Fall is arguably Chicago’s favorite season — and the city’s preoccupation with autumn goes far beyond Pumpkin Spice Lattes. The Windy City goes all-out for fall festivals, from a spirited fête inside the Lincoln Park Zoo to a charming event that simply celebrates apples. Here are nine fall festivals not to be missed during your stay at Ambassador Chicago.
Lincoln Square Apple Fest
Photo: Lincoln Square Apple Fest
October 5th – 6th
Candy apples, apple pie, apple bread, apple cider… if you want all the apples, this is the place to be. There’s also a kids’ zone to burn off all that apple energy.
The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival
Photo: Celebrate Highwood
October 11th – 13th
This year, the fest is trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most pumpkins carved and lit at once: 30,851. Join them and be a part of history — just remember to BYOP (bring your own pumpkin). The festival will also host a pet costume contest, a kids’ costume contest, a pumpkin pie eating contest, and carnival rides.
Fall Fest at Rehm Park & Oak Park Conservatory
Grab the little ones for a true old-fashioned gratis fall festival, including hand-cranked trains, locally sourced fall goodies, a pumpkin patch, and horse-drawn hayrides.
Fall Fest at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Photo: Lincoln Park Zoo / Julia Fuller
September 27th – October 27th
Go wild at the zoo during this month-long free festival (though visitors can add on ticketed experiences, too). Climb canopies, run through the corn maze, soar high on the 65-foot Ferris wheel, and navigate a hay mountain. If you’re visiting with the family, toddlers can even swim in a corn pool (no swimsuits required).
St. Charles Scarecrow Fest
Photo: St. Charles Scarecrow Fest
October 11th – 13th
This suburban event is an Instagram-worthy fall fest like no other. Here, you’ll find more than 100 handmade scarecrows competing for best in show. While you’re there, get inspired and create a DIY scarecrow. There’s also a carnival and an arts show.
Cornucopia Fall Fest at Eugene Field Park
At this city fall fest, you’ll find enticing food trucks, a petting zoo, bouncy houses, balloon artists, pony rides, pumpkins, and more throughout the park.
Harvest Day at Garfield Park Conservatory
Photo: Brian Kinyon Photography
In celebration of the season (and its preservation), this festival focuses on sustainability. You’ll enjoy food demos with local chefs, get a composting lesson, play vegetable bingo, and mingle with bees, goats, and chickens. And, since you’ll be at the conservatory anyway, you might as well lazily wander through the gorgeous gardens in all their fall splendor.
Fall Bulb Festival
Photo: Chicago Botanic Garden
Looking for a more grown-up festival? At the Chicago Botanic Garden, you’ll learn all about the bulbs you should be planting now to cultivate your spring garden. More than 250 varieties of flowers will be available during this annual bulb sale. While you’re there, you can purchase local honey, roasted nuts, homemade jams, and baked goods. Kids won’t be left out, however—there’s a straw-bale maze and family activities, too.
Fischer Farm Harvest Fest
Experience all the highlights of fall during this one-day festival. Make your way to Fischer Farm for pumpkin painting, hay rides, a beer garden, a petting zoo, pony rides, and bouncy houses.
Featured photo: Chicago Botanic Garden
- Story by Danielle Braff