Chicago has something to offer every season of the year, but fall is particularly magical. The leaves turn golden in Millennium Park, a crisp breeze blows near the lake, and the city is filled with tons of cool activities and events. Whether you want to admire neighborhood architecture, soak in the fall colors, pick a bushel of apples, or hear about the city’s urban legends, fall in Chicago has something for everyone.
Here’s our guide on things to do in Chicago this fall.
- Check out the fall colors
- Celebrate Halloween
- Hop on a fall boat cruise
- Take a haunted tour
- Rediscover live theatre
- Admire neighborhood architecture
- Attend a food festival
- See an unforgettable museum exhibit
- Visit a drive-in movie or film fest
- Shop local makers and artisans
- Take a day trip
- Visit a pumpkin patch
- Go apple picking
Check out the fall colors
This city is gorgeous year round, but it really shines in the fall. Whether you’re wandering a lakefront park or just meandering the leaf-strewn streets of a charming neighborhood, you’ll find pops of fall foliage everywhere you go. Do some serious leaf peeping at these top places to see fall colors in and around Chicago:
- Lincoln Park, particularly the area around North Pond and South Pond
- Jackson Park and the gorgeous Garden of the Phoenix
- Morton Arboretum just a short train ride away
Explore more: Read the full fall colors guide to Chicagoland.
Chicago celebrates Halloween with our own unique style. There’s artistic evening spectacles, glowing pumpkin displays, thrilling parades, spooky tours of haunted places, Day of the Dead celebrations, and beyond. Check out the events we’re most excited about this year:
- Arts in the Dark on State Street and Upside Down Arts in the Dark in Washington Park
- Night of 1,000 Jack-o-Lanterns at the Chicago Botanic Garden
- Northalsted Halloween Parade in Northalsted (aka Boystown)
- Día de los Muertos: Love Never Dies Ball at the National Museum of Mexican Art
- Boo! at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo
Explore more: Check out our guide to Halloween events and activities for more.
Hop on a fall boat cruise
It’s not too late to get out on the water! Chicago’s boat tours are still setting sail through fall, like the Chicago’s First Lady offering classic architecture river tours through Nov. 21 (weather permitting). Tours are led by the experts at the Chicago Architecture Center, and you can even BYOB (bring your own blanket!).
Explore more: Check out all of Chicago’s lake and river cruise options.
Take a haunted tour
Chicago is a city with plenty of dark history, from the Great Chicago Fire to the sinking of the SS Eastland. These events have led to more than a few urban legends and plenty of alleged hauntings. Decide for yourself on these haunted and ghost tours of the city:
Rediscover live theatre
Nothing compares to the thrill of live theatre. And the curtain is rising again on Chicago’s dynamic theatre scene, from our stunning downtown venues to intimate neighborhood storefronts. This fall, you can catch pre-Broadway runs, world premiers, classic favorites, cutting-edge shows, and more. Here’s just a few:
- Macbeth at Lyric Opera of Chicago
- The Tragedy of Othello at Court Theatre
- American Mariachi at Goodman Theatre
- Paradise Square at Nederlander Theatre
- As You Like It at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
- A Recipe for Disaster at Windy City Playhouse
International Latino Theatre Festival across the city
Explore more: Find theatre events and shows all over Chicago.
Admire neighborhood architecture
Open House Chicago is back with in-person events this Oct. 16 and 17. The beloved festival is one of the largest architecture events in the world, showcasing architecturally, culturally, and historically significant sites across the city’s unique neighborhoods. Go behind the scenes of the greatest spaces and places in Chicago, including soaring skyscrapers, historic spaces, members-only clubs, private residences, and other areas not normally open to the public.
The Chicago Architecture Biennial kicks off Sept. 17 at the Chicago Cultural Center. This ground-breaking event, which is the largest architecture and design exhibition in North America, will feature projects created by contributors from around the globe at free exhibits and events throughout the city. This year’s theme, The Available City, asks us to consider the impact collective space can have in cities today.
Explore more: Don’t miss these top art and architecture events this fall.
Attend a food festival
This fall brings an exciting blend of food and drink events to Chicago. Foodies can get their fix at these upcoming events celebrating food, beer, and wine:
- Chicago Gourmet hosts intimate dinners, a burger competition, ands an elevated tasting experience.
- Craft Brews at Lincoln Park Zoo lets you sip local beer in a historic setting.
- Harvest Wine and Cheese Festa showcases the best of Eataly’s with fall bites and sips.
See an unforgettable museum exhibit
Fall is typically a busy season for art lovers in Chicago. This year, there’s plenty of must-see exhibits at museums all around the city, from major exhibitions to under-the-radar finds:
- Immersive Van Goghat the Germania Club
- City on Fire at Chicago History Museum
- The March at the DuSable Museum of African American History
- The Art of Banksy at 360 N. State St.
- Romanticism to Ruin at Wrightwood 659
- Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes at Museum of Science & Industry
Explore more: Find more exciting museum exhibits in Chicago this fall
Visit a drive-in movie or film fest
Fall in Chicago is an excellent time for movie lovers. In October, the city hosts the longest-running competitive film festival in North America. And drive-in movies are back in a big way. These nostalgic outdoor theatres feature everything from kid-friendly flicks to spine-tingling horror films. Check out where to see film screenings and drive-in movies in Chicago this fall.
- Chicago International Film Festival features film screenings from around the world.
- Music Box of Horrors is a cult favorite with 24 hours of horror movie madness.
- Asian Pop-Up Cinema will host virtual, in-person, and drive-in events.
- ChiTown Movies in Pilsen screens family favorites, classic slasher flicks, and more.
Shop local makers and artisans
Get an early jump on holiday shopping or find something nice for yourself with one-of-a-kind goods from Chicago’s talented community of makers and artisans. Check out these local vendors selling hand-crafted products, from custom bicycles to hats that will last a lifetime:
- Dearborn Denim in Hyde Park and Andersonville
- Laudi Vidni in Lincoln Park
- Brown Sugar Bakery in Chatham
Explore more: Browse our makers and artisans guide.
Take a day trip
Sometimes you just need to take a break from the city and explore all the cool places around Chicagoland. Get out of town for a day with these near-by parks and attractions:
- Pullman National Monument
- The Forge: Lemont Quarries
- Indiana Dunes National Park
- Anderson Japanese Gardens
Explore more: See our guide to day trips around Chicago.
Visit a pumpkin patch
Whether you want to carve jack-o-lanterns or bake a pie, these pumpkin patches around Chicago have what you need. Head out of town for a full day of fall activities at these pumpkin patches:
- Goebbert’s Pumpkin Patch in Pingree Grove
- Sonny Acres Farm in West Chicago
- Bengston’s Pumpkin Fest in Homer Glen
- Stade’s Farm & Market in McHenry
Go apple picking
Nothing says fall like walking through an apple orchard. While there aren’t many apple-picking spots within the city limits, these farms are just a short distance outside the city. Stock up on Honeycrisp, Gala, Fuji, and more at these apple-picking spots around Chicago:
- All Seasons Apple Orchard in Woodstock
- Kuiper’s Family Farm in Maple Park
- Heinz Orchard in Libertyville
- Jonomac Orchard in Malta
Explore more: Fill your basket with apples and other seasonal produce at your nearest Chicago farmers market.