Celebrate Fall in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

Say hello to fall with events and programs for the whole family in the Forest Preserves of Cook County!

Illinois winters may be brutal, but one thing we can usually count on is a spectacular fall. Some of us wait all year for the lower temps, colorful leaves and fresh feeling in the air. It’s great to get outside with family and experience all the natural beauty that the season has to offer.

You can do all that and more in the Forest Preserves of Cook County, says Tim Mondl, Program Coordinator for North and Northwest Regions. “We like to say that you don’t come to us, we come to you. We want to provide you with the experience that you are looking for. Come on out with your friends and family, escape the grind, celebrate fall and reconnect with each other in a beautiful natural setting.”

Here are just a few of the ways you can enjoy this fall in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Seasonal festivals and events

One of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s biggest fall celebrations is Party for the Preserves on Saturday, Sept. 23. This event honors National Public Lands Day and festivities happen at many Forest Preserves locations.

At Party for the Preserves, you will find events and programs across the County throughout the day with everything from live music and food trucks to salsa dancing, the Jesse White Tumblers and animal ambassadors.

“We have a real commitment to bringing cultural diversity to our seasonal programming,” Mondl says.

One example of this is the Community Powwow on Saturday, Sept. 30. This annual event celebrates Native American culture through a traditional Powwow, food and storytelling. This year’s theme is “Every Child Matters,” and the event takes place at the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s Bunker Hill location.

Likewise, the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Festival on Saturday, Oct. 7 partners the Forest Preserves with the American Indian Center of Chicago. Your family can make corn husk dolls, listen to drumming, explore the Serpent Mounds and enjoy Native food and art vendors.

The Fall Paddle Festival is only one of the many ways that the Forest Preserves of Cook County celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. It takes place on Saturday, Oct. 14 at the Tower Road Boat Launch. “This special event is the official end of our paddling season and it’s open to all ages,” Mondl explains.

For even more fall fun, check out the Fall Festival at River Trail Nature Center on Sunday, Oct. 15 and Pumpkinpalooza at Bunker Hill on Saturday, Oct. 21, featuring pumpkin decorating, pumpkin bowling and much more.

Autumn nature walks and fall color walks

With the rush of back to school and work, getting the family together in nature for a tranquil fall walk is a welcome stress reliever. Join a guided autumn walk or fall color walk at one of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s many locations. These family programs happen on various dates throughout the fall so check their website to find the most convenient place and time. You won’t want to miss the kaleidoscope of autumn colors on one of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s many nature trails.

While the kids are busy observing nature and the changes happening in the fall, it’s a great time to offer some nature education in a low-key way, says Mondl.

“Kids can expand so much of their learning by being outdoors in nature. Have them learn about math by looking at the symmetry of a leaf or acorn pattern, or watch the currents of a stream. When you bring science, math or art to outdoor experiences, kids connect these subjects with their own life and the world around them.”

Nature Center programs

Forest Preserves of Cook County Nature Centers also have abundant family programs for fall.

Check out Bye Bye Birdie which takes you on a walk through the woods to observe fall bird migration. Halloween Hoot ‘n Howl is a special event at River Forest’s Keystone Park that features an evening of slightly ‘spooky’ family fun. Enjoy live music, pumpkin painting, kids crafts and fire-roasted marshmallows.

One of Mondl’s favorites is Stars, Stories and S’mores. These nighttime events for families happen all season long. Bring the kids for storytelling around the fire, take a night hike, make a s’more and learn about astronomy.

“Our Stars, Stories and S’mores program changes depending on what else is happening with the Forest Preserves. During the fall, we often have ‘spooky’ stories for Halloween. To celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, we have members of the Native American community tell stories from their cultural heritage,” says Mondl.

Nature Center events and activities vary by location, so be sure to check the website for details.

Whether you are attending an event or taking a simple walk, there is something special about getting out and experiencing fall in the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Mondl says.

“The idea of going outdoors with no schedule, no plan, but just walking down a trail and seeing what happens, see what’s growing, see how our native species start to get prepared for winter. That’s really important for kids, that chance to unplug, especially after a long school day or week.”

For a complete list of activities, visit fpdcc.com to get details on joining in the fall fun! Note: While most activities are free, registration is often required.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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