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Fall-Themed Outdoor Activities in Chicagoland

Photo by Marius Ciocirlan on Unsplash

To the excitement of many, the fall season has finally arrived. As we stare down the chilly winter months, now is the time to capitalize on the last of the year’s outdoor activities. Here are a few ways to enjoy the season right now.


Apple picking

If you’re just looking for the main event, picking apples, at reasonable prices and a convenient location, Heinz Orchard might be your best bet. The Libertyville orchard is just off I-94 and might be the closest orchard to the city. Meanwhile, a straight shot west of Geneva is the family friendly Kuiper’s Family Farm in Maple Grove. Highlights include a life-size Charlotte’s web, pig races, mountain slide, and carnival games. A bit further west is Honey Hill Orchard, about 7 miles south of DeKalb. The slightly longer trek to get out there is offset by this sweet deal: no cost for admission or any of the activities. The apples themselves are reasonably priced as well, and the 1880s-era barn is pristine. Northwest Indiana folks–or Michigan weekenders looking for an orchard pit stop en-route–will appreciate County Line Orchard in Hobart. Activities include a ride through the fields, corn maze, farm animals, and occasional live entertainment.


One-of-a-kind insight into famous Chicago architecture

The awesome Open House Chicago event, now in its tenth year, is deserving of its own category. Typically, this event provides a behind-the-scenes look at hundreds of the city’s most historic and architecturally distinctive buildings, including many that are not open to the public at any other time. This year, however, the event has expanded to 10 days and shifted towards a more outdoor and experience-focused itinerary. While this is to account for the fact that guests will not be allowed inside any of the buildings, the 10 day window (October 16-25) should provide at least a few days of solid weather to choose from. Simply pull up to any of the dozens of locations–exact locations were to be announced on October 1–and pull out the Open House Chicago mobile app, which will lead you from there.


Find the perfect pumpkins

Some spots allow you to pick apples and pumpkins all-in-one, including County Line and Kuiper’s mentioned above. But for pumpkin-specific fun, there are even more options, many of which are more conveniently located for the city and suburbs. Some patches have had to cancel all non-pumpkin activities due to COVID-19 concerns, but Lincolnshire’s Didier Farms is not one of them. Didier features pony rides, hayrides, camel rides, pig races, and a “silly string asylum.” West Chicago’s Sonny Acres Farm has been in the business for over 130 years, featuring not only a market and carnival rides, but a convenient selection of Halloween costumes and supplies. Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch in Pingree Grove takes the Halloween theme further with a haunted house and something you’re guaranteed to not find anywhere else: a pumpkin-eating dinosaur. Trek out there at your own risk.


Leaf spotting

The beautiful color changing of leaves is an annual can’t-miss event. According to this nifty tool, Chicagoland is in for peak fall foliage in the second and third weeks of October. Of course, you can probably enjoy the view at any tree near you, but we recommend a more immersive experience, if you’re so inclined. This may be the best time of year to visit the Morton Arboretum or Chicago Botanic Garden, providing many acres of uninterrupted foliage to fawn at. Morton’s tram is not running at the moment, but don’t worry, you can still go troll hunting. Just be aware, both these locations require advance reservations/tickets, so make sure to plan ahead! On the South Side and suburbs, this is a great excuse to get to Jackson Park’s Garden of the Phoenix Japanese sanctuary or the Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve, two noted foliage favorites. If looking for a more urban theme, the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park can’t be beat. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pass the Bean to get there.


Other ideas

A widely acclaimed exhibit on our recently deceased Supreme Court justice, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” will be at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie through January 3. The Chicago International Film Festival, running October 14-25 will allow you to stream films at home this year, or catch the movies live at the ChiTown Movies drive-in in Pilsen. Speaking of ChiTown Movies, check out their upcoming schedule for many classic movies shown in a safe, drive-in format. Or, get some exercise while being inspired, scared, or educated with Free Tours By Foot Chicago, which is continuing to offer ghost tours, gangster tours, architecture tours, and more well into the fall.

And remember, many of these locations and events are requiring advance reservations or tickets to manage the number of guests —  be sure to check their websites before you go! 


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