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Chicago in Fall: What You Have to Do Before the Wicked Winter Begins

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Things to do in Chicago in the Fall

Summer is almost at an end. Chicagoans are rushing to soak up the sun and get in their last days at the beach. Summer might be a beloved season, but fall comes out on top. A survey conducted by YouGov found that 29 percent of Americans consider autumn their favorite season, while 25 percent of Americans prefer the summertime. Unsurprisingly, just 7 percent of people look forward to the coming of winter.

29% of Americans consider Autumn their favorite season.

Fall is a brief, but glorious time in the Windy City. Fall conjures up images of changing colors, hot drinks, and Halloween. With a notorious Chicago winter just around the corner, you will want to make the most of out of the season. From apple picking to fall foliage sightseeing, we have put together a guide of quintessential autumn activities in and around Chicago.

Apple Picking

Apple picking is the perfect way to get outside and enjoy the cool, crisp fall weather. You and your family can simply eat everything you pick or try your hand at all of those oh-so-delicious apple recipes you have been eyeing on Pinterest. Plus, many apple orchards have a whole array of different activities, not to mention apple cider and doughnuts.

Here are a few apple orchards near Chicago.

  • Apple Holler Family Farm: Apple Holler Family Farm features 74 acres of land with thousands of trees growing 30 different types of apples, according to the orchard’s website. If you want something a little different, you can also pick pears during the fall. Apple Holler Family Farm’s apple picking season lasts from August through October. In addition to its orchards, the farm also has hay rides, farmyard animals, and a bakery. This orchard is located north of Chicago in Sturtevant, Wisconsin.
  • Apple Holler Family Farm Features 74 acres of land.

  • Heinz Orchard: Heinz Orchard is just over 30 miles outside of Chicago, making this the perfect day trip destination. Heinz Orchard is purely an orchard, so you can spend the day concentrating on picking out just the right apples. The orchard offers varieties such as red delicious, golden delicious, McIntosh, Jonathan and empire.
  • Jonamac Apple Orchard: Jonamac Apple Orchard opens for the season on August 16th. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the orchard from Chicago, but the drive is well worth your time. The orchard has dozens of different apple varieties. Families can also enjoy other activities like a campfire and a haunted corn maze.
  • Royal Oak Farm: Royal Oak Farm opens for the fall season on August 18th. Apple pickers can wander the acres of farmland picking their own apples, or they can peruse the farm’s barn for pre-picked apples. Royal Oak Farm also has an apple tree maze and hay rides. It takes about two hours to drive from Chicago to this apple picking spot.

Pumpkin Patches

Pumpkins are an essential Halloween decoration. You can pick up these colorful gourds at a local grocery store, but it is much more fun to make an adventure out of it. You can take your time choosing the perfect one at a pumpkin patch and enjoy plenty of other fun fall activities. Here are just a few of the many pumpkin patches located in or near Chicago.

You can take your time choosing the perfect one at a pumpkin patch and enjoy plenty of other fun fall activities

  • Chicago Park District pumpkin patches: You don’t even have to leave the city to find a pumpkin patch. Every year the Chicago Park District puts together Halloween activities, including pumpkin patches, in the city’s parks. The parks also offer pumpkin decorating stations and petting zoos.
  • Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm: The pumpkin patch delivers a full fall experience with its annual Pumpkin Festival. Located in Homer Glen, Illinois, this spot is a little outside of the city, but not too far with a car. Bengtson’s has tractor rides, a gemstone mining sluice, pony rides and more.
  • Didier Farms: Didier Farms is located in Lincolnshire, Illinois. This location’s pumpkin season starts in late September. Visitors can also enjoy classic fall-time activities like the hayrides and pony rides, as well as the farm’s greenhouse, farm stand, and doughnuts.
  • Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch: Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch, located in Hampshire, Illinois, is a 200-acre farm with tons of autumn fun. The farm’s fall festival begins on September 24th and runs through Halloween. Between picking pumpkins, families can enjoy wagon rides, camel rides, a corn maze, and more.

