With fall foliage and the cool breeze comes the spookiest month of the year—October! Besides Halloween festivities, Chicagoans have several things to look forward to, including fall festivals, book expos, art walks and food fairs. Movie fans won't run out of things to watch with several free screenings and the International Film Festival coming up, while history buffs will enjoy free admission to several of Chicago’s best landmarks. Without further ado, here are the top 10 free things to do in Chicago this October.


Chicago Book Expo
October 1, 2017

Now on its sixth year, the Chicago Book Expo will be featuring over 80 publishers and local literary organizations and over a dozen programs, and the chance to listen to and meet with some of the best writers in the Chicago area. This year’s Chicago Book Expo also marks the first Chicago Architecture Book Festival. Check the Chicago Book Expo’s website for a full schedule of events.


West Town Art Walk & Food Truck Social
October 6–7, 2017

West Town Art Walk & Food Truck Social

West Town celebrates all art forms—be they visual, musical, culinary or fashion. They showcase the work of their best artists in Art Walk, an event held in conjunction with the West Town Food Truck Social. Attendees are highly encouraged to snack-and-stroll while checking out the pop-up exhibits along Chicago Avenue. The event starts at 5 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday.


Fall Bulb Festival
October 6–8, 2017

Aerial view of Chicago Botanic Garden in the fall

Take a drive up north to Glencoe and head to the Chicago Botanic Garden for the Fall Bulb Festival. Members get first dibs on bulbs starting October 6, while guests can enjoy the live music and harvest festival, featuring a gourd mountain (pictured) that’s great for fall photo ops.


Chicago Home Movie Day
October 7, 2017

Get a glimpse into someone’s personal history—big hair, transition periods and questionable fashion choices among them—via Home Movie Day. You can also bring some of your own home movies to be showcased at the Chicago History Museum.


Columbus Day Parade
October 9, 2017

Columbus Day Parade

Celebrate the day that Columbus discovered America and Italian-American culture by joining the annual parade. Parade Grand Marshals include prominent Italian-Americans Ernest Borgnine, Tommy Lasorda and others. Parade starts at State Street and ends at Van Buren Street.


Chicago International Film Festival
October 12–26, 2017

Chicago International Film Festival

The Chicago International Film Festival features over 100 short and full-length films. Though attending the films isn’t technically free, it’s certainly affordable, and there are free panel discussions if you’re looking for a cheap night out. Features screen at the AMC River East 21. Check out the Chicago International Film Festival’s website for the full schedule of events.


Halloween at Navy Pier
October 21 & 28, 2017

Looking for family friendly fun? Navy Pier kicks off Halloween celebrations with free film screenings and Sequence Ch!cago, a free music show featuring the best local talents.


Open House Chicago
October 14–15, 2017

NEIU El Centro interior view, part of Open House Chicago 2017

Get an insider’s look at famous Chicago landmarks with Open House Chicago, an event sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation that grants free admission to over 200 sites in Chicago. History buffs and architecture fans rejoice at this rare opportunity to get an insider’s look at buildings otherwise closed off to the public.


Spooky Zoo Spectacular
October 28, 2017

Lincoln Park Zoo Spooky Zoo Spectacular

Kids are invited to celebrate Halloween at the Lincoln Park Zoo with the Spooky Zoo Spectacular. Activities include trick or treating, craft making, and visiting the on-site haunted house.


Northalsted Halloween Parade
October 31, 2017

Included as one of the 10 Best Halloween Celebrations in the US by Fodor’s Travel Guide, the Northalsted Halloween Parade is famous for the entertaining parade where the crowd dresses up in outlandish costumes to take home prizes. The parade starts at North Halsted Street at 5 p.m.

Which of these 10 free things to do in Chicago this October will you be checking out? Anything we missed? Tweet your thoughts using @ChooseChicago!