities while we can.

Enjoy these activities all month long:

Mammoth Hike Challenge
To celebrate the 40th birthday of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, folks who hike 40 miles of the trail over the month of October can earn a limited-edition commemorative patch and certificate. More details here.

Middleton Story Walk
Looking for something educational to do with the kiddos this month? Head over to Middleton for a 20-stop stroll through downtown, with an activity at each numbered location. More details here.

Breese Screamins Field
Breese Stevens usually houses screams of celebration rather than fear, but we love a venue that can do them both. Buy tickets online for this physically distanced haunted house … err, stadium. More details here.

Enchanted Valley Acres
Giant slides, eight acres of winding corn mazes, human hamster wheels goats to snuggle and feed — what more could we ask for? A lot, actually. Check out the full list of Fall Fun activities to plan your visit. More details here.

Destination Madison’s “Four Quarters of Fall Fun”
There’s no in-person Badgers football so far this gameday season, so the minds at Destination Madison came up with an alternative plan for your family’s weekend. There’s no Jump Around (unless you add it yourself) but rather a docket of activities including the farmers’ market, a picnic, trip to the farm, coffee stop and a drive-in movie. More details here.

Schuster’s Farm
Fling apples out of a cannon and shriek your way through the haunted forest at Schuster’s Farm this October. Over 30 barnyard activities — including pig and duck races — and a massive play village can keep kiddos busy when they are sick of hunting for pumpkins. More details here.

Treinen Farm
2020 has been quite the year, so why not commemorate it with a corn maze in the shape of the most resilient animal known to man? The water bear is majestic in itself, but seeing it blown up to size and trotting through its corn-filled pathways is a whole other ballgame. More details here.

Keep an eye out for these specific dates:

Multiple days, REAP the Harvest: A Sustenance Series
Dine-in or sign-up for a take-home meal kit on Oct. 11, 17, 22 and 27 as part of this pop-up event. Participants include Brasserie V, Longtable, Grampa’s, Madison Club, Merchant and Pasture and Plenty. Proceeds will be split between REAP Food Group and the partner restaurants. Event details here.

Oct. 1-18, “If These Trees Could Talk”
American Players Theatre has put together an auditory experience for folks willing to get into nature … if only for a few hours. Walk the grounds of APT’s forested property as you listen to the curation of poetry and stories from the company’s artists. Event details here.

Oct. 10, Monroe Street Stroll
Join the businesses of Monroe Street for an evening of autumn-themed merchandise, food, drinks, decor and live music. Event details here.

Oct. 16, Madison Ghost Walks – Haunted UW Campus
Student loans and exam season aren’t the only scary things to linger on the UW campus — there also is a history of uber spooky ghoul behavior. Purchase tickets for this mile-long stroll of downtown while you discover the secrets of Badgers bygone. Event details here.

Oct. 15, Oct. 24, Oct. 30, Oct. 31, Haunted Duck Pond Drive-In
Catch a spooky movie at the Duck Pond Drive-in. While you can watch “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Scream,” there are also kid-friendly shows like “Hotel Transylvania” and “Goosebumps” where Maynard the Mallard will be handing out candy.

Oct. 17, Downtown Sun Prairie’s Annual Fall Fun
Live music, contests judging scarecrows and pumpkins, food vendors, games and activities will take over downtown Sun Prairie for a socially distant day of celebration. Farmers’ market hours will be extended during the festival, too, so you stock up on whatever squash and gourd your heart desires. Event details here.

Oct. 27, Break it Down – Apples
Pop by Table Wine ahead of time to pick up your bottles and then hop online for a virtual tasting all about the apples used. Drink and be merry with the fruit of fall while sharpening your sommelier skills. Event details here.

Oct. 16-18, Fall Art Tour
The typical, in-person art tour experience isn’t available this year, but you can still virtually visit the studios of Southeast Wisconsin’s best artisans on the event website. Shop online for a new statement piece or wall fixture, and who knows — you just might find your new favorite artist. Event details here.

Oct. 29, Under the Ghost Light
Explore the Overture by ghost light — which has been the only thing up-and-running at the theatre these past few months — and enjoy a night of spooktacular, interactive programming for this virtual event. The century-old building has a haunted history, so listen in to some ghost encounter stories, virtually explore the restricted areas of the theatre and learn more about the realm of special effects. Event details here.

Oct. 30, Storytime Halloween Costume Party
Trick or treating may be up in the air, but regardless of your kiddos’ plans they can still show off that costume they’ve been planning all year. Spooky songs, stories and costume share-and-tell to be expected in this Zoom meeting put on by the Middleton Public Library. Event details here.

View this post on Instagram

Make plans to enjoy a fall StoryWalk® in downtown Middleton!! This family-friendly walk in downtown Middleton combines exercise, reading and Halloween fun. Come downtown to Middleton from Oct. 1-31 for an outdoor, interactive reading of “Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat.” The StoryWalk® takes readers on a 20-stop reading adventure to different businesses to read a page or two from the book with a coordinating activity. The map and businesses are numbered so that readers can follow the stops in order and find out what happens next in the story. Begin at the Middleton Public Library to pick up a free map and guide to the StoryWalk®, as well as one free copy of the book, provided by Friends of the Middleton Public Library. “Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat,” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin, tells the tale of Farmer Brown – who hates Halloween, and his silly barnyard animals – who do not. StoryWalk® maps are also available online at Although there will not be a downtown trick-or-treat event this year, the Downtown Middleton Business Association and the Middleton Public Lands, Recreation and Forestry Department are offering a Halloween costume contest. Participants must snap a photo in costume at any of the StoryWalk® stops, then post photos to Instagram by Nov. 1 using the hashtag #MiddletonCostumeContest. Participants will be entered in one of four categories: Overall Best Costume; Best Homemade Costume; Best Family or Couple’s Costume; and Best Kid’s Costume. Winners will be announced on the DMBA Instagram page in early November and notified of their prizes. Safety guidelines: Please practice social distancing during your StoryWalk®, giving others six feet of space, and follow Dane County Public Health guidelines regarding COVID-19, including wearing face coverings indoors or in crowded spaces if 5 years or older, and staying home if sick or presenting symptoms. StoryWalk® is presented by Middleton Public Library and the DMBA. The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt., and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. StoryWalk® is a registered service mark.

A post shared by Downtown Middleton (@downtown_middleton) on


Sam Jones is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.