Visit the City’s Museums

If you are looking to spend some time indoors this fall, Chicago’s museums offer the perfect venue. Chicago is home to some world-famous cultural institutions that are stunning examples of architecture and feature fascinating exhibits and collections. Here are a few of the big museums you should set aside time to visit this autumn.

  • Adler Planetarium: Adler Planetarium is located on Chicago’s lakeside Museum Campus. Take a journey through our solar system and beyond in this museum. The Adler Planetarium has a stable of permanent and rotating exhibits that are sure to capture the imagination of children and adults alike.
  • Art Institute of Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago is home to some of the world’s most famous pieces of art. Wander through collections that range from ancient times to modern day. This museum has paintings, sculptures, textiles, photography, prints, and even suits of armor. Keep an eye out for famous paintings like Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.”
  • The Field Museum: The Field Museum is Chicago’s very own natural history museum. Come face-to-face with dinosaurs, mummies, ancient weapons, and gemstones. The Field has interactive experiences, like 3D movies, perfect for kids. The museum is also hosting Jurassic World: The Exhibition. The Field is located on Museum Campus.
  • Museum of Science and Industry: The Museum of Science and Industry, located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, is a vast building with exhibits on nearly any topic you could imagine. Dive into Titans of the Ice Age or walk through the real U-505 submarine. There is something to spark everyone’s curiosity at the Museum of Science and Industry.
  • The museum of science and industry has something to spark everyone's curiousity

  • Shedd Aquarium: The Shedd Aquarium, another Museum Campus staple, is home to thousands of living creatures including fish, sharks, whales, dolphins, frogs, snakes, and more. See the wildlife of the Great Lakes up close or journey across the world to see what lives in the Amazon River.

Run a Race

Summer in Chicago can be hot and humid, but autumn has the perfect cool, crisp weather for running. Whether you are a seasoned runner or you have always wanted to try to hit the pavement, Chicago has plenty of organized running events this fall. Here are just a few races scheduled for this fall.

  • Chicago Marathon: The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the ultimate race. This year’s race kicks off on October 8th. The race begins and ends at Chicago’s Grant Park. Even if you don’t want to run nearly 27 miles, you can come and cheer on the racers. The park will also host the 27th Mile Post-Race Party.
  • Grant Park Turkey Trot: If you are looking for something a little more lighthearted, this perfectly themed fall run might be for you. The Grant Park Turkey Trot is just a 5k, not a marathon. Don your running gear or your turkey outfit and run this Thanksgiving Day race. What better way to work up your appetite for turkey and pie?
  • The Grant Park Turkey Trot is just a 5k, the perfect fall run.

  • Run Mag Mile: The Run Mag Mile can be run as a 5k, 10k, or half-marathon. Runners can choose the distance that is right for them. As the name suggests, this race takes you along Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile. This race takes place on September 9th.
  • Women Rock Chicago: The annual Women Rock Chicago race will be held on September 2nd this year. Runners can make the race a 5k, a 10k or a half-marathon. This women’s race also features a great after party.

Catch a Festival

You can find a festival in Chicago nearly every weekend of the year, and fall is no exception. Whether you love the arts or you want to do something with the whole family, Chicago has you covered.

