Lurie Garden Chicago

Nothing beats summer in Chicago, but there is so much to look forward to this fall. From a kid-focused international film fest to black-footed penguins, here are five family-friendly things you'll want to check out as the days and the city cools off. Mark your calendars for these not-to-be-missed events around Chicago.

Lincoln Park Zoo's Robert and Mayari Pritzker Penguin Cove: Opens October 6

African penguins, or black-footed penguins, will be moving into their home in the zoo's new penguin cove at the beginning of October, and my family and I can't wait!

Lincoln Park Penguin Cove

The 3,350-square-foot outdoor exhibit space will feature a 20,500-gallon pool and naturalistic South African landscape. Zoo visitors will have the chance to enter the 1,350-square-foot immersive sheltered viewing area featuring floor-to-ceiling viewing windows giving guests a chance to get nose-to-beak with these captivating animals. On the public side, guests can also experience the penguins' native habitat with squishy floors imitating damp sand and tactile rockwork complete with artificial mussels and barnacles for guests to explore.

Admission at the zoo is free, and getting there is easy. Plan your trip today!

As a bonus, Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo is going on now (Fridays-Sundays) and ends October 30. Plan a visit on October 10 during Columbus Day too. Usher in the harvest season with your animal friends at this family celebrations complete with rides, activities and entertainment. An a-maize-ing corn maze, Ferris wheel, hay mountain, giant 60-ft. burlap sack slide on the zoo's Main Mall and hay wagon rides throughout Farm-in-the-Zoo round out the fun. Pumpkins will also be available for sale at the Pritzker Family Children's Zoo pumpkin patch daily throughout October.


Chicago Museum Week: October 13-23

Chicago's world-class museums are always something to celebrate, but Chicago Museum Week makes visiting our wonderful museums even better, focusing on family fun and learning thanks to special discounts, exhibits and programs.

Adler Planetarium - Chicago Museum Week

Special offers and activities during Chicago Museum Week include discounts on general admission and memberships (including 10-25% off admission for Illinois residents at participating institutions), extended hours, free tours, new exhibits, educational programs and giveaways. Visit Chicago Museum Week for a complete schedule and the full list of participating institutions.


Celebrate the Harvest at North Park Village Nature Center: October 15-16

North Park Village Nature Center

North Park Village Nature Center in the city's North Park neighborhood is a beloved forest in the city, featuring hiking trails and plenty of hands-on, educational programming throughout the year. Celebrate the harvest on Saturday, October 15th, and Sunday, October 16th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., by focusing on the animals that begin to prepare for the long winter ahead after gathering their fall goodies.

Do nature-centric crafts, stroll the farmers market, listen to storytellers and jam out to live music. Enjoy the fall colors on trails that wind through woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna.

Make the most of your trip to the North Park neighborhood by stopping at the charming and kid-friendly Tre Kronor for traditional Swedish brunch fare the kids will love, including Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce, Belgian waffles, and warm cinnamon rolls.


The 2016 Chicago International Children's Film Festival: October 28-November 6

One of the world's premier festivals of films for kids and teens ages 2-18, the Chicago International Children's Film Festival gives families the chance to travel the world via film. Now in its 33rd year.

The 2016 festival will feature over 250 films from more than 40 countries, including the US, France, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Poland, and many more, screened at venues across Chicagoland. 

The learning doesn't end when the film stops rolling. Go beyond the screen with:

  • Interactive workshops with special guests
  • Peer-to-peer dialogues
  • Post-screening Q&As with filmmakers
  • Filmmaker-led seminars
  • Children's and Youth Juries

Annie the Musical at Cadillac Palace Theatre: November 9-13

Everybody's favorite redhead returns to Chicago to present the world's best-loved musical: Annie the Musical will be onstage at the Cadillac Palace Theatre late this fall to kick off the holiday musical season.
Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, this production of Annie will be a brand-new incarnation of the iconic original with such unforgettable songs as "It's a Hard Knock Life," "Easy Street," "I Don't Need Anything but You," plus the eternal anthem of optimism, "Tomorrow." Tickets will go fast, so get them today.



Looking for even more fall fun? Try these festive autumn activities.
  • Apples, Apples, Apples!
    Apples stand as everyone's favorite fall fruit, and Lincoln Square Apple Fest (Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 2, from 9am - 5pm) celebrates them all — from Akanes to Zestas. Visit the dozens of vendors, spend time in the kid zone full of children's activities and enjoy the live music by local singers and instrumentalists.

  • Leaf Peeping
    You don't have to leave the city to catch the amazing fall colors. Chicago's many parks put on quite a colorful show every autumn. Lurie Garden in Millennium Park, as well as the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and surrounding Lincoln Park, are top spots that promise plenty of trees and perennials dressed up in their autumnal best. Explore by foot or by bicycle: there are several nearby Divvy bike rental stations.

  • Fall Treats at the Farmer's Markets
    Chicago's farmers markets
     are wonderful year-round, but in the fall, there is no better place to stock up on harvest goodies. Check out the Green City Market, just a short walk from Lincoln Park Zoo and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Photo credits: Lurie Garden. Penguins, Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago Museum Week, courtesy of Chicago Museum Week. North Park Village Nature Center, Adam Alexander Photography. Film Festival, courtesy of the Chicago International Children's Film Festival.