Chicago’s many parks, gardens, and natural areas are gorgeous year-round — but they’re particularly stunning in the fall. That’s when you can see stunning red, orange, and gold foliage that turns the city into a picture-perfect autumn scene. Whether you’re strolling a lakefront park or a charming neighborhood, you’ll find fall colors in every corner of the city.
Here are some of the best spots to see fall colors in and near Chicago:
Nestled along the Lake Michigan shoreline, scenic Lincoln Park is a local go-to for fall foliage. Stroll along the Nature Boardwalk at the south of Lincoln Park Zoo, an urban oasis framed with skyline views. Or walk through the manicured gardens outside the Lincoln Park Conservatory before heading to the secluded Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. And the North Pond area, near Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, stays lush all autumn long.
Millennium Park and Lurie Garden
See fall splendor right in the heart of downtown. Chicago’s Millennium Park is bursting with color each fall, from the leaves changing color near Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) to the hidden Lurie Garden teeming with native plant life.
Just south of Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago is framed by two charming courtyards. The North Garden and the South Garden, located along Michigan Avenue, both feature sculptures, fountains, solitude, and breathtaking fall colors.
One of Chicago’s most historic parks is also one of its most scenic. Nestled on the lakefront edge of the bustling Hyde Park neighborhood, Jackson Park is best known as the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Fall is the perfect time to explore the park’s Garden of the Phoenix, an authentic Japanese garden set on a tranquil lagoon.
The Lakefront Trail
Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, which runs 18 miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a scenic stretch that connects some of the city’s most popular green spaces. In autumn, it’s a great way to see much of Chicago’s best foliage. Walk or bike to explore different neighborhoods and see the changing leaves.
Located in the vibrant Humboldt Park neighborhood, this sprawling park contains scenic lagoons connected by a prairie river, a manicured garden, ball fields, soccer fields, and a stunning boat house. Meander the winding paths or bring a blanket and have a picnic in the grass.
This historic park in the Austin neighborhood, one of the nation’s only green spaces to be designated a National Historic Landmark, is a magical place in the fall. The foliage around the lagoon and waterfall in Columbus Park turns a vibrant array of colors, especially picturesque with the landmark Columbus Refectory in the background.
Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory is known for its striking greenhouse (dubbed “landscape art under glass”), but the surrounding grounds are just as gorgeous. The 10 acres of outdoor gardens include beautiful themed areas, including the City Garden, Artist’s Garden, Sensory Garden, and more.
This historic park, home to the Dusable Black History Museum and Education Center, is filled with golden hues and vibrant leaves each autumn. Take a walk around the lagoon, admire the Harvest Garden, and snap a photo of the renowned Fountain of Time sculpture by Lorado Taft. The park connects directly to the Midway Plaisance, a scenic route to take between Washington Park and nearby Jackson Park.
Chicago Botanic Garden
The Chicago Botanic Garden is gorgeous in every season — but fall is one of the most popular times to visit. That’s when you can see Chicago Botanic’s 27 gardens, four natural areas, nine islands, and six miles of lake shoreline bursting with autumn splendor. Plus, a fun roster of fall events (like the popular Night of 1,000 Pumpkins) are all the more reason to take the trip out to suburban Glencoe.
Can’t get enough of all those autumn leaves? Get your fall fix at Morton Arboretum, a sprawling living museum that’s home to more than 4,000 different types of trees. The Arboretum also offer tons of cool fall events, like the Scarecrow Trail, Cider and Ale Festival, and the Glass Pumpkin Patch.
An unexpected spot for some excellent leaf-peeping, The 606 is the perfect way to enjoy Chicago’s fall foliage. Not only is the trail itself beautifully landscaped, but the elevated path also offers the perfect vantage point to admire neighborhood parks and boulevards from above.
North Park Village Nature Center
Explore both woodland, wetland, prairie, and more at the North Park Village Nature Center. This sprawling natural oasis in the heart of the North Park neighborhood is an under-the-radar gem, especially around autumn.