In Illinois, fall is a season of many colorful celebrations and fun-filled activities for all ages. From kite and craft festivals to corn mazes and scenic drives, you'll never experience a dull autumn day in Illinois. With so many festivities taking place, you'll have the difficult task of deciding which ones to attend. The following 15 activities span across the entire state from rural farming towns to metropolitan areas, and many of these events occurring outdoors in the fresh autumn air.
With fall activities ranging from kids crafts to a mystery dinner at a mansion, the Fall Color Festival at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle is the ideal spot to spend an autumn Saturday. Vote for your favorite scarecrow on Scarecrow Trail, wear your costume to the Boo Breakfast, and explore a glass pumpkin patch featuring over 4,000 hand-blown pumpkins. The Fall Color Festival offers activities for the entire family throughout October.
Try not to get lost in the world's largest corn maze at Richardson Adventure Farm. Located in Spring Grove, this farm truly is a must-see destination for families. Kids of all ages can enjoy the many activities such as the train ride, petting zoo, wagon rides, and even pig races. There's also a 50-foot-tall observation tower with a zip line. Chow down on tasty treats such as kettle corn, fresh donuts, and fudge. Don't forget to spend the evening roasting s'mores around the campfire, as well.
The Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles has been an annual tradition for over 30 years. People from all over the Midwest flock to this award-winning, free festival to view over 100 hand-crafted scarecrows and then vote for their favorites. There's also plenty of other activities including live entertainment, plenty of great food, an arts and crafts show, petting zoo, and carnival. The Scarecrow Festival is actually considered one of the "Top 100 Events in North America."
Give back this fall at the Harvest of Miracles Benefit in Springfield. Every September, the Green View Nursery hosts a fundraising event to benefit the Children's Miracle Network, a non-profit organization that saves the lives of children by raising funds for children's hospitals across the country. This event features live music, catered food, and plenty of kid-friendly activities such as face painting, pumpkin decorating, balloon art, balloon tether rides, and much more.
Get your Halloween thrill at the Terror on Washington Street in Clinton. This haunted house offers spooky tours for the entire family - even the little ones. From demon-possessed rooms to grueling scenes from horror movies, the Terror on Washington Street will raise your heart-rate in no time. The Friendly Ghost Tour is designed for the younger kids and isn't quite as intense. These tours are available every Friday and Saturday throughout October plus on Halloween day, of course.
If you enjoy getting out into nature, Giant City State Park is the perfect fall destination. Enjoy one of the most beautiful scenic hikes in Illinois, nestled in Shawnee National Forest. The Giant City Nature Trail offers breathtaking views of amber trees and incredible rock formations, which are ideal for climbing and exploring. Located in Makanda, Giant City State Park is one of the best ways to experience fall in Illinois.
It's nearly impossible to celebrate fall without apples, and Jonamac Orchard is all about apples. This 65-acre farm is open to the public from mid-August through November and offers activities for both children and adults. The kid's area includes a tractor cab, hay pile, and barn to play in. The entire family can enjoy horse-drawn hay rides, fresh sweets from the bakery store, and of course apple-picking. Located in Malta, Jonamac Orchard is the perfect fall family tradition.
On the edge of Severin Lake by Rockford you'll find the most charming, enchanting Victorian village from years gone by. There stands the Millhouse, a gorgeous old mill that reminds visitors how water used to power manufacturing. Midway Village is especially gorgeous and romantic in the fall, when surrounded by the colorful trees. It's a quiet place to reflect, explore and appreciate nature in a setting that remains virtually untouched by time.
Take in the beautiful wonders of autumn on a picturesque drive along the Mississippi River. Great River Road follows the western edge of Illinois for more 500 miles, providing amazing woodland and river views the entire trip. The route travels through many quaint towns and is perfect for adventurous folks who love exploring. Head over to Fulton to start your journey.
Nothing captures the spirit of fall like a haunted corn maze. Located on a farm in Minooka, Heap's Haunted Corn Maze is said to be haunted by a peculiar old man who disappeared into the cornfield 150 years ago, leaving nothing but a bloody trail into the corn rows. Each fall visitors are invited to embark upon the haunted corn maze, where the shadowy figure has been spotted several times. Other non-scary activities include a peaceful moonlight hayride through the farm and the flashlight maze, which is not haunted and involves problem solving. Heap's Haunted Corn Maze is probably most suitable for older children and adults.
Stroll down Chicago's beautiful Millennium Park while jazz notes linger in the autumn air. For nearly 40 years this free lakefront festival has been celebrating influential jazz giants while embracing new voices in the evolution of jazz. Experience the music inside the Chicago Cultural Center and Jay Pritzker Pavilion as well as from the Harris Theater Rooftop Terrace. People of all ages are welcome at the Chicago Jazz Festival, which is held during Labor Day weekend. This activity is ideal for music lovers who don't mind large crowds of people.
The Candlelight Tour of New Salem allows you to experience autumn in 19th century Illinois. Open just one weekend in October, this walk into the past is the only opportunity to experience the village at night. You'll see volunteers dressed in period clothing and have the chance to immerse yourself into history. Head into the Rutledge Tavern to enjoy some cider and gingerbread, just like the villagers did centuries ago.
Each year thousands of people from across Illinois attend the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular in Springfield. Everyone who carved a pumpkin at the free Carve for the Carillon event (also in Springfield) will have their work of art displayed at the Spectacular. This means over 2,000 hard-carved jack-o-lanterns are illuminated throughout Washington Park Botanical Garden for everyone to view. The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular also features a unique tree of lights, vendors, and special Carillon music.
Take in the beautiful colors at the Geneva Kite Festival in Geneva. Located in Peck Farm Park athletic field, this free event features large flying kites and kite demonstrations. The first 100 kids to arrive can color and assemble their own paper kites, which they can fly and then take home. Food and vendors are also available at this four-hour event. The Geneva Kite Festival is ideal for kids and adults who appreciate watching and flying kites.
Explore the work of over 100 artists at the Cedarhurst Art & Craft Fair in Mt. Vernon. Held every fall for four decades, this event showcases ceramics, wood, glass, jewelry, two-dimensional art, leather, basketry, and many other types of art. Children 10 and under get in free and can create their own crafts, which they can take home. Adults can relax in the Cedarhurst Beer Garden or listen to live music performed by national and regional bands in the Grand Tent.