There's a lot to do in October, from crunching through nature trails to sitting around campfires telling scary stories. We've got you covered with plenty of things to do.
Vikings aren't just the colorful characters you see in those credit card commercials. Their rich history is a mystery to most of us, and so is the presence of an authentic Norse ship in the Western suburbs. Learn how the endangered historical artifact ended up in Chicagoland (hint: it had to do with the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition) and about its storied existence ever since. Kids will like the 45-minute tour that includes a glimpse inside the ship's hull, not to mention talking to a real Viking or two. Be sure to keep your belongings close: we all know how much Vikings like to pillage. $5, $3 kids 13-19, $1 kids 5-12. 1-4 p.m. Oct. 15. Good Templar Park, 528 East Side Drive, Geneva. (630) 232-4208, vikingship.us.
Children sometimes seem wired to be self-centered (how many times have you heard the word "mine" in the past week?), but even the littlest ones can reach out and make a difference in someone else's life. Exercise your artistic and philanthropic sides at the Northbrook Public Library, where kids put together artwork to be donated to local fire departments. It's the ultimate way to say thank you and get your hands a little dirty (or stained) for a good cause. Free. 2-3 p.m. Oct. 22. 1201 Cedar Lane, Northbrook. (847) 272-6224, northbrook.info.
If your kids like boos with their Butterfingers, they're in for some spooky satisfaction at Ghost Stories in the Park ... In the Dark. The stories, poems and songs alternate between giving you goosebumps and tickling your funny bone while you sit under the murky night sky. Bring blankets or cushions and huddle together for warmth-or comfort. Is there any better month for some frightful fun? Produced by Summer Place Theatre. Program not recommended for kids under 5. $7. Various times. Friday-Sunday. Oct. 7-16. Riverwalk Grand Pavilion, 912 Sindt Court, Naperville. (630) 848-5000, napervilleparks.org.
Leaves are an annoyance for those of us wielding the rakes-and a comfy place to land for the little ones intent on messing up your neat piles. But before those piles start growing, learn the basics of tree identification and the characteristics of 10 different species of trees or shrubs at Trees for Kids. Leaf collectors and craft enthusiasts will love the chance to take a few leaves home to press. Maybe it will even make that dreaded autumn chore a little more fun this year. $9, $6 resident. 4-5:30 p.m. Oct. 6. Irons Oaks, 20000 S. Western Ave., Olympia Fields. (708) 481-2330, ironsoaks.com.
So long, Mr. Jack-o-Lantern! Celebrate the harvest this year
with an ancient holiday that could become a new-to-you tradition.
The National Council of Jewish Women, Chicago North Shore Section,
sponsors family activities to mark the joyous "Festival of Booths,"
including adding your own festive harvest decorations to the
garden's sukkah. Plus, learn about plant-oriented Sukkot
traditions, including the waving of the lulav, a long, palm-like
branch, and the etrog, a lemon-like fruit. Sukkot is a referred to
as "time of joy," when you are supposed to have fun eating and
drinking and talking and laughing. Free; $20 parking. 11 a.m.-4
p.m. Oct. 16. Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe.
A cool new event from the Chicago Architecture Foundation is opening the doors of the city's architectural treasures for one event-filled weekend. Openhousechicago 2011 is targeted at everyone who has ever passed a building and thought, "I wish I could see what the inside looks like." The event gives backstage passes to more than 100 spaces around the city, requires no tickets or reservations, and is free and open to the public. You can take in one of the five neighborhood hubs or all five using the trams CAF is providing. Visit to the rooftop garden at Uncommon Ground on Devon Avenue, a re-enactment of the jazz club days of Meyers Ace Hardware in Bronzeville, a backstage tour of Lookingglass Theatre, and behind-the-scenes looks at how frozen pizza is made or how plastic bottles are converted into raw material, both in Little Village.
Fall is for walking on crunchy leaves, pulling out those sweaters, and watching the world change before your eyes. Morton Arboretum is one of the best places to do that. Some of the highlights of AutumnFest, which runs through the month of October, include a trail of scarecrows, pottery with gourds, twilight family adventures, a 5k run, and Theatre Hikes' moving production of "Night of the Living Dead."
Come to Navy Pier for a "spooktacular" Halloween Party, featuring street performers, daily treats for kids, a scavenger hunt, animal rides and a petting zoo, strolling carnival characters, pumpkin carver, and the Human Marionette Stage. Plus, nightly dance party and costumes contests for both children and adults.
Event features a Costume Parade, Costume Showcase, professional pumpkin-carving demonstrations, not-so-scary games and activities, special animal Zoo Chats, and haunted hayrides. For further information, call or visit the website.
Dogs are allowed in the Botanic Garden for two hours for a canine Halloween costume parade. The event includes parade, judging and awards.