My list of 50 Ideas for Summer Fun, seemed to be a big hit. So, on this first official day of Fall, I thought I would come out with 25 ideas to help you enjoy, what I consider to be the best season in Chicago.
I did not put these in any kind of order, except for #1. That one you have to be sure to see. I put the dates, if applicable, for particular events. I wouldn’t want you to miss anything!
There is definitely a reason why I made Midnight Circus #1. If you only do one thing on this list, Midnight Circus is the one! Words can’t even describe the awesomeness of this show. For 2 hours you will be entertained by talented performers from around the world, that will have you in awe and cheering for more! Perfect for every age, the Midnight Circus is truly one of the best shows in Chicago, doing wonderful things for our city. A portion of funds raised goes to community groups, play-lot renovations and park programs.
If you need any more convincing, you should check out this short video I put together a few years ago. It gives you a glimpse into the amazing experience that awaits you. Only 5 weekends left. Get your tickets today!
2. EXPO Chicago
“EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, has established the city of Chicago as a preeminent art fair destination. Opening the fall art season every September, EXPO CHICAGO takes place at historic Navy Pier whose vast vaulted architecture hosts leading international art galleries alongside one of the highest quality platforms for global contemporary art and culture.” – EXPO Chicago Website
EXPO CHICAGO features artwork from over 3,000 artists from 135 leading galleries, representing 27 countries and 63 international cities. Tickets are $20 for a day pass or $30 for a 3 day pass. There is a $5 discount for students and seniors. EXPO Chicago will be taking place September 27th – 30th.
I went to my first Open House Chicago seven years ago. I have been wanting to go back ever since. This year I have it on the calendar and I will definitely be participating in this incredible opportunity, which takes place on October 13th and 14th.
“The Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago is a free public festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings across Chicago. Explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods—all for free. Have you ever walked by a building and thought, “I wish I could see what’s inside?” Now you can. Tour soaring skyscrapers, repurposed mansions, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs, private offices and breathtaking sacred spaces.” – Open House Chicago website
I am beyond excited to attend this event at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I have heard so many wonderful things and could not pass it up, yet another year. So, the tickets are purchased and if you want to grab some of your own do not hesitate. The tickets go fast!
“More than 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins—some as large as 150 pounds—will light up the night at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns is the only event of its kind in the Chicago area. Using scalpels, knives, gouges, and power tools, artists for the New York-based company Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns spend up to 15 hours sculpting a single pumpkin. The LED-lit jack-o’-lanterns will be staged along a festive, paved pathway, starting at the Esplanade. Along the way, encounter entertaining characters, watch live carving, and view the ghostly trains in the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America.” – Chicago Botanic Garden website
If you would like to get a sneak peek of the festivities click HERE!
This event takes place October 24th – 28th.
5. Visit Your Local Candy Store
When I was younger, I remember visiting our local candy store and filling a bag of candy before heading to the movies. I was always amazed on the quantity of sweet treats I was able to get for the couple dollars my mom gave me.
Fortunately, my kids are able to have a similar experience when visiting Dizzy Cow (2155 W. Irving Park Road). As you walk through the door you are immediately taken back to a simpler time. The names on the wrappers are vintage and the prices are nostalgic. There is something for everyone!
No need to wait until Halloween to get your candy fix. Make a stop at your local candy store and give yourself something to smile about.
6. Changing of the Leaves
One of the best things about Fall in Chicago is the changing of the leaves. The explosion of color that appears mid-October is truly a site to see. I highly suggest you visit one of the many Chicago Parks or Forest Preserves in the Chicago area. Take a walk and surround yourself with one of Mother Nature’s amazing displays.
7. Bird Watching
If you would have asked me last year about bird watching, I would have told you that it sounded like a rather boring activity. However, in March, I started getting out and really enjoying the nature photography. One of the many animals I found myself photographing were the birds. I became even more interested when I found out about Spring Migration and the many birds that make a stop in Chicago on their way to summer destinations. I would go out with my camera and grab as many shots, of as many birds, as I could find. The next step would be to identify the birds. The website All About Birds, was extremely helpful. Here I could read a little about each bird and learn some rather interesting facts.
The Fall Migration starts in September and will continue through November. I will be spending most of my time at the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, the North Park Village Nature Center or the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. I will definitely be visiting some new places and I’ll be sure to share them with you! If you would like to follow my birding adventures, find me on Instagram @NatureInChicago.
8. Ghost Tour
I have only been on one ghost tour and it was memorable. It was about 14 years ago when I went on the Chicago Hauntings Ghost Tour. We traveled on a bus around the city and heard stories about the Eastland Disaster, the Iroquois Theater Fire, and St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, just to name a few. It was truly one of the creepiest bus rides I have ever taken.
