Things to Do in Chicago in Fall 2017 – Attractions, Activities & More

There’s nothing like autumn in the Windy City. The long lines of the summer have begun to subside, and the cool air is a refreshing change from the humidity and heat of the last few months.

If you’re planning a trip and looking for things to do in Chicago in the Fall, take a look at our suggestions for the top attractions and activities to check out this year, including…

  • Architecture River Cruise
  • Chicago’s Museum Campus
  • Bike and Roll Chicago
  • Explore a Street Festival
  • and more…

Save on Attraction Admission

Regular admission to a number of these Chicago area activities are included on the Go Chicago® Card.

Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

Check out all Chicago tourist passes, attractions and prices.

Please note, some of the Fall events listed below may be separately ticketed and not included on the Go Chicago Card.

Architecture River Cruise

Chicago's Architecture River Cruise

Fall is one of the best times to go on the famous Architecture River Cruise in Chicago

If you love the outdoors and can’t get enough of the cooler weather, then a boat cruise or tour is a smart idea.  Try one now before the weather gets too cold!

One of our favorites is the Architecture River Cruise, which highlights the fascinating architectural history and heritage of Chicago on a fun ride up and down the Chicago River.

Insider tip: Be sure to wear at least a medium-weight jacket and bring a scarf and gloves with you, as you’ll find the temperature on the water is a bit cooler than it is on land.

Getting In: Chicago Architecture River Cruise tickets are included with the Go Chicago Card.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

Spend an afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, voted the #1 Museum in the World in TripAdvisor’s 2014 Traveler’s Choice Awards.

Enjoy the Art Institute’s stunning permanent collections, including European and American paintings, African and Asian art, sculpture, decorative arts, textiles, photography, prints and drawings, and much more.

They’re also hosting a number of special exhibits this fall that we’re sure you’ll love to see, like “Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil” (opening October 8, 2017) and “Making Memories: Quilts as Souvenirs” (opening October 20, 2017).

Getting In: Art Institute of Chicago tickets are included with the Go Chicago Card. Special exhibits are typically separately ticketed and are not included with the pass. 

Chicago’s Museum Campus

The Adler Planetarium in Museum Campus in Chicago

The Adler Planetarium in Museum Campus

Take the kids to explore Chicago’s family-friendly Museum Campus, comprised of the perennially popular Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, and Adler Planetarium.

Among the most popular destinations with tourists and locals alike, these three institutions are full of entertaining and educational content, surprising special exhibits, and hands-on fun for the whole family.

Plan to visit at least two on the same day to maximize your time.

Insider Tip: The Field Museum’s “Jurassic World: The Exhibition” is incredibly popular with locals and is only open until January 7, 2018. So be sure to visit this fall to get in on the fun!

Getting In: Admission to all three Museum Campus institutions is included with the Go Chicago Card.

SkyDeck Chicago

Vito 2009 129 SkydeckFormerly known as Sears Tower, the Willis Tower is the home of the famous Chicago SkyDeck Observatory. This popular observatory overlooks the city from 1,353 feet above ground, providing spectacular views and even a few thrills!

The panoramic 360-degree views from “the Ledge” are even more stunning than usual in the fall, when the skies are clear and the cityscape is interspersed with bright-colored fall foliage.

Getting In: SkyDeck Chicago tickets are included with the Go Chicago Card.

Go for a Relaxing Bike Ride

bike chicagoEnjoy the great outdoors before the chill of winter sets in. Chicago in the fall is perfect for invigorating walks, bike rides, and getting out on Lake Michigan.

Pick up a bike rental from Navy Pier and enjoy a leisurely waterfront ride along the shores of Lake Michigan or explore a new area of this very bike-friendly city.

Plan your route with the City of Chicago Bike Map before you go. With 20-miles of lake-front paved paths, biking Chicago is a great way to see and enjoy the foliage, crisp autumn air, sun reflecting off the lake, and the fall scenery.

Getting In: Bike rentals by Bike and Roll Chicago are included with the Go Chicago Card.

