The best fall foliage in Chicago
In October, make time to take a walk from the botanic garden's visitor center to the Conservation Science Center to see the many colorful perennials and fruit-bearing shrubs. Marvel over the Japanese maples as they turn red like fire and, if you're lucky, see the filigreed sumacs transform into a remarkable mix of orange, green and red. If you're here in November, an autumn walk in the Dixon Prairie is also a peaceful escape.
It might be a 30-minute drive to reach Morton Arboretum, but once you arrive, it'll feel like you're a world away (in a good way). Forget your troubles amid peaceful nature as you stand surrounded by more than 4,200 types of trees. Take a hike on one of the many trails or explore the gardens, wetlands and other natural areas. In the East Woods, Virginia creeper vines turn red and bur oaks drop their yellowing leaves. Be sure to check out the calendar for events all yearlong.
When you're done admiring the 120,000 plants representing some 600 species inside the conservatory, venture behind the gorgeous venue to admire the colorful trees on this great property, too. The conservatory itself is one of the largest in the world, with revolutionary architecture, and the flower shows change four times a year to reflect the seasons.
Leaf peeping in Lincoln Park is a no-brainer, as plenty of other amenities exist here, too. The kids can play on one of the many playgrounds in the area, or you can start the day with a date at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, pointing out all sorts of flora before strolling through the wonders outside the doors. Chicago's largest park has trees aplenty, with red maple, ash, birch and elm all standing tall. Take in the colors while on a jog or bike ride.
A 46-acre nature preserve and education center on what was once the site of a tree nursery established in the 19th century by Norwegian immigrant Pehr Samuel Petersen, this Chicago Park District facility has plenty for kids and adults with hands-on discovery tables and interactive displays. They also offer workshops and camps throughout the year. The annual Harvest Festival, taking place this year on October 14 and 15, is the perfect opportunity for a first visit.
Jackson Park in Woodlawn is perhaps best known as the site of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Today, the nearly 600-acre park is a wonderland if you're looking for room to roam (and aren't we all sometimes?). Plus, you'll find plenty of colorful leaves to admire. Nature abounds at the park's Wooded Island, which includes the Japanese-style Osaka Garden, Bobolink Meadows and vegetable and flower garden. Visit before the new year, when Osaka Garden and Wooded Island will be closed for renovations.
This expansive North Lawndale park has all the amenities you could ask for—from gymnasiums and tennis courts to an outdoor pool and a small golf putting range. At the entrance to the garden, the area closest to the busy intersection, you'll find a monumental garden shelter and a formal reflecting pool, too. East of the building, the garden becomes more naturalistic and include perennial beds, a lily pool and Prairie-style benches.
You're surely no stranger to Millennium Park, and while it's a popular stop in peak tourist season, it should also be on your list of places to visit in peak fall. The 20-plus acre beauty within Grant Park includes elms, hawthorns and maples. Don't miss their changing leaves against the city skyline.
The U. of C.’s sprawling Hyde Park campus features its fair share of foliage. With the fall colors contrasting against the Hogwarts-y English Gothic architecture of the university’s stalwart structures, strolling the campus in the autumn could well put you in a back-to-school mood.
The garden to the south of the Art Institute’s main entrance is a tranquil retreat from the bustle of Michigan Avenue outside its gates. Anchored by Lorado Taft’s Fountain of the Great Lakes flowing into a central reflecting pool, the garden is populated with Chicago-native cockspur hawthorn trees, which turn a vibrant orange-red in the fall.
This historic cemetery (circa 1860) isn't just peaceful for the many Chicagoans (including quite a few famous names) who have been laid to rest there—it's peaceful for picnickers, too. Walk the quiet, lush grounds and take in the countless varieties of tree, including red oak, sycamore, black walnut, Norway spruce, Ohio buckeye and many, many more.
The rooftop restaurant and bar at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel offers some of the best views of the city, with an expansive look at Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. This fall, it's also bound to provide an unforgettable look at autumn in Chicago, as the city below changes colors.
The vast Humboldt Park offers up more than 200 acres of nature, complete with walking trails, a lagoon and a myriad of towering trees. In fall, a quick drive or a meandering walk through the park is worth it, as the red and yellow leaves reflect in the water.
Take a stroll through Promontory Point Park, part of Burnham Park and accessible via the Lakefront Trail, and sit for a spell on the manmade peninsula. Come autumn, take in all the color, juxtaposed beautifully against Lake Michigan. The park also boasts knockout views of the Chicago skyline and a field house that looks like a small castle.
Named for the 15th governor of Illinois, this seven-acre green space between Logan Square and Humboldt Park dates back to the creation of the boulevard system in the 1870s. Take the kids, who will appreciate a playground inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit, and have a picnic in the park under the changing leaves.