This Halloween season, I might get on the bus again or I just might take a walking tour. There are so many locations throughout the city, that you could visit and take a stroll. I will have to check out my edition of Creepy Chicago and Chicago’s Guide to the Supernatural and see what spooky stops we should make. Another great place to get the willies, would be your local cemetery. There is no doubt that you could easily find some spine-tingling stories of the dearly departed. I will most likely do a little research at the Bohemian National Cemetery and Graceland Cemetery.
“The 70MM Film Festival returns to the Music Box (3733 N Southport Ave) for another epic year of celluloid. This year’s festival includes a brand new 70MM print of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, festival favorites like WEST SIDE STORY and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and 8 films that have never screened in 70MM at the Music Box!” – MusicBoxTheater.com
So, what’s so great about 70MM Film?
“70mm is a film format with frames that are larger in size and wider in aspect ratio than the standard 35mm film. “From an audience standpoint, it’s a much crisper, brighter, and ideally more uniform and stable image,” said Douglas McLaren (projectionist at the Music Box Theater). Essentially, the difference between 35mm and 70mm is similar to the difference between DVD and Blu-ray, if switching from DVD to Blu-ray also made your television bigger.
The wider, sharper image allows viewers to see “details in these films that you have just never, ever seen before,” as McLaren puts it. He also points out that most theaters project films at a resolution of about 2,000 pixels, which is comparable to Blu-ray. However, the restoration scan of the 70mm film resolution Lawrence of Arabia was scanned at about 8,000 pixels, “and the negative had even more information than that. There’s just so much more going on in these 70mm prints than even on your Blu-ray.” – Sarah Gorr (Groupon Guide)
The Film Festival is currently running through September 27th.
One of the best places to visit in the Fall is the Morton Arboretum, in Lisle. Not only are the trees beautiful, but the scarecrows created by local scout troops are a real treat. The creativity and imagination that goes into the creation of each scarecrow is something to experience in person. You will find these masterpieces when you stroll around Meadow Lake in October. You’ll even have the opportunity to vote for your favorite.
While you are there, you can also check out the Trolls.
11. Chicago River Tour
Many people associate Chicago River tours with summer activities. However, many river tours are offered well into the month of November. Whether you take an architectural tour, a lake and river tour or a sunset cruise, there are so many options to view this beautiful city from the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
12. Visit a Pumpkin Patch / Haunted House
When the kids were younger we went to our share of pumpkin patches. I remember visiting one in the suburbs and the biggest attraction were the wild animals displayed in rather small cages. I never understood how seeing a tiger or being able to pet a baby cheetah (for a fee) had anything do with Halloween.
The Chicago Park District does a nice job bringing the spirit of Halloween to the many neighborhoods throughout the city. They offer numerous pumpkin patches and haunted houses throughout the season.
You can look up your neighborhood park’s events on the Chicago Park District website.
The Fall is a great time to have your family photos taken. Avoiding the heat of the summer and having colorful leaves for your backdrop are just a couple of the reasons why people book sessions in the month of October.
I few years back I wrote a blog post on Ten Reasons Why You Should Have Pictures Taken During the Fall. After reading the post, there should be no question as to why you need to book a fall session. I even might know the perfect photographer for you!
14. Go for a Run or Walk
With fall comes the cross-country season. All the Gaiettos are participating this year, except Riley. She is still recovering from her dislocated knee incident over the summer. Everyone is excited to compete and run their little hearts out.
The cooler weather and breathtaking fall scenery, makes for pleasing running conditions. There are always numerous 5Ks and 1 mile runs offered around this time. The best place to find a run near you is to check out CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association).
Go Run Chicago is a community partnership between the Chicago Area Runners Association and the Chicago Park District with an objective to activate neighborhood parks, build communities and encourage active lifestyle through running and volunteerism. They offer free runs for all ages at Humboldt Park, Warren Park and Washington Park.
15. Outdoor Movie Night
Outdoor movies are not just for summer. So, whether you host a movie night yourself or take advantage of the few Movies in the Parks left on the schedule, get out and enjoy a flick.
In the month of October the Chicago Park District will be showing numerous Halloween related movies. Some more scarier than others. A few family friendly titles include, Beetlejuice, The Addams Family, and Monster House. Be sure to bring a few dollars to buy some snacks and help support the hosting park.
“The Ed Paschke Art Center commemorates the life and work of Ed Paschke, one of Chicago’s most famous artists. It also recognizes his contributions to the artistic life of the city as a cultural ambassador, teacher, family man, and friend. Ed Paschke made art about the famous and the infamous. Bold, sometimes shocking, he permitted his subjects to express their complex personalities. Paschke was a strong believer in the viewer’s capacity to interpret his works of art on their own terms.” – Ed Paschke Art Center website
The Ed Paschke Art Center is located at 5415 W. Higgins Avenue, in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. The Art Center is free and open to the public (donations are always welcome).