Chicago Botanic Garden Events

The beautiful garden is host to lots of fun events this fall season, including a family-friendly biking event, the Illinois Gourd Society Show & Sale, harvest weekend, the Midwest Regional Dahlia Society Show, Farmers’ Markets, craft festivals, chef series, Autumn Brews: Seasonal Beer Tasting (our personal favorite), and more.

Check their calendar of events to see what’s happening.

Getting In: Admission to select events is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go Chicago Card. For more information about individual events and to purchase tickets, please visit the attraction website.

Bacon and Beer Classic

September 30, 2017
Daley Plaza

This event is one for the bacon lovers — which, honestly, probably includes a lot of us.

At this popular event, you’ll get to sample sumptuous,  bacon-inspired creations from many great Chicago restaurants, enjoy a healthy dose of beer tastings from tons of craft breweries, and engage in whole lot of other fun activities (you know, to work off that bacon).

Getting In: Admission to the Bacon and Beer Classic is separately ticketed and is not included on the Go Chicago Card. For more information about this event and to purchase tickets, please visit the attraction website.

Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival

October 6-8, 2017
Highwood, IL

Highwood Pumpkin ChicagoCheck out The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival,  where they will attempt to break the Guinness World Records for the most pumpkins carved in one place. Just remember, it’s BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin)!

Oh, and if you’re wondering how many need to be carved to break this record, it’s 30,581 — wow, that’s a lot of Pumpkins!

Getting In: Admission to the Highwood Pumpkin Festival is free if you bring a carved pumpkin!

EXPO CHICAGO

September 13-17, 2017
Navy Pier

20100616_7056 Roark Johnson Navy Pier 2

Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier, known as the “lakefront playground,” will play host to EXPO CHICAGO, the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art.

You’ll see artwork from 140 fantastic galleries representing 16 countries and 47 cities around the world. It’s the best international art exhibition in the entire city.

Take advantage of being at Navy Pier while you’re there. The 150-foot-high Ferris Wheel anchors the attraction, while various amusement park rides, ample restaurants, several theaters, tour departures, gardens and promenades, and a full calendar of events have made Navy Pier the number one destination in the Mid-west.

Getting In: Admission to EXPO CHICAGO is separately ticketed and is not included with the Go Chicago Card. For more information about this event and to purchase tickets, visit the event website.

Apple Picking

By Apple and Pears Australia Ltd [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Apple and Pears Australia Ltd [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 You don’t have to go far outside of the city to suddenly find yourself on a farm or orchard. Just head an hour outside of the city and you’ll find lots of pumpkin patches, apple orchards, hay rides, corn mazes, and more.

Check out the CBS Local article on the best places to go apple picking and be sure to get enough to make a couple apple pies!

Getting In: Apple picking excursions are separately ticketed and are not included with the Go Chicago Card. For more information about trips and to purchase tickets, please visit the orchard website of your choice.

Go to a Street Festival

Street festivals are the best festivals. Check out one of the many happening in September for a round-up of the ones you can’t miss!

For example, we love the many Oktoberfest events that pop up throughout the city. You’ll also find neighborhood-specific festivals and those that cater to a particular culture or ethnicity. A visit to any of these festivals is a great way to learn about how multicultural the Chicago community really is!

Getting In: Admission to most street festivals in Chicago is free.

More Ideas

  • Take in a Cubs or White Sox game — their seasons are winding down this time of year and you never know who will be in the post-season!
  • The NFL season has also just started, so if you’re a Chicago Bears fan, head to Soldier Field.
  • Cheer on the runners (or log some miles yourself!) in the Chicago Marathon, held each year in October.
  • Keep an eye on the concert schedule for the fall. Chicago attracts some pretty huge names so you’ve got a good chance of seeing your favs.
  • The theatre scene in Chicago is practically unrivalled. Sign up for Gold Star to get discounted tickets on local shows.

Let’s Recap

Who knew autumn could be this much fun? We hope you enjoyed these suggestions of a few popular things to do in Chicago in the Fall.

And remember, you can save on combined admission on many of these popular attractions, tours, and more with the Go Chicago Card.

Please note, some of the Fall events taking place mentioned in this post may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go Chicago Card.

Go Chicago Card

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