5 ways to enjoy fall at Morton Arboretum

Fall is a big deal at The Morton Arboretum – such a big deal, in fact, that they call it their “Signature Season.” But if you’re not quite sure what kids will enjoy in the literal great outdoors this autumn, we’ve got your [cardigan-covered] back with these five suggestions for a fantastic fall visit.

Get lost

The Maze Garden was a huge hit with my 4- and 6-year-old companions, who could have navigated the twists and turns of the one-acre maze for hours. Beyond being a great place to run around or hide from a sibling, the Maze Garden is also a subtle educational spot. Try The A-MAZE-ing Quest, which includes four different levels of challenges, complete with clue-giving audioboxes, that direct you through the maze. Who doesn’t get a thrill from hearing that they’ve “conquered the maze”? And be sure to climb the stairs to the 12-foot-high lookout platform, which provides a great view of the garden and is helpful in case of a lost child (ahem, not that that happened).

Run, climb, slide

Let’s face it: the clock is running out on beautiful days when the kids can play outside (at least without all those layers that restrict basic movement). So take advantage of these perfect fall afternoons with a stop at the beloved Children’s Garden. Your little movers-and-shakers can slide down oversized tree roots, maneuver across a rope bridge or climb atop an acorn on steroids (okay, maybe that’s just how it looks). Hopefully all that movement will be the antidote for the next few months of cabin fever.

Hunt for hues

The best thing about fall is undoubtedly the colors – other than pumpkin spice everything, sweater/boot weather and a little thing called The-Cubs-in-the-World-Series, of course. And with more than 200,000 living plants in its collection, Morton Arboretum is the place to see all the shades of the season. But you don’t just have to limit yourselves to the reds, oranges and golds overhead. Challenge your kiddos to a color scavenger hunt and see how many you can find. We were surprised by the deep purples and pinks spotted in the Children’s Garden, and you never know how exotic it will get farther afield.

Scare up some votes

Has this election season already soured your kids on the whole concept of democracy? Scarecrow Trail is sure to get their vote. The trail of creatively decorated scarecrows (made by local kids in scout troops!) encircles Meadow Lake and shows exactly what littles are into in 2016. My guys loved Olaf, gymnastics’ Final Five and – of course – a tribute to Pokemon GO. Be sure to pick up a ballot to vote for your favorite. The winner of the drawing gets a personalized experience at the Arboretum, and we all get a more pleasant view of democracy in action.

Take a family picture

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to keep from snapping pics of the vibrant leaves reflecting in the lake. But you’ll also want to take advantage of the stunning setting to capture your crew in their own autumnal glory (holiday cards are on the horizon, ya’ll!). The pumpkin “patch” near the entrance makes for a perfect backdrop, and I can pretty much guarantee that all the fun you’ve been having will lead to better grins than anything a professional photographer could solicit.

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