17. Haunted Halsted
Ranked as one of the Top Best Halloweens in the US, by Fodor’s Travel Guide, the Northalsted Halloween Parade has entertained the north side for 21 years. There is $4,000 in prizes for the best costumes, following the parade at Halsted & Brompton. Contestants will be judged by a discerning panel of judges. The Parade kicks off at 7:30pm on October 31st, led by the Chicago Thriller Flash Mob.
The Gaietto kids still enjoy trick-or-treating. So, this event will be something we’ll attend in a few more years.
The Fall season brings about harvest time. There’s no better way to find some of the best tasting produce then at a City Farmers Market. Not only will you have countless choices to choose from, but you will also help support local growers.
Fruits and vegetables are not the only things you’ll find. Plants, baked goods, prepared foods and unique Chicago-made products are also awaiting you.
Find a City Farmers Market near you and get shopping!
19. Full Moon Jam
We attended our first Full Moon Jam last month and really enjoyed the show. We didn’t know what to expect, but found all the flame twirling performers to be very entertaining. If you would like to see some videos and pictures from our Full Moon Jam in August, be sure to check out the blog post.
You only have one more opportunity, this season, to check out the Full Moon Jam. Thursday, October 5th will be the last show of 2018. It will begin at 6:30pm and end at 9:15pm. It is a school night, but even if you stayed for an hour or so, it would be worth the trip. To get up to date announcements and weather cancellations, check out the Full Moon Jam Twitter feed.
The helmet in the above picture, was worn by William H. Musham, the fire marshal during the Chicago Fire of 1871. It was donated to the Chicago History Museum by his grand-niece.
“The municipal Chicago Fire Department was formed in 1858. By the early 1870s, the fire department had up-to-date equipment but was relatively small with only 185 firemen. When the Great Chicago Fire began the night of October 8, 1871, the fire department, tired from fighting an earlier fire, was unable to bring it under control. It burned for 36 hours, destroyed three and a half miles of the city, and killed 300 Chicagoans. This helmet was worn by Fire Marshal Musham, who was the first officer to respond to the alarm that evening.” – Chicago History Museum
This October, commemorate the 147th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire with a visit to the Chicago History Museum. See artifacts, read stories and learn about one of Chicago’s most significant events in it’s history.
21. Campfire Story Time
The cool temperatures are coming and there’s no better way to warm up, than by a campfire. In the month of October, the North Park Village Nature Center will be offering Campfire Story Time with a spooky theme.
You could even keep it closer to home, if you happen to have a fire pit. Invite some friends over, make some s’mores and share some creepy stories.
Need some inspiration? Motivation? A little boost? Then you need to check out Chicago Ideas Week.
“Chicago Ideas Week, October 15-21, 2018, is a seven-day festival featuring over 200 global thought leaders and innovators speaking on a variety of topics ranging from leadership and life’s lessons, to science and technology, to the most pressing issues of the day and the most creative insights in entertainment. We offer more than 150 engaging programs each Chicago Ideas Week to stimulate, inspire and enlighten participants while providing the opportunity for attendees to think, dream and connect. The best part? Most tickets are only $15, ensuring that anyone who wants access to great ideas can have it.” – Chicago Ideas Week
Be sure to check out the schedule and see what this event has to offer!
We went to our first Vintage Garage Sale on September 16th and had a great time. There was so much to see and something for everyone. Morgan was the big buyer with three purchases.
Looks like you have just one more chance to check out the Chicago Vintage Garage Sale. As stated on their website, the last sale ever, will take place on October 21st. Located at 5051 N. Broadway, you’ll be able to peruse vintage and antique goods (10am-5pm) from 75 to 100 vendors on the first 2 floors and ramps of a nice big parking garage in Uptown.
I remember the swan boats at Lincoln Park Zoo. The last ride I took was with my nephew and nieces, about 20 years ago. I remember it being a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. It was sad to see the swans leave Lincoln Park Zoo, but the Nature Boardwalk is an amazing feature that I visit quite frequently.
I was pretty excited when I saw the swan boats, while driving through Humboldt Park this summer. I told the kids that we would definitely put that activity on our to-do-list. The swan boats can be rented through November 11th, weather permitting. I can only imagine that a paddle through Humboldt Park in the fall has to be very picturesque.
25. Chicago Park District Family Activities
While doing some research on this blog post, I came across a family archery clinic, offered through the Chicago Park District. I signed up immediately, knowing it was going to fill fast and that the kids and I would have a blast.
There are so many family fun activities hosted by Chicago Parks throughout the city. Many of them are even free! Just take a few minutes to check out the events listed on the Chicago Park District’s website and I have no doubt you will find many fun activities to enjoy with the family.
However, you decide to spend your fall, the most important thing to keep in mind is to spend it with those you love and appreciate your time together.