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

Morton Arboretum in fall
Photo courtesy Morton Arboretum

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:

Explore more: Read the full fall colors guide to Chicagoland.

Celebrate Halloween

Night of 1,000 Pumpkins at Chicago Botanic Garden
Photo courtesy Chicago Botanic Garden

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:

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:

Explore more: See our full guide to haunted Chicago tours. Or create your own DIY walking tour with our list of Chicago’s most haunted places.

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:

Explore more: Find theatre events and shows all over Chicago.

Admire neighborhood architecture

Elks National Memorial
Eric Allix Rogers

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

Chicago Gourmet

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:

See an unforgettable museum exhibit

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit
Immersive Van Gogh 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:

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.

Shop local makers and artisans

Heritage Cycles
Photo by Annie Theby

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:

Explore more: Browse our makers and artisans guide.

Take a day trip

National Park Service Photo

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:

Explore more: See our guide to day trips around Chicago.

Visit a pumpkin patch

Pumpkins at Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo

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:

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:

Explore more: Fill your basket with apples and other seasonal produce at your nearest Chicago farmers market.