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Guide to Chicago in the Fall

Updated: November 16, 2023

Do you want to know the best things to do in Chicago in the fall?

There are many seasonal activities at this time of year, and we have compiled a list of our favorites.

Whether you are looking for fall foods and brews, family-friendly fall activities, or spooky activities, there is something for everyone in Chicago. 

We encourage you to check out the full guide, or you can jump to a specific section here: 


This is a Top 10 list of things to do in Chicago this Fall. For more ideas on popular things to do in Chicago, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass

1. Take a Tour!

The best way to get out and enjoy the cool breeze in Chicago this fall is to take a tour with a local guide.

Free Tours by Foot offers walking tours of Chicago of various neighborhoods, including the Loop, the Riverwalk, and specialty tours like an evening Ghost Tour to learn about Chicago's Haunting History.

One of our most popular autumn tours is our Lincoln Park Gangster & Blues tour, offering fun history while walking along beautifully fall-colored leaves on the trees.

Explore Chicago by Boat, Bus, Segway, and Bike

If you’re not up for walking, there are many ways to explore the city.

2. Autumn Farm Pop-Ups and Farms

Nothing says fall quite like pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and apple picking.

Check out some local pop-ups and nearby farms for hayrides for the kids and apple cider for the adults.


Local Farms

For more fun things to do with kids, check out the Kids section below.

3. Oktoberfest

This German tradition continues for another year in the Windy City.

Grab some cold beer, bratwurst, and pretzels as you enjoy the authentic German bands and culture. 

We have a guide to drinking in Chicago - featuring the best rooftop bars, historic bars, speakeasies, and more.

But, for a true Oktoberfest experience, go to the German-American Oktoberfest in September.

4. Catch a Concert

There are plenty of great shows going down in Chicago this fall.

Going to a concert is a great way to cap off an evening after spending the day touring Chicago.

Some big names coming to Chicago this fall:




For a list of more things to do at night in Chicago this Fall, check out our Things to Do at Night post.

Chicago also has some free and family-friendly concerts and festivals, which you can check out in the Festival section below.

5. Attend the Theater - Musicals and Comedians

Chicago has an incredible Theater District, which you can not only visit to see a show but also take a tour!

There are a number of incredible performances hosted in Chicago this fall, from the very famous Wicked musical to incredible stand-up comedians like Kevin Hart and George Lopez.

To explore the history of the area on one of our pay-what-you-like tours, click to view our calendar here

We encourage you to browse the performances coming to Chicago here to find a performance that's perfect for you!

6. Sports

Chicago boasts a number of great professional sports teams.

The weather in Chicago in December makes it favorable to enjoy various sports activities.

Depending on what time of year you're visiting, there's bound to be a great game going on.

Fall means football and you can watch "Daaa Bears" at Soldier Field.

Football  (August through December)


Ice Hockey (October through April)

For more ideas on family-friendly things to do in Chicago, check out the section below.  

7. Halloween

Time to get spooky for Halloween!

If you're too old to go trick-or-treating, you can still get dressed up in your favorite costume and come out for our Haunted History and Ghost walking tour.

Explore the haunted parts of the city on the day the ghouls and ghosts are out.

Our ghost tours fill up fast in the fall. Reserve early! Click here to reserve your spot. 

Chicago Ghost Tours

Attend the Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade on State Street before you wander down the Congress Hotel for the  Haunted Halloween Ball for the big kid in you on Halloween night. 

You can also celebrate Halloween in the parks!

From Halloween parties to haunted houses and the annual Pumpkins 5K Run & Kids Spooky Sprint, there's something for everyone at these free events.

For more kid-friendly Halloween activities, check out our kids' section below. 

8. Thanksgiving

Whether or not you have family here for Thanksgiving, Chicago will make you feel at home during the holidays.

With lots of things to do solo or with loved ones, you'll feel thankful for being here in the Windy City. 

The Magnificent Mile Light Festival is an annual event with beautiful lights and a series of family-friendly events for everyone to enjoy.

For a full schedule, click here to plan your visit. 

Chicago's Christkindlmarket has been around since 1996 and opens in mid-November and features German goodies, such as spiced wine, German beers, desserts, sausages, and potato pancakes. 

There are also vendors selling festive goods like ornaments, nutcrackers, and toys. 

For more things to do for Thanksgiving in Chicago, click here

9.  Open House Chicago

October 14-15, 2023

Ever walked around Chicago wishing you could just walk into and see the insides of its incredible buildings? Well, you can!

Once a year the city opens up to the public for Open House Chicago to explore the incredible architecture from the inside.

You'll be able to go behind the scenes to more than 250 buildings in Chicago during this free public festival, from skyscrapers to private residences.

Don't want to do it alone? Join us for a pay-what-you-like architecture tour of Chicago to learn about the cityscape.

These tours include:

In addition to our walking tours, there are other walking tour companies that offer excellent architecture tours.

Another popular option is to take an architectural boat cruise. There are even architectural tours by bus as well as Segway.

10. Look into a Tourist Discount Pass

Visitors who are working with a budget should think about getting a Chicago tourist pass.

These services provide heavy discounts at some of the most popular attractions in the city.

Here are a few of the sites you can visit with various discount passes, which include some great fall activities such as:

These are just a few of the activities you can enjoy. If you plan to visit even a few of these attractions, you could easily end up saving a lot of money over general admission prices.

For more details, make sure to read our full post covering Chicago tourist passes.

11. Explore Morton Arboretum

Discover the beauty of Illinois as you wander through the scenic paths of Morton Arboretum.

