There’s nothing like fall in Chicago.
The temps are starting to drop, the leaves are turning different hues and you can find pumpkin-this and apple-that on almost every menu in town. But what are the top things to do and spots to see this autumn? We have your full guide to fall in Chicago, so explore away and fall in love!
VISIT SEASONAL ATTRACTIONS
Lincoln Park Zoo
One of the most anticipated parts of fall are the orchards and activities. For those that live in the city or are staying downtown, Lincoln Park Zoo is a seasonal highlight. While this free zoo is a great option year-round (it’s open 365 days a year), it really comes alive in autumn! Their month-long Fall Fest has a corn maze, pumpkin patch and pumpkin bounce house. And depending on when you visit, they also have Harvest Dinners, Spooky Zoo and Adults Night Out for after-hours fun.
If you have time for a quick trip outside the city, there are amazing apple orchards and pumpkin patches that are full of family-friendly activities and fun. Think corn mazes, hayrides, petting zoos, apple cider and doughnuts and so much more. You’ll find a lot of Chicagoans flocking to Praire Sky Orchard, County Line Orchard and Kuipers Pumpkin Farm nearby the city.
As neighborhood festivals from summer spill over into fall, one of the most popular festivals is Oktoberfest. During the last weekend of September, different neighborhoods will put on their own versions of this German celebration. A few notable ones to look out for are the Revolution Oktoberfest by the local brew company Revolution featuring their German-style lager and Oktoberfest Chicago by St. Alphonsus Church celebrating its 18th year.
Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House
Once a year on October 19th and 20th, the Chicago Architecture Center puts on a free weekend event that lets you get a behind-the-scenes look at over 200 buildings in Chicago. Just like on their architecture riverboat tour (another must-do), you’ll be able to take in amazing sights, breathtaking views and hear amazing facts about Chicago’s skyscrapers, mansions, theaters, private clubs and more.
TASTE FALL FLAVORS
While some folks eagerly anticipate the drop of Pumpkin Spice lattes, others can’t wait for seasonal beers and ciders. And since the weather is pretty perfect in Chicago during fall, those seasonal releases are a great reason to head to a beer garden. Spots like Fountainhead, Kaiser Tiger and Rock Bottom Brewery are just a few places to check out, and if you’re really into craft beer then explore some of Chicago’s many local breweries.
If you’re staying downtown, the River Walk is a relatively new and very popular attraction for tourists and Chicagoans alike. The path runs along the Chicago River and is lined with spots to dine, drink and play—perfect for adults and families.
Chicago has built quite the foodie reputation and many local restaurants delight fans by offering seasonal-focused menus. You’ll see everything from entrees featuring fall produce to desserts celebrating autumn flavors to specially crafted cocktails for the season. Some of our favorite spots are Do-Rite for morning donuts, Piccolo Sogno for seasonal spins on Italian classics and LH Rooftop for drinks and a rooftop view.
TAKE IN AUTUMN BEAUTIES
Cemeteries often get a spooky rap, especially around Halloween time, but Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum is anything but with its local history and architectural landmarks. Spanning 119 acres of natural beauty, Graceland is where many baseball and boxing greats, inventors, authors, public figures and more have gone to rest in peace. Open Monday through Saturday, you can take a self-guided tour—which we find to be even more special among the fall foliage!
Many visitors plan to explore Millennium Park with its gorgeous amphitheater and play areas for children, but what they don’t know about is Lurie Garden. Nestled in the South-Eastern corner of the park, it’s an urban oasis full of blooms, grasses and shrubbery.
Not far outside of the city, the Morton Arboretum is also a nature lover’s dream. It features beautiful gardens, an outdoor museum, a herbarium and a children’s area. Plus, it provides a picturesque backdrop for a gorgeous fall day or picnic.
CATCH CHICAGO FAN FAVORITES
If you’re traveling with football fans, head over to Soldier Field to catch a Bears game. Even if you don’t buy tickets, you can watch the game at a bar downtown and cheer them on alongside Chicagoans.
While the United Center isn’t as centrally located as Soldier Field, it is home to the Chicago Blackhawks. You can buy tickets to watch the Blackhawks take on your own home hockey team or just get caught up in the fun by watching anywhere in the city with a TV.