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Millennium Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 19 best places to see fall foliage in Chicago

Find all the spots for the best fall foliage with our list of tree-lined parks and streets throughout Chicago

By Time Out Chicago editors
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During the first two weeks of October, Chicago's trees shake off the last vestiges of summer in favor of red, orange and yellow splendor. You'll be treated to autumnal views on any old tree-lined city street, but for the most impressive results, it's best to head to Chicago parks, gardens and cemeteries packed with fall-friendly foliage (think birch, sumacs and the always resplendent red maple). You can even check out places like Millennium Park and other iconic Chicago attractions to soak in the sight of colorful leaves against cityscape vistas. Whether you prefer to wander amid nature preserves or crunch leaves on the city's downtown streets, here are all the best places to find fall foliage in Chicago. 

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The best fall foliage in Chicago

Palmer Square
Photograph: Grace Allen

1. Chicago Botanic Garden

Things to do Literary events Suburbs

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 at 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.

Morton Arboretum
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Morton Arboretum

Things to do Suburbs

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 throughout the year.

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Lincoln Park
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3. Lincoln Park

Things to do Lincoln Park

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 zoo, pointing out all sorts of furry creatures before strolling along the outdoor paths. Chicago's largest park has trees aplenty, with red maple, ash, birch and elm all standing tall, and you can walk, jog or bike by them.

Logan Boulevard
Photograph: Grace Allen

4. Winnemac Park

Things to do Playgrounds Lincoln Square

A Lincoln Square favorite, Winnemac Park has provided Chicago with nearly 40 acres of green space since 1910. Cruise through the breathtaking garden and nature trail, where you'll spot fall flowers, colorful leaves and woodland creatures. There are few better places to set up a seasonal picnic spread—you can even bring along pumpkin spice lattes!

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LaBagh Woods
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. LaBagh Woods

Attractions Parks and gardens North Park

Located around the banks of the Chicago River's North Branch, this forest preserve is packed with more than 35 miles of trails that visitors can use to traverse the sea of oaks, maples and cottonwoods. Take a long afternoon hike and soak up the seasonal colors or pack some food (and a thermos of hot cider) and head for one of the LaBagh Woods' many picnic areas.

Garfield Conservatory
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

6. Garfield Park Conservatory

Attractions Parks and gardens East Garfield Park

Only the outdoor gardens are open at this impressive West Side attraction, which is no problem for leaf peepers. Venture behind the gorgeous venue to admire the colorful trees in Garfield Park, many of which surround the calming lagoons, where visitors can follow winding pathways while gazing up at the bright leaves.

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7. North Park Village Nature Center

Things to do Literary events North Park

A 58-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. While there are wetlands, prairies and savannas present in the preserve, you'll want to stick to the woodland to see the vibrant foliage on trees that have been around for decades.

Lurie Garden
Photograph: Shutterstock/Felix Lipov

8. Lurie Garden

Things to do Millennium Park

Looking to catch some fall color earlier in the season? This 2.5-acre landscape in the midst of Millennium Park (just south of the Pritzker Pavilion's Great Lawn) turns into a fiery prairie come September. The lush garden fills with colorful fall blooms like balloon flowers, black-eyed Susans and Moonshine Yarrow. Before you leave, snap a photo from the footbridge, where you can see vibrant layers of foliage set against the city skyline.

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Garden of the Phoenix
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Jackson Park

Things to do Literary events Woodlawn

Jackson Park 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?). If you want to admire fall foliage, the park's Wooded Island is a great place to start—make sure to stop by the Japanese-style Osaka Garden, the Bobolink Meadows and find Yoko Ono's Skylanding sculpture.

Graceland Cemetery
Photograph: Shutterstock/Carlos Yudica

10. Graceland Cemetery

Things to do Literary events Uptown

This historic cemetery located between Wrigleyville and Uptown isn't just peaceful for the many Chicagoans (including quite a few famous names) who have been laid to rest there—it's a serene delight for visitors, too. Walk the quiet, lush grounds and take in the countless varieties of trees, including red oak, sycamore, black walnut, Norway spruce, Ohio buckeye and many, many more.

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The 606
Photograph: Shutterstock/Carlos Yudica

11. The 606

Attractions Parks and gardens Humboldt Park

Get up close and personal with nature on this urban path that stretches through Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Wicker Park. Because the 2.7-mile walkway is elevated, you'll be able to see the tops of red and orange trees that line some of Chicago's most bustling 'hoods. Plus, you can hop off and explore parks, coffee shops and restaurants along the way.

Douglas Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Elizabeth Rivas

12. Douglas Park

Things to do North Lawndale

This expansive North Lawndale park has all the amenities you could ask for—from gymnasiums and tennis courts to an outdoor pool and a mini golf course. Take a stroll through the green space (which hosts music festivals like Riot Fest and the Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash) during autumn and you'll encounter plenty of vibrant foliage hanging from the trees that line the streets and thoroughfares of this West Side park.

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Millennium Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

13. Millennium Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Millennium Park

Millennium Park may be a popular stop for tourists when Chicago's weather warms up, but it should also be on your list of places to visit in peak fall. The 20-plus–acre beauty on the north end of Grant Park is home to elms, hawthorns and maples that show off their colors before winter arrives.

The University of Chicago
Photograph: Shutterstock

14. University of Chicago

Things to do Englewood

The U. of C.’s sprawling Hyde Park campus is a beautiful place to visit no matter what season it is, but we think it's the most stunning during autumn. Around the time when students return to class, you'll begin to see fall colors contrasting with the English Gothic architecture of the university’s stalwart structures. Even if it's been years since you've had to sit through a lecture, walking through the campus will probably give you that back-to-school feeling.

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Humboldt Park
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

15. Humboldt Park

Things to do Humboldt Park

There's no more gator in Humboldt Park (that we know of), but the arrival of fall is a great reason to explore the 200 acres of nature in the expansive park. Hit the trails, stroll by the lagoons and take in a myriad of towering trees throughout the area. If you're pressed for time, just drive through the park on Humboldt Boulevard and look at the red and yellow leaves from the comfort of your car.

Fall Foliage in Chicago
Photograph: Katie Kullen

16. Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden

Museums Art and design Grant Park

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.

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17. Promontory Point

Things to do Hyde Park

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 of 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.

Palmer Square
Photograph: Grace Allen

18. Palmer Square Park

Things to do Logan Square

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.

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Chicago Riverwalk
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

19. Riverwalk

Things to do Loop

Because the Riverwalk is dotted with trees and green spaces, it's a great place to take in the city's changing hues. Our recommendation: Meander along the waterfront path and hunker down at City Winery with a glass of pinot noir. From there, you'll be able to enjoy the crisp breeze and check out some prime fall foliage.

More things to do in the fall in Chicago

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