Fall is a favorite time of year for many families in the Chicago area. The leaves begin to change to beautiful hues, there’s a chill in the air, and there are many reasons to go out and enjoy the weather. We’ve put together some of our favorite activities to get you out of the house and enjoying some hot cider and apple doughnuts in no time.
1. Visit a corn maze
About an hour and a half north of downtown and just south of the Wisconsin border is Richardson Adventure Farm, home of the world’s largest corn maze. The place is more than a maze, there is a petting zoo, giant slides, bounce pillows, ORB rides (picture yourself inside a giant ball rolling down a hill), a zip line, train, and, fudge shop. This is no ordinary corn maze, but an intricately designed masterpiece. A lot of work goes into the design, ensuring people will have many exits along the way and no dead ends. Everyone is provided a map upon entering and there are 24 checkpoints to locate throughout. Finding all of them can take a couple of hours, but if you find at least 20 checkpoints you can earn a completion certificate. Our son was the first one through the maze for the day on our last visit and he was very proud of his accomplishment. The family that runs the farm has been doing so for six generations and they also have u-cut Christmas trees at the holidays. This is one fall family activity not to be missed!
2. Go on a hike
Chicago has an abundance of parks, hiking trails, and Lake Michigan beachfront perfect for exploring on a beautiful fall day. One of our favorite hikes is Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois, especially when the leaves have started to change colors. The park has over 18 canyons carved by snow runoff and natural springs, creating a breathtaking landscape. There are over 13 miles of well marked trails for families to explore, and it makes for a perfect day trip from the city.
Going to pick apples in an annual event in our house and one of our favorite places to go is Apple Holler in Wisconsin. The reason we travel so far is because they consistently have a large selection of apples available and after 10 years of visiting, it is officially a tradition. There are plenty of other apple orchards in the Chicago area, you can find your own by going to PickYourOwn.org. If you want to know about our visit to Apple Holler, you can read about it here. You’ll also find some great apple recipes too!
4. Spend the day at a fall festival
Fall means festival time in the Windy City and there are plenty of festivals to span the season. Some of the favorites include:
The Lincoln Park Zoo brings fall fun to the city center. Families will enjoy visiting a pumpkin patch, carving station, taking a hay ride, and entertainment. This is only available on weekends, so be sure to check the dates before you go.
The city of Highwood celebrates the 6th year of the Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival with the pumpkin festival to rival all others. This year they support the Autism Society of Illinois and will attempt to beat the Guinness World Record for the most pumpkins carved in one place! There are also costume contests, a pumpkin parade, carnival rides, entertainment, and food. Fun times for everyone with the big pumpkin lighting on Sunday night.
This all day festival will take place along the Chicago Cultural Mile. From 2 – 6pm there will be family friendly activities including mask making and a costume parade. At 6pm there will be a parade creating a magical spectacle through the middle of downtown. Sounds like a special time for the whole family!
5. Take a drive to see the leaves change color
Before heading out for a drive to see changing leaves, check a fall foliage map so you know you will be guaranteed to see color. Some of our favorite routes to drive include the Illinois River Road, Chicago to Lake Geneva, along the shore of Lake Michigan, driving the Great River Road on the state’s western edge, or heading north to Door County, Wisconsin. If you visit these destinations at the right time, you will not be disappointed by the spectacular hues you will find!
There are many pumpkin patches across the state of Illinois. In fact, Illinois grows more pumpkins than any other state. Here are some of our favorite places to go picking:
Goebbert’s in Hampshire, IL – Northwest of the city, this family farm has a fall festival, u pick pumpkins, petting farm, and a pumpkin eating dinosaur. Can you say, awesome!
Stade’s Farm and Market in McHenry, IL – Just south of the Wisconsin border is this pumpkin farm with u pick pumpkins and plenty of activities for a day out. There are farm-tractions including a carousel, tractor tire pyramid, and duck races. Kids will never say they are bored!
Most Friday evenings are reserved for high school football games across the U.S. and Chicago is no different. Nothing beats donning your local school colors, heading to the stadium with family and friends, and cheering the team to a win alongside the rest of your community. On Saturdays families support the local college football teams and Northwestern in Evanston is a local favorite for tailgating and spending a fall afternoon or evening. If your family likes the NFL, there’s always Sunday and the Chicago Bears. There are a few home games in the fall and this is the ideal time to enjoy the stadium before the weather changes.
Do you enjoy fall where you live? What’s your favorite thing to do?