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 celebrate Halloween, admire neighborhood architecture, soak in the fall colors, attend a fall food festival, 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 in the fall.
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 its gorgeous Japanese garden
- Millennium Park featured amazing colors in the heart of the city
- Humboldt Park, known for its sprawling lagoons and wildflowers
- Morton Arboretum is a tree-filled oasis just a short train ride away
Explore more: Read the full fall colors guide to Chicagoland.
Chicago celebrates Halloween with its own unique style — you’ll find artistic evening spectacles, glowing pumpkin displays, spooky tours of haunted places, family-friendly festivals, and beyond. Check out a few of the events we’re most excited about this year:
- Arts in the Dark on State Street in the Loop
- Northalsted Halloween Parade in Northalsted
- Spooky Zoo and Howl-o-ween at Lincoln Park Zoo
- Boo! at the Zoo at Brookfield Zoo
Explore more: Check out our guide to Halloween events and activities for more.
Visit a one-of-a-kind pumpkin patch
It’s not fall until you visit a pumpkin patch. And you don’t even need to leave the Chicago area to do it. Our seasonal pumpkin patches include an over-the-top pop-up, an artist-driven nighttime display, and a family-friendly event at the zoo.
- Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-up is billed as Chicago’s largest fall festival, Jack’s takes over Goose Island with tons of fun seasonal activities, including fortune tellers, a corn maze, food trucks, photo opps, and more than 10,000 pumpkins.
- Fall Fest this family-friendly fest runs through October at Lincoln Park Zoo. The free event includes a cute pumpkin patch, perfect for all your fall photos.
- Night of 1,000 Jack-o-Lanterns, where artist-carved pumpkins will light your way through the Chicago Botanic Garden during this spooky after-dark event.
Honor Day of the Dead
Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead, is a time to remember and honor loved ones who have passed. Experience authentic traditions, cultural celebrations, art exhibits, and more all inspired by the Mexican holiday throughout Chicago. The National Museum of Mexican Art is a hub for many of these activities, including the annual Día de los Muertos: Love Never Dies Ball and the popular Día de Muertos exhibit.
Hop on a fall boat cruise
It’s not too late to get out on the water! Many of Chicago’s boat tours are still setting sail through the autumn season, like the Chicago Architecture Center River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady through late fall (weather permitting). Tours are led by expert docents, who will share the fascinating stories of more than 50 buildings that make up Chicago’s iconic skyline.
Shoreline Sightseeing, City Experience dining cruises, Seadog speedboat tours, Wendella Tours and Cruises, and more are also booking lake and river adventures through autumn. And many offer indoor and climate-controlled options so you can stay comfortable no matter the weather. Grab your tickets today.
Explore more: Check out all of Chicago’s lake and river cruise options.
Take a haunted tour
Chicago is a city with plenty of haunting 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 supernatural sightings. Decide for yourself on these haunted and ghost tours of the city:
- Chicago Ghost Tours with Free Tours by Foot
- The Devil in the White City Bus Tour by American Ghost Walks
- Chicago Ghost Tour Pub Crawl by Nightly Spirits
- Haunted History Tours at Lincoln Park Zoo
Admire architecture’s past, present, and future
Open House Chicago, held each October, is one of the largest architecture events in the world. Go behind the scenes of the greatest spaces and places in Chicago, including soaring skyscrapers, historic spaces, members-only clubs, and other areas not normally open to the public.
Experience the future of architecture at the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The largest architecture and design exhibition in North America, the Biennial is centered around the Chicago Cultural Center and also includes off-site exhibits and programming throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.
And architecture buffs won’t want to miss the Annual Historic Pullman House tour, a local favorite for the past 50 years. This event offers an exclusive inside look at homes in the Pullman National Historic District, an 1880s industrial town known for its unique residential architecture.
Discover live theatre
Nothing compares to the thrill of live theatre. And the curtain is rising this fall on Chicago’s dynamic theatre scene from our stunning downtown venues to intimate neighborhood storefronts. You can catch exciting Broadway in Chicago productions, world premieres, classic favorites, hit musicals, family-friendly shows, and so much more.
Fall also brings exciting theatrical events, like the Destinos Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. This acclaimed multi-week fest spotlights Latino theatre artists in venues across the city.
Attend a culinary festival
The cooler weather brings an exciting blend of fall food and drink festivals to Chicago, including one of the city’s signature culinary events — Chicago Gourmet. Foodies can get their fix at these upcoming events celebrating the city’s food, beer, and wine scenes:
- Chicago Gourmet includes a German beer festival, a burger competition, and an elevated tasting experience.
- Lincoln Square Apple Fest celebrates the fall harvest with apple pie, apple cider, and other autumnal treats.
- Chicago Beer Festival features seasonal brews from more than 60 local breweries inside the iconic Field Museum.
- Lincoln Park Wine Festival lets guests sip wines while strolling an open-air market of sommeliers, food tastings, and live music.
- Cider and Ale Festival celebrates seasonal sips at the scenic Morton Arboretum just outside Chicago.
- Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers offers tastes of the rarest wood and barrel-aged beers at this prestigious competition.
Check out more festivals and events this fall.
Catch a 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, along with a variety of niche festivals that feature everything from hard-to-find indie picks to spine-tingling horror films. Check out where to see film screenings in Chicago this fall.
- Chicago International Film Festival is an esteemed event featuring films from around the world.
- Chicago Underground Film Festival is the longest-running event of its kind.
- Reeling Film Festival is the second oldest LGBTQ+ film festival in the country.
- Music Box of Horrors is a cult favorite with 24 hours of horror movie madness.
- Asian Pop-Up Cinema will host screenings of a diverse lineup of Asian films.
See an unforgettable museum exhibit
Fall is typically a busy season for art lovers in Chicago. This year, there are plenty of must-see exhibits at our amazing museums all around the city. Explore everything from world-class art institutions to under-the-radar neighborhood galleries, and tons in between.
- Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry
- First Kings of Europe at the Field Museum
- Fighting Racism in the Trenches at the DuSable Black History Museum
- Back Home: Polish Chicago at the Chicago History Museum
- Carlos Cortéz 100 AÑOS at the National Museum of Mexican Art
Remedios Varo: Science Fictions at the Art Institute of Chicago
Explore more: Find more exciting museum exhibits in Chicago this fall.