As the leaves change, immerse yourself in the vibrant colors of fall. Don't miss the Scarecrow Trail, where creativity meets nature.

After your exploration, quench your thirst at the Cider and Ale Festival.

Let nightly spirits lift your mood and enjoy the refreshing taste of autumn.

12. Adventure Awaits at Richardson Adventure Farm

Looking for a grand adventure in Glencoe? Head to Richardson Adventure Farm, renowned for having the world's largest corn maze.

Navigate the intricate pathways and masterpieces carved into the corn.

When you complete your maze journey, reward yourself with some food truck delights.

13. Lights and Delights at Navy Pier Pumpkin Lights

Chicago Architecture Center recommends a visit to Navy Pier for the mesmerizing Pumpkin Lights display.

As the evening descends, the pumpkins illuminate the pier, casting a warm glow that contrasts with the cool fall air.

And while you're there, hop on the iconic Ferris Wheel for an elevated view of the city.

Don't forget to check your inbox for the newsletter with special free admission offers.

14. Spooky Thrills at the 13th Floor Haunted House

Brace yourself for a heart-pounding experience at the 13th Floor Haunted House.

Located near Schiller Park, this haunted attraction promises chills and thrills.

After you've had your share of scares, wind down at Goose Island for a calming brew.

15. Dive into Flavors at the Chicago Food Truck Festival

Come hungry to the Chicago Food Truck Festival. With a vast array of choices, from fun carnival games to exciting ax throwing, the fun never stops.

As you taste the delicious treats from different food trucks, pause to appreciate the culinary creations in front of you.

If you're keen, join the ale festival and try out some local beverages.


Many of our Top Ten are great activities for children, like going to Navy Pier, but check out our post about Family Friendly Activities in Chicago for a more complete guide. 

Below you will find a couple of other options to keep your children entertained this season!


Trick-or-treating with kids on Halloween is a must!

Try a different neighborhood this year, as some communities have a whole host of activities for kids.

Trick-or-treating not your thing? Go to the zoo!

On October 26, Lincoln Park Zoo hosts the very popular annual Spooky Zoo, an event that hosts a number of free activities for kids of all ages. 

Thanksgiving Parade 

The annual Thanksgiving Day Parade can't be missed!

Come out to State Street to see Santa Claus and Ronald McDonald in the lineup while tapping your feet to the tunes of marching bands. 

The parade begins at 8 am and runs until 11 am. Come out early to grab a good spot!

For more ideas of things to do in Chicago for Thanksgiving, check out this link

Fall Fest 

The Lincoln Park Zoo is hosting Fall Fest, a celebration of fall running from Sept.27-October 27, Friday-Sundays.

The event is free and guests can enjoy viewing the animals, taking their picture with a giant pumpkin, and delicious snacks.

While a lot of activities are free, there are ticketed events as well, like a corn maze, inflatable obstacle course, and more!

For more fall festivals to enjoy with the whole family, check out our festival section below. 


Museums are a great way to spend time inside on a chilly day!

Chicago has a number of great museums, many of which are free.

Some paid museums have free days, such as the Chicago Children's Museum


Packing to go to a city you've never been to can feel daunting- how much is too much?

There's also the fear of meeting unexpected weather and not having packed something essential.

Below are some FAQs about packing we want to answer for you:

  • Does it rain a lot in the fall? September and October have the lowest number of rainy days in the year, so while you should bring rain gear in case the forecast calls for it, you shouldn't have to worry about lots of dreary, rainy days on your visit to Chicago in the fall.  
  • What to pack: Temperatures in Chicago begin to dip in the fall and can get a bit chilly. Pack light jackets and sweaters and comfortable, warm shoes like boots. 
  • Be sure to bring water with you. A lot of the public parks have removed water fountains due to health concerns, so bringing water along prevents you from having to buy expensive water in shops and keeps you hydrated.
  • Going out for a drink or nice restaurant in the evening? If you've been walking around outside all day it might be best to pack along a nice change of clothes. Most places in Chicago are pretty casual in dressing, but if you're going out at night to somewhere ritzy like a speakeasy, dressing up a bit is best.

We have a monthly post section below if you want to read up more on the specifics of the weather to better decide what clothes to bring on your Fall trip to Chicago.


Most Chicago festivals are free to attend and we have LOTS of them throughout the year.

There are food festivals, beer festivals, tequila festivals, music festivals, and art festivals. There is a fest for every type of visitor. 

Below is a list of our most popular fall festivals:

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Is Chicago cold in the fall?

While Chicago experiences fall foliage and vibrant fall colors, the city can get a bit chilly during the autumn months.

This fall foliage and the cold weather make it an excellent time of year to visit Chicago.

When does it start getting cold in Chicago?

Chicago starts feeling the cold around the time when apple orchards open and apple cider donuts become popular, usually in late September.

When does it snow in Chicago?

Snow in Chicago typically starts when the harvest maze is closing and scarecrow trail events wind down, often around November or December.

We have a full post on when it snows in Chicago.

What should you wear in Chicago during the fall?

During the fall in Chicago, it's advisable to wear layers; a cozy sweater for the daytime and a jacket for the cooler evenings, especially if you're visiting places like the Morton Arboretum or Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce events.


To learn more about what do to in specific months here in Chicago, click the links below:

About The Author

Andy Meholick

Andy has been a Chicago tour guide with Free Tours by Foot since 2015. He loves guiding groups around the Windy City telling stories of the past, offering tips to enjoy your visit, and showing off the city's world-class architecture. Andy is also the host of the Free Tours by Foot Chicago Youtube Channel, offering traveler tips and virtual tours.
Updated: November 16th, 2023
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