  • Andersonville Arts Weekend: Andersonville Arts Weekend runs from October 13th to October 15th. This annual event celebrates artwork created by people who live in this classic North Side neighborhood. The festival begins with the Night of 100 pARTies. Festival goers can also stop in restaurants and bars along Clark Street, many of which will be hosting receptions for the Arts Weekend festival.
  • Chicago International Film Festival: The Chicago International Film Festival is two whole weeks dedicated to cinematic art. This year, the festival will run from October 12th to October 26th. Get tickets to see a wide variety of movies from local and international talents. Order some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show.
  • Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo: Fall Fest is a relatively new Chicago event. This is only its third year running, but it is easy to see why families love this festival. Lincoln Park Zoo is located in the city, and this event — like the entire zoo — is free. Fall Fest features activities like a corn maze, a Ferris wheel, a pumpkin patch, live music and all of the zoo’s resident animals. Fall Fest will be happening the last weekend of September and every weekend in October.
  • Alphonsus Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest is the perfect way to celebrate German heritage and enjoy delicious food and drink. What better way to stay warm than with brats and beer? St. Alphonsus, located in Lakeview, puts together this annual event which also features a ton of live music. Oktoberfest 2017 will be held September 29th, September 30th and October 1st.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Cider, pie, turkey, and more — fall is a season for eating delicious, hearty foods, drinking toasty beverages and celebrating. Here are just a few food-focused events you can look forward to this fall.

  • Andersonville Dessert Crawl: Fall is the perfect time of year for sweet, seasonal treats. Andersonville has you covered with an entire day dedicated to desserts. On October 29th, more than 20 of the neighborhood’s restaurants will open their doors and offer a glimpse into their dessert menus. The event also helps support a good cause. A dollar from each Andersonville Dessert Crawl ticket will go to help support the neighborhood’s Care for Real food pantry.
  • Bacon and Beer Classic: Bacon and beer is an unbeatable combination. On September 30th in Daley Plaza, come experience an entire event dedicated to this delicious food and drink. The Bacon and Beer Classic will have more than 50 different craft beers and more than 25 different bacon dishes. You can even watch a bacon eating contest.
  • On September 30th in Daley Plaza, come experience an entire event dedicated to delicious beer and bacon.

  • Pints for Pets: Anyone with a furry friend will love this event. On October 2nd, come to Revolution BrewPub for an evening dedicated to helping The Anti-Cruelty Society’s animals. Guests of this event will enjoy food and beer from this popular Chicago brewery during the event.
  • Wine Under Glass: Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory will host the Wine Under Glass event. This event is only open to guests who are 21 years of age or older. Come sip on wine and eat dishes made of locally grown and sustainably sourced food. The exact date for this event has yet to be announced, but it will take place sometime in October.

Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is one of fall’s biggest events. Celebrate with goblins and ghouls, or go for some more lighthearted fun. Chicago has plenty of Halloween-themed events on the calendar.

  • Clark Street Spooktacular: Clark Street Spooktacular is an annual event held in Lincoln Park. During the afternoon of October 29th, families can take their children trick-or-treating. The businesses along several streets will have plenty of sweets on hand. As a part of the event, businesses will also display scarecrows. Keep an eye out for magicians and jugglers as you collect your treats.
  • Halloween Gathering and Parade of Artists; On October 21st, the City of Chicago will host a Halloween Gathering in Millennium Park. The festival will be followed by a parade on Columbus Drive. Watch as giant floats and pieces of art pass by during the parade. Both events will also have live music.
  • Halloween Bar Crawl: If you are looking for an adult crowd for your Halloween celebrations, consider joining the Chicago 2017 Halloween Bar Crawl. The event begins on the evening of October 28th and continues on well into the night. The event locations have yet to be announced, but multiple bar neighborhoods are expected to participate. Cheers!
  • If you are looking for an adult crowd for your Halloween celebrations, consider joining the Chicago 2017 Halloween Bar Crawl.

  • Spooky Zoo Spectacular: Lincoln Park Zoo will host the Spooky Zoo Spectacular on October 28th. Come visit the zoo’s animals in costume. Keep your eyes peeled for spooky decorations and treats.

Cheer on the Bears

Fall officially heralds the beginning of football season.  Break out the blue and orange to show your team spirit for the Chicago Bears. The Bears will face the Atlanta Falcons in the first game of the regular season on September 10.

