Fall Bucket List for Kids: 37 Things To Do in Chicago This Fall

It's apple season! Photo courtesy of  Apple Holler Orchard
It's apple season! Photo courtesy of Apple Holler Orchard
9/1/23 - By Maureen Wilkey

Kid-friendly fall activities in Chicago bring the family fun for pumpkin-spice pushers and apple aficionados alike. This year is no exception. We've put together a list of 37 fun things to do in Chicago this fall with your family, from pumpkin patches to great hiking trails. And don't forget to check out our Fall Fun Guide for Chicago Kids for even more seasonal things to do in Chicago.


Please check each venue's website before leaving home to ensure you've booked any necessary reservations and for any fall weather closures. 

Chicago's Fall Bucket List for Kids

1. Go apple picking

Take a day trip to one of our favorite Chicago apple orchards.

Fall in Chicago 
Beautiful Decay photograph by Joel Porterfield, courtesy of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

2. Take a hike

Fall foliage abounds at these amazing nature trails.

3. Get lost in a corn maze. 

We've rounded up some amazing maize mazes in the Chicago area. Some are spooky and some are tame.

4. Hug a scarecrow.

The Morton Arboretum and the suburb of St. Charles have many scarecrows on display throughout October.

Fall activities in Chicago: Oktoberfest 
Oktoberfest is a fall staple in Chicago. Photo courtesy of the German American Fest

5. Give ein Prosit at one of Chicago's Oktoberfest Festivals.

Lincoln Square's German American Fest, Naperville's Oktoberfest, St. Alphonsus Kinderfest at Oktoberfest, and St. Benedict's Oktoberfest are all kid-friendly ways to celebrate German heritage—and beer.

6. Or get a beer in one of our favorite kid-friendly beer gardens or breweries.

From the Loop to Aurora, we've found a list of kid-friendly beer gardens and breweries to grab a fall brew or cider with kids in tow.

7.  Pick your own pumpkin.

These Chicago-area farms with pumpkin patches help Illinois be the #1 pumpkin-growing state in the country.
Fall activities in Chicago: Chicago Botanic Gardens 
Carved pumpkin at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Gardens

8. And see lots of artistically carved pumpkins.

Chicago Botanic Garden's Night of 1,000 Jack-o-Lanterns and Jack's Pumpkin Pop-Up can give you some great ideas for carving your own.

9. Get the inside secrets of Chicago architecture.

Open House Chicago, kicks off online on October 1, with live site visits available October 14-15.

Fall activities in Chicago: Open House Chicago 
Visit the Bahai House of Worship at Open House Chicago. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

10. Trick or Treat with some wild animals.

Boo at the Zoo takes over at Brookfield Zoo on weekends in October.

11. Check for real ghosts at Graceland Cemetery.

Tours of the 150-year-old graveyard that is the final resting place of many famous Chicago architects and politicians. Check their calendar for the latest spooky tour.

12. Reminisce about high school cross country season.

Celebrate the fall colors at the Morton Arboretum's Fall Colors 5k, or choose from a kids costume dash or 5k at the Roscoe Village 5k Fun Run and Parade.

Fall activities in Chicago: Chicago Marathon 
Kids make great race cheerleaders. Photo courtesy of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon

13. Watch or volunteer at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

The most fun place is on Addison near mile 8, but the runners need you in Chinatown around mile 22. You might just see a world record in the making.

14. Celebrate back-to-school season with a new or new-to-you book.

Printers Row Lit Fest gives families an opportunity to shop for new and second-hand books on the street, and maybe meet some of their favorite authors.

15. Check out new exhibits at Chicago's favorite museums.

Chicago is home to some amazing museums and exhibits that are always changing for the season. There's a museum or exhibit in the city that everyone in the family will enjoy. Check out our museum guide here

16. Get carry out—to the street.

 Dine outdoors with kids at one of these Chicago-Area Outdoor Restaurants.

17. Squeeze in one last movie in the park or at the drive-in.

Chicago Park District Movies in the Park and drive-ins are open throughout the fall.

18. See a parade on State Street or the Mag Mile.

The Columbus Day Parade and the Thanksgiving Parade are annual favorites in the city.

Fall activities in Chicago: art festivals 
There are several great art festivals near Chicago this fall. Photo courtesy of the Ravenswood Art Walk.

19. Check out some art at several annual art festivals.

The Lakeview East Festival of the ArtsRavenswood Art Walk, or Warrenville’s Art on the Prairie

20. Go hog wild visiting one of the Chicago area's best farms.

Check out the Best Farms for Family Fun and Entertainment in Chicago.

21. Take advantage of earlier sunsets by attending an astronomy event.

The Chicago Park District hosts several Astronomy in the Parks events throughout September and October.

22. Watch some resident or migratory birds.

Dan Ryan Woods hosts nature walks for little naturalists and their families.

Photo courtesy of Gallagher Way

23. Visit Wrigleyville and watch a Big Ten football game.

Northwestern University takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes on November 4th. Check out all the other fun Things to Do in Wrigleyville with Kids while you're there.

24. Go fishing.

Check out our full list of family-friendly fishing spots here

25. Switch from hotdog mode to deep-dish pizza mode.

Get a slice of Chicago-style pizza pie at Lou Malnati's or Giordano's. We also recommend Pequod's or The Original Pizzeria Uno or Due, who claims to have invented deep dish. Prefer to make pizza at home? Check out our Quick Pizzas and Pizza Dough Recipes that are easy to make with kids. If pizza isn't your thing, try another one of these Kid-Friendly Chicago Restaurants.

Fall activities in Chicago: Irish Days 
Irish Days in Long Grove. Photo courtesy of the Irish Boutique

26. Head out to kitschy northwest suburban Long Grove for a rustic festival.

Irish Days and Apple Fest are in September and October. 

27. See a show on the lawn at Ravinia.

There are still chances to introduce your kids to the amazing line-up at Ravinia. Grab a picnic blanket and some snacks and enjoy live music under the starts. 

28. Celebrate Dia de los Muertas.

Celebrate The Day of the Dead in Aurora this year.

29. Taste apple cider or pumpkin donuts from one of Chicago's favorite bakeries.

Firecakes, Do-Rite, and Stan's all have seasonal favorites. Hinsdale's My Donut Lady is also worth the trip to the suburbs.

30. Ride your bike along the Chicago RiverwalkThe Lakefront Trail, or the 606.

Bike the Drive has also been moved to Labor Day weekend this year.

Fall activities in Chicago: Morton Arboretum 
Explore the Morton Arboretum. Photo courtesy of the Morton Arboretum.

31. Check out the fall colors and the new sculptures at The Morton Arboretum.

The Human+Nature exhibit runs through March 2023 and features five sculptures showing relationships between trees and people hidden throughout the arboretum.

32. Explore Chicago parks while seeing a free circus.

The Midnight Circus travels to 14 Chicago parks throughout September and October, featuring an eclectic group of performers who aspire to inspire.

33. Learn about where monarch butterflies are in their migration.

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County hosts events in River Forest and Lemont to learn more about our orange-winged friends.

Fall activities in Chicago: Chicago Botanic Gardens 
Take in the fall colors. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden

34. Take a guided bird walk at Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Tours will explore a different area of the garden each month.