Where to See Fall Colors in and Around Chicago

Photo Credit: Morton Arboretum


The air is getting crisper, the sun is setting lower in the sky and you’re downing pumpkin spice lattes. In other words, fall has definitely arrived in the Midwest. It’s time to gas up the car and head out on the road in search of changing leaves. Whether you’re looking for gorgeous foliage as a backdrop for family photos or simply want to get in the autumnal mood, we’ve rounded up places that will burst with fall colors beginning this month.


Note: We’re updating our website as quickly as we can, but changes may occur due to COVID-19. Please double check before heading out for the most updated information on hours and last-minute closings.



If you’re up for a road trip, Galena is as picturesque as it gets, and only becomes more so during the fall. Not only does the town boast many historic homes and quaint antique shops, the area’s rolling hills and scenic overlooks make for some postcard perfect foliage viewing. If you’re up for an adventure, take in the view from 2,000 feet up on a hot air balloon ride.


Chicago Botanic Garden

The fall colors are so gorgeous here that the garden offers an actual guide to peak foliage on its website. Beautiful Japanese maples, oak trees, weeping willows and wildflowers set amongst 385 acres of land promise to give quite the autumnal show. The first two weeks of October are ideal for spotting the best colors.


Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area

Photo Credit: Carol Freeman


If you’re interested in getting off the grid, this is the place to be. The dense woodlands of Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods become so remote at points that you feel like you’ve been transported into another world. Hiking is encouraged, but biking is a big no-no (along with pets) due to the park’s designation as an Illinois Nature Preserve.


The Morton Arboretum

Photo Credit: Morton Arboretum


Take a day trip to Lisle to explore the 16 miles of hiking trails the arboretum has to offer. Not in the mood to hike? No problem. The arboretum also offers guests an open air tram ride to view some of the 4,000 types of trees on its property. While visiting, be sure to check out the award-winning Children’s Garden and Maze Garden, go troll hunting, try out the nature play areas and then grab lunch at the Ginkgo Cafe.


St. James Farm

Photo Credit: Forest Preserve District of DuPage County


There’s no better way to spend a fall day than exploring this forest preserve’s 100 acres of woodland. Spend the day hiking, biking or horseback riding, then relax with a picnic lunch by the pond. You may even be lucky enough to spot a white-tailed deer while visiting, as they’re known to roam the Warrenville farm.


Starved Rock State Park


Starved Rock may be a bit of a trek, but you won’t regret making the trip. The park offers city dwellers a true chance to get away from it all. Take in the beauty of the fall colors while hiking, horseback riding or canoeing, then check out one of the park’s many canyon waterfalls. This place has family photo opp written all over it.


Lurie Garden at Millennium Park

Described as an “urban oasis” in the middle of downtown, the garden features dozens of colorful trees and plants during the fall, along with butterflies, birds and insect life. Enjoy a guided or self-led tour as you explore the serenity of Lurie Garden’s five acres.


Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve

Photo Credit: Alan Bulava


The preserve is made up of 985 acres of woodlands, so you’re bound to get some great foliage viewing in during your visit to Park Forest, along with plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife. Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve also offers classes, workshops and hands-on activities for both kids and adults who want to learn more about the natural world.


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This article originally published on Sept. 1, 2018. It also appeared in the September 2018 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue. 


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