  • Cheer from the stands of Soldier Field: The Bears will have plenty of home games this season. Bundle up and head to the home field to cheer on Chicago’s football team.
  • Tailgate: You can prepare for a day at Soldier Field with a tailgating party in the parking lot, or you can make tailgating your entire day. Either way, you can chow down on game day food and root for the home team.
  • Host an epic game day party: If you don’t want to venture outside, you can host a game day party right at home. Whip up some tasty dishes at home, or order in. Invite over your fellow Bears fans and settle in for an afternoon of touchdowns, passes, field goals. Go Bears!

Find Some Fall Foliage

The warm reds, yellows, oranges and browns of changing leaves are one of the most beautiful parts of fall. Just because you are in a city, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on this spectacular riot of color. Here are a few places in the city or just outside of the city that offer a great view of the changing colors.

Here are a few places in the city or just outside of the city that offer a great view of the changing leaf colors.

  • Chicago Botanic Gardens: The Chicago Botanic Gardens are located in Glencoe, Illinois. A short drive out of the city, you will find 385 acres of gardens. This natural oasis is the ideal spot to view the fall color change. Visitors can even take a full fall-color tree walk that begins at the visitor center and continues on to the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation and Science Center. You will see changing colors on oak trees, ornamental pear trees, Japanese maples, and more.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory: Garfield Park Conservatory, located in the city, is one of the world’s largest conservatories. Guests can marvel at thousands of plants under a gorgeous glass ceiling. The Conservatory also has 12 acres of outdoor gardens. The trees that grow outside are a fantastic way to view fall’s changing colors.
  • Morton Arboretum: The Morton Arboretum, located in Lisle, Illinois, features 1,700 acres of trees and plant life. The Arboretum’s Fall Color Festival has several events centered on the beauty of fall’s natural colors. You can walk the Scarecrow Trail that takes you through some of the gorgeously colored trees. Join the Edgar Allen Poe hiking event for some thrills. If you want to get some exercise while enjoying the colors, the Arboretum is also hosting the Fall Color 5k Run and Walk on October 1st.
  • Starved Rock State Park: Starved Rock, located in Oglesby, Illinois, is a little bit of a haul from Chicago, but the drive is well worth your time. This state park is full of wildlife, canyons, waterfalls and more. You can spend the day hiking, picnicking or you could camp overnight. Anytime during the fall, you can take to the miles of hiking paths to get an up close look at the vibrant colors of fall. Starved Rock is also hosting a fall colors weekend on October 21. You can join guided tours that will take you through the park and highlight some of the best places to see the changing hues of the trees.

Get Lost in a Corn Maze

Corn mazes can be a fun puzzle or a spooky experience. Chicago has plenty of nearby options for families to explore.

  • Heap’s Haunted Corn Maze: Heap’s Haunted Corn Maze is not for the faint of heart. This maze has a spooky history and plenty of chills. Wander through this maze and take a moonlight hayride at this spot in Minooka, Illinois.
  • Konow’s Corn Maze: Konow’s Corn Maze is outside of the city in Homer Glen, Illinois. This family-friendly spot has hayrides, pumpkins and whole host of fall-themed activities. If you have any fans of a galaxy far, far away in the family, come to the maze for Star Wars Sunday on October 1st.
  • This family-friendly spot has hayrides, pumpkins and whole host of fall-themed activities

  • Odyssey Fun Farm: Odyssey Fun Farm has a classic corn maze, a pumpkin patch, a petting zoo, as well as plenty of fall activities with a twist. Try out the farm’s Zombie Safari Hay Ride.
  • Richardson Adventure Farm: Richardson Adventure Farm opens up for the fall season in September. This farm boasts one of the world’s largest corn mazes, as well as an adrenaline-pumping 700-foot zip line.

Whether you spend the day cheering on the Bears until your voice is hoarse or exploring a winding corn maze, you are going to be hungry. Giordano’s is always ready to warm you up and fill your belly. Walk into any Chicago location or order online to enjoy your pizza right at home.