Fall is a fantastic time to get outside and explore nature. With cooler weather, it’s finally starting to feel like autumn. These events in and around Chicago are great and economical ways to take advantage of both the fun and educational opportunities this season provides.
If you’re over the moon for fall: Tractor-Drawn Covered Wagon Rides: Autumn Moon
When: Oct. 12, 19, 26 and Nov. 2, 6-7 p.m.
Where: St. James Farm, 2S541 Winfield Rd., Warrenville
The Forest Preserve of DuPage County offers an opportunity to experience the preserve after the sun sets. Hear stories about the moon and then enjoy hot cocoa and s’mores by the fire. Half-hour rides are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The rides are open to all ages at $5 per person with kids ages 5 and under free. Kids under 13 need to be accompanied by an adult. Register online.
If you seek harvest fun within the Chicago city limits: Harvest Festival at North Park Village
When: Oct. 13, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: North Park Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Rd., Chicago
For 26 years, families have flocked to North Park Nature Center for an autumn adventure and to make some memories. In fact, my daughter still remembers making a corn husk doll there 12 years ago. In addition to crafts like that, this year you’ll find live music, storytelling, a farmer’s market and more. This event proves that you don’t have to head to the country to celebrate harvest time. Free, no registration required.
For those who want to giddy up into autumn: Fall festival at Danada
When: Oct. 14, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Danada Equestrian Center, 3S507 Naperville Rd., Wheaton
The annual Fall Festival at Danada Equestrian Center is a celebration of both horses and the season. See a parade of different breeds of horses or catch an equestrian performance. Hop on a hayride and take a pony ride. In addition to grooming demonstrations and educational displays, there are also the usual fun festival activities like face painting and festive food. Free admission and parking, but there are fees for some activities.
For locavores and garden lovers: Check out Celebrate Fall with Lurie Garden
When: Oct. 18, 5-7 p.m.
Where: Pritzker Stage in Millennium Park
Fall fun can be found in the heart of the city, too. Head to the Pritzker Stage in Millennium Park to see the bounty of Lurie Garden and its busy bees, along with other products from urban residents. Stock up on everything from preserves to photographs. Kids will likely love the offerings by the Old Town School of Folk Music. Grown-ups may love the offerings by the Goose Island Beer Company. The renown Lurie Garden honey will be available for sale with a limit of two jars per person. Families can pick up some Lurie Garden seeds, too. Stick around for a tour of the fall garden.
For those looking for a happy hike: Head out on Halloween Hikes
When: Oct. 19-20, 6 p.m.
Where: Ryerson Woods, 21950 North Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods
Head out for a walk in the woods along a trail illuminated by candlelight. It may sound spooky, but there’s nothing scary about the cute nature-themed skits. Even preschoolers will have fun as long as they don’t mind walking around a mile and a half. The promise of donuts and cider at the end will keep them (and all the adults) motivated. Hikes begin every 30 minutes from 6-8 p.m.
For those looking to disconnect from devices and reconnect with nature: Leave No Child Inside Day
When: Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Sand Ridge Nature Center, 15891 S Paxton Ave, South Holland
A scavenger hunt is an interactive, interesting way to encourage kids to explore the great outdoors. Kids can also enjoy activities and games as they unplug from electronics and plug into the wonders of nature. Naturalists from the Forest Preserves of Cook County will be available to spend time with children to help them delve even deeper into the wonders around them at this free event.
For autumn aficionados: Find your way to this Fall Festival
When: Oct. 21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Where: River Trail Nature Center, 3120 Milwaukee Ave., Northbrook
Fall favorites take center stage at the event. Festival-goers can enjoy storytelling, pumpkin painting, hay rides, beekeeping demonstrations and more. Admission is free. Some activities have a small charge or families can bring non-perishable food items to donate to The Greater Chicago Food Depository in exchange for activity tickets.
For all the animal lovers: Animals in Autumn
When: Nov. 11, 1-3 p.m.
Where: Thorn Creek Nature Center, 247 Monee Rd., Park Forest
For animals, fall is not just fun, it’s also time to prepare for the upcoming winter. Kids can learn how animals do just that as well as do an experiment and create a bird feeder. This program is aimed at kids ages 9-12 who are up for walking a little more than a mile outside. It’s free, but registration is required and must be done by November and by phone at 708-747-6320.
This article was originally published on Oct. 11, 2017. It has been updated with the most recent information.