It’s time to turn over a new leaf.
With the Autumn Equinox and Chicago’s breathtaking Chicagohenge spectacle now behind us, fall has officially arrived. Whilst many of us will be looking over our shoulders melancholically at the passing of summer, many will also be looking ahead as fall sweeps the city turning it from green to crimson.
It is now that leaves begin turning golden and auburn with the autumnal months offering up a truly remarkable sight to behold. The city’s aesthetics begin to peak as a hundred shades of autumnal color befall the city and crisp fall air sweeps through Chicago.
If you can’t get enough of the fall foliage, or just feel like doing a cannonball into a big ole pile of crackling leaves, read on to discover our favorite places to catch the changing fall foliage in Chicago.
The Morton Arboretum, or “Champions of the Trees” as they call themselves, live up to their name. The 1,700-acre nature conservatory and tree research center is home to over 222,000 living plants — as well as five enormous natural sculptures featured in Daniel Popper’s arbor-inspired “Human+Nature” exhibition.
While simply strolling through the grounds and admiring the seasonal beauty would constitute more than a pleasant day, the Arboretum also offers a myriad of attractions on the grounds enabling you to play and interact with nature rather than simple observation.
Just 3 acres shy of 1,000, the Thorn Creek Nature Preserve holds a wide diversity of plant life and habitats. Through the woods, savanna, and wetland, you can meander through their 1.94-mile trail as you look upon the glorious natural spectacle, as well as the variety of wildlife that call it home, including flying squirrels, woodpeckers, warblers, and hawks.
With over 385 acres, nine islands, 27 gardens — including one inspired by French impressionist Claude Monet — and four natural areas, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a prime place to witness the season’s floral fireworks. Wander through their Dixon Prairie and look at over 250 species of plants or traipse over to their Visitor’s Center, where you’ll find gourd-geous Pumpkin Pie Orange mums, violas, asters, ornamental cabbages, and a myriad of other beauties.
The wonderful North Park Village Nature Center is a 46-acre nature preserve situated on the northwest side of Chicago within the 155-acre North Park Village campus. The woodland, wetland, and prairie offer a network of winding trails from which to experience the seasonal spectacle during the autumn months. It makes for a fantastic day break from the urban monotony where couples, families, and friends can enjoy a breath of fresh air and the serenity of nature.
Whistle a tune by The Smiths as you stroll through the grounds of the Graceland Cemetery. The historical garden cemetery is the eternal resting grounds of some notable architects, which one might expect upon noticing its many elegantly designed tombs. In the autumn, Graceland comes alive with its lush foliage that adorns the grounds in striking amber, gold, and scarlet hues.
6. Jackson Park
Jackson Park is an exquisite south side attraction home to gorgeous greenery such as the Japanese-style Osaka Garden. This was also the site chosen for the World’s Columbian Exposition, which helped put Chicago on the map as a major city in 1893. In addition to your typical Chicago Park District recreational activities, visitors can enjoy three harbors, 63rd St. Beach, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
7. Millenium Park/Lurie Garden
While most of its popular attractions are more suited for summer, parts of Millennium Park transform into an exceptional sight during the fall. Framed by incredible Chicago architecture, this park is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque areas of the city. Take a photo on the reflective surface of the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), enjoy the Lurie Garden’s last bloom, or simply sit and people-watch as tourists bustle about.
The scenic pass down La Grange Road is an enchanting drive that takes you through vivid forestry to Swallow Cliff Woods. Park the car, and wander about the forest preserve. Be sure to look out over their 100-foot bluff, or if you need a way to burn off all of those PSL calories, endure their not-so-easy stairway workout.
9. LaBagh Woods
Patched in with campgrounds, picnic groves, and nature centers — all woven together with a network of trails and one river — the LaBagh Woods is a lovely and diverse natural area filled with gorgeous maples, oaks, and cottonwoods. Stroll through the woods with a pair of binoculars in tow if you want to do a little birding along the way.
The 81-acre maple forest is one of the oldest forest preserves in DuPage County. While spring might be Maple Grove’s time to shine, it doesn’t lose a speck of luster come autumn. In October and November months, the forest preserve comes alight with a beautiful spectrum of colors that radiate off its maple trees. Take one of the many trails meandering through the woods, and on the way, recharge at one of the many picnic tables that punctuate the grounds.
[Featured image: @jamielinkphotography]