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North Pond in Lincoln Park during autumn
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 22 best places to see fall foliage in Chicago

Go leaf peeping at these Chicago parks, cemeteries, forest preserves and more.

Emma Krupp
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Emma Krupp
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Summer isn't quite over yet, but the fall fanatics among us know that crisp days and gorgeous autumn colors are just around the corner—so when you're not basking in the sunny warmth, prepare for fall in Chicago by making a list of all the best places to see fall foliage throughout the city. Head to some of the more well-known Chicago parks and gardens to see towering oaks and fiery red Japanese maples, or take a contemplative stroll through a cemetery to watch yellow weeping willows drape over a leaf-filled pond. Plus, if you're itching to take a quick day trip from Chicago, you'll find several suburban conservatories and arboretums worthy of an afternoon leaf-peeping expedition. Take a look through our roundup of the best places to see fall foliage in Chicago and get excited for all the autumnal fun still to come. 

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The best fall foliage in Chicago

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When fall rolls around, make time for a journey to Glencoe so you can tour autumn colors among the sprawling grounds of the Chicago Botanic Garden. Walk from the visitor center to the Conservation Science Center to see colorful perennials and fruit-bearing shrubs, or marvel at the Japanese maples as they turn a brilliant, fiery crimson. If you're lucky, you might even get a chance to see the filigreed sumacs transform into a remarkable mix of orange, green and red. Pro tip: Return in November—once most trees have dropped their leaves and crowds have cleared—for a peaceful late-autumn walk in the Dixon Prairie. 

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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, see massive statues set against brilliant colors as part of the Arboretum's "Human+Nature" exhibit or explore the gardens, wetlands and other natural areas. Looking for even more fall fun? Check out the Arboretum's calendar for events throughout the year, including a fall color 5K and an annual Cider and Ale Festival.

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  • 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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  • 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.

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  • Hyde Park

Take a stroll through Promontory Point—part of Burnham Park and accessible via the Lakefront Trail—and sit for a spell on the manmade peninsula. Come autumn, the fall colors are 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.

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  • 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, if you're so inclined!

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  • 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 among a 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. Cyclists can also hop on the North Branch Trail here and admire the leaves farther north.

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  • East Garfield Park

Beyond the tropical plants, succulents and ferns happily growing under glass in the indoor greenhouse, the Garfield Park Conservatory's sprawling outdoor grounds transform into fall colors. Venture behind the gorgeous venue to admire fiery trees in Garfield Park, many of which surround the calming lagoons, where visitors can wander pathways while gazing up at the bright leaves.

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  • 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 an autumn-hued 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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  • 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.

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  • O'Hare

Located along the Des Plaines Trail on the city's northwest side, Schiller Woods is home to prairie areas, meadows, wetlands and—of course—plenty of woods where leaves turn shades of yellow, orange and red. Make a visit around Indigenous Peoples' Day in October to check out Serpent Twin Mound, a twisting contemporary earthwork moulded within the ground by Indigenous artist Santiago X.

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  • Ashburn

With 257 acres to explore, you could spend days traversing trails throughout the Dan Ryan Woods and checking out fall foliage. Fun fact: The massive natural area is also the site of some of Chicago's highest elevation points (more than 600 feet!), so get ready to see fall colors from high up.  

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  • 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.

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  • 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 bird-themed 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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  • North Park

Located 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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.

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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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  • Gold Coast

Wander just past Ohio Street Beach to discover Olive Park, a tucked away oasis designed by the same landscape architect who created the Art Institute's South Garden. Located on a man-made peninsula jutting into the lake, the park boasts a canopy of honey locust trees that turn a buttery gold color as fall hits its peak, as well as a series of black granite benches perfect for soaking in the view.

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  • 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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  • 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.

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