Hendricks County, Indiana has all of the ingredients to cook up an authentically amazing Fall Excursion in the Hoosier State. From a ride on horseback to a hike through amazing Fall foliage, you have to get outdoors and experience the beauty of Indiana's autumn. And if your Fall fun works up an appetite, you won't be dissapointed. From family-run restaurants to an amazing u-pick orchard, your taste buds will love this central Indiana county.
RIDE Natural Valley Ranch in Brownsburg is the perfect place for a getaway, whether you're with family or your girlfriends. The ranch features 30-, 60- or 90-minute guided trail rides on the beautiful 78-acre property along the White Lick Creek. No previous riding experience is required. The staff is very helpful and the horses are extremely well trained.
And the horses aren't the only animals you'll encounter on the ranch. The ranch is home to chickens, ducks, geese, minigoats, pigs and a very friendly turkey. Pony rides are also available for smaller visitors. The inviting nature of the staff has rubbed off on the animals, who walk up to greet you after you park and await your affection in the petting zoo.
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The property also features two rentals if you want to turn your getaway into a weekend or more. The 4 bed, 4.5 bath cottage sleeps up to 16 comfortably and is 3,100 square feet. The beautiful 5,200-square foot cabin sleeps 20 comfortably and overlooks a small lake with a picnic shelter and includes access to a small banquet area.
HIKE When it comes to Autumn in Indiana, no experience is complete without enjoying the beauty of Indiana's fall colors. Leaves begin to change color in September and provide breathtaking views through October. In Hendricks County, perhaps the best spot for 'leaf peeping' is McCloud Nature Park.
This nature park is a great place to hike, picnic or just enjoy nature. They also provide lots of great programming for families and kids, including their annual prairie maze. The property features a tallgrass prairie that they cut a maze into each Fall. For 2017, the maze is in the shape of a heron. There are maps to help make sure you don't get too lost. Best of all, everything at the park is free! The park also has an annual Fall Colors Festival. The 2017 event is October 21.
Sharing photos of our travails has become part of our lives, and perhaps the best spot at McCloud Nature Park for that is the iron truss bridge that is over 100 years old. It was relocated from Northern Indiana after it was decommissioned. It is beautiful. The 232-acre park is great for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, bird-watching and more.
On my visit, we explored the outdoors, and briefly visited the Nature Center, which features interactive exhibits and a really cool bird-viewing room that has speakers so that you can better hear the birds as you watch! The park also has a new bee house, where you can see (through glass) an active bee hive! Again, all of this if completely free!
DINE Hendricks County has lots of options for dining. But there are two restaurants the county is particularly known for. One is Plainfield's Oasis Diner, as a root beer and burgers fan, I'm well versed in this establishment. On this visit however, I got to experience for the first time, the restaurant that inspired a whole weekend of festivities in Danville each May.
The Mayberry Cafe is a delicious restaurant themed after the TV classic "The Andy Griffith Show." From the decor to reruns playing on the TVs in the restaurant to menu items named for characters from the show, this spot is a must visit for fans of the show. And the food is incredible. I ordered the breaded tenderloin, as Mayberry Cafe is a nominee in our Best of Indiana voting. It was one of, if not the best I've ever had!
We also got to check out another amazing restaurant in downtown Danville. This amazing family-owned bakery and cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, and uses local ingredients to make its unbelievable pies, cakes, cookies and breads.
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Bread Basket Cafe & Bakery is family owned and operated and serves up a delicious menu of breakfast, lunch and dessert! I had the pleasure of meeting one of the owners and learning about how they try to source as many of the ingredients locally as they can. I tried the peanut butter pie, and it was absolutely delicious.
HARVEST Apples, pumpkins, cider, hayrides, corn mazes, caramel apples and more. That is what the fall season means to a lot of Hoosiers, and Danville is home to one of the best places to experience all of that.
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Beasley's Orchard is a multi-year winner of the Indiana State Cider Contest, and the property is an incredible place to bring a family. U-pick apples are a recent addition to this Indiana favorite, and it really adds to the experience. The property features 11 varieties of apples, as well as pumpkins, corn and much more. There are also a lot of fun activities, including Apple Cannons, which are new for 2017!