15 budget-friendly fall activities under $15

Summer is over, and between vacations, amusement parks and back-to-school shopping, your wallet is feeling pretty drained. But since sitting inside all day with your kids sounds less than appealing, consider this your bucket list of events to check out this fall.

See pumpkins on the Pier.

When: Oct. 1-Nov. 2

Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

Cost: Free

If you didn’t get a chance to visit Navy Pier this summer, make time for it in the fall. The lakefront destination is introducing Pier Pumpkin Lights, where you can enjoy pumpkin pop-up installations all along the Pier.  

Enjoy an apple fest.

When: Oct. 5

Where: Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, 1801 S. Indiana Ave., Chicago

Cost: $5 per child

Looking for a little weekend morning entertainment? Applepalooza features games, an apple food court, storytelling, hayrides and a lot more fall-themed fun.

Visit a pumpkin patch in the city.

When: Oct. 7

Where: Indian Boundary Park, 2500 W. Lunt Ave., Chicago

Cost: Free, tickets for activities are $1 each

Take a visit to a pumpkin patch with your buds without leaving the city! At Indiana Boundary Park’s Harvest Fest, kids can pick pumpkins, then personalize their gourd at the pumpkin decorating station. Spooky carnival games, a petting zoo, pony rides and a harvest photo area are available for 2-4 tickets each.

See some scarecrows. 

When: Oct. 11-13

Where: 450 W. Main St., St. Charles

Cost: Free

More than 100 handmade scarecrows will be on display at the St. Charles Scarecrow Fest. You can even vote for your favorites! While you’re there, enjoy live entertainment, crafts, a petting zoo and more fall activities. 

Celebrate pumpkin season.

When: Oct. 12

Where: Skinner Park, 1331 W. Adams St., Chicago

Cost: Free

There’s nothing like a pumpkin festival to get you in the autumnal spirit. At Pumpkinpalooza, kids ages 3-13 are invited to pick pumpkins, pet farm animals, jump in a bouncy house and play pumpkin-themed games at this Chicago Park District event.

Meet Daniel Tiger. 

When: Oct. 12

Where: Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 North Central Park Ave., Chicago

Cost: Free

Fans of the PBS series “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” will not want to miss Daniel Tiger’s Be My Neighbor Day! Kids can meet Daniel and Katarina Kitty Cat and participate in fun crafts and games. Each activity helps teach the importance of kindness and being a caring neighbor. Note: The event is free (and features a popular character), so guests are asked to RSVP on WTTW’s website.

Take a Halloween bike ride. 

When: Oct. 12

Where: Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens, 7402 Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights

Cost: Free, preregistration required

A bike ride should be on your fall family bucket list. Why not add some Halloween flair to the ride? Participants must have bike lights are encouraged to dress up in spooky gear as they ride along the Cal-Sag Bike Trail. 

Welcome back Juicebox.

When: Every first and third Friday and Saturday of the month

Where: Alternates between Chicago Cultural Center (Friday) and Garfield Park Conservatory (Saturday)

Cost: Free

If you have little music lovers in your family, they’ll love the chance to wiggle and giggle with their pals to kid-friendly tunes at Juicebox. Performers include a family rock band, a Bollywood dance company and an interactive storytelling group.

See a Halloween parade.

When: Oct. 19

Where: On State Street Between Lake and Van Buren, Chicago

Cost: Free

See creative floats, puppets and other unique performances at the annual Arts in the Dark: Halloween Parade. The fun doesn’t stop there for families. After the parade, head to Maggie Daley Park for more free Halloween activities at the Arts in the Dark After Party

Get a closer look at Chicago’s architecture. 

When: Oct. 19-20

Where: Various locations in Chicagoland

Cost: Free

Do you ever wonder what’s inside some of the city’s biggest buildings? Open House Chicago allows visitors to enter more than 250 buildings throughout the Chicago area and you’ll be surprised that many sites are great for families too. 

Attend a fall fest while supporting a good cause.

When: Oct. 20

Where: River Trail Nature Center, 3120 Milwaukee Ave., Northbrook

Cost: Free, tickets required for some activities for a small fee.

Get an up-close look at nature and have fun with friends at River Trail Nature Center’s Fall Festival. Kids can watch bee demonstrations, paint pumpkins, listen to stories and take a hayride. You’re welcome to bring non-perishable food in exchange for activity tickets. Items will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Go trick-or-treating on a Saturday.

When: Oct. 26 

Where: Batavia Riverwalk at Houston St. and Island Ave., Batavia

Cost: Free

If trick-or-treating on a Saturday afternoon seems appealing (no candy hangover at school the next day!), make the trek to the western suburbs to check out BatFest. The event also has dance performances, a farmers’ market, pet costume contest and Halloween parade.

See some live creatures. 

When: Oct. 26

Where: Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago

Cost: Free

No, Chance the Snapper will not make an appearance, but the Garfield Conservatory will have other live creatures in the Halloween event, Creatures of the Night. Don’t forget to dress up for the Monster Mash Costume Bash!

RELATED: Free Halloween events for kids in Chicagoland

Celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

When: Oct. 27 

Where: Harrison Park, 1824 S. Wood St., Chicago

Cost: Free

The National Museum of Mexican Art’s Day of the Dead Xicágo event invites everyone to learn more about Dia de los Muertos. Guest can enjoy ofrenda demonstrations, live performances, face painting and more in Pilsen. 

Go to the Field Museum.

When: Every Wednesday through Nov. 13 

Where: 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Cost: Free for Illinois residents

If you want to say “Hi” to Maximo or Sue, then take a trip to the Museum Campus on Wednesday. The museum now offers free admission every Wednesday for the next couple months and even if you do not get the All-Access Pass, there’s still plenty to see for free. 


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