journey through Chicago & Beyond for cool things to do in the changing season

Though it’s more famous for its cultural attractions, Chicago & Beyond is also a great place to enjoy the natural beauty of the changing seasons. Here, you can get lost in the world’s largest corn maze. Stroll amongst thousands of trees as you hunt for giant trolls. Or simply go for a hike to view the striking vistas at a state park.

Many attractions have reopened with limited capacity or different operating hours. Inquire with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date travel policies and health and safety information.

  • Day 1: Wilmette, Glencoe, Lincolnshire, Spring Grove, Gurnee

Start your day with a taste of fall with oven-baked apple pancakes at Walker Bros. Original Pancake House – there are locations in both Wilmette and Lincolnshire. Next, stop and smell the roses – and admire the fall foliage – of the 27 stunning gardens at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Each fall, it adorns its trails with more than a thousand festive, jack-o’-lanterns that light up the night during it’s Night of 1,000 Jack-O’-Lanterns event (October 14-18, 21-25). Grab a snack at the on-site Garden View Cafe and picnic on the Esplanade Lawn. 

Continue your fall-themed day in nearby Lincolnshire where you can pick your perfect pumpkin at Didier Farms and enjoy fun activities at Pumpkinfest, which runs through October. More fall fun awaits at Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove – home to the world’s largest corn maze! Each year, the larger-than-life corn maze features a new theme with this year’s being the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

End the day with an overnight stay at the Great Wolf Lodge in Gurnee. You might even want to stay an extra night to really take advantage of their enormous 80,000 square ft. indoor water park with thrilling water slides, a giant tipping bucket and play areas for the little ones.

  • Day 2: Lisle, Malta, DeKalb, Oglesby, Utica

Head south to kick off day two with a picturesque stroll through the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. The 1,700-acre garden featuring winding trails is the perfect spot for leaf peeping (and troll hunting) all season long. Stop for a bite to eat at the Ginkgo Restaurant & Cafe at the Arboretum to enjoy outside while watching the leaves fall around you. After that, take a drive to Jonamac Orchard in Malta. While there, enjoy a hot cup of apple cider while apple picking with your crew. You can even reserve a campfire at the orchard – perfect for crisp autumn evenings!

Next, grab a hearty lunch in DeKalb at The Lincoln Inn, known for their incredible breakfast menu and burgers. Toast to your Illinois getaway by sampling some Illinois Made whiskey! Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. crafts the only bourbon, whiskey and vodka made in the state from grain seeds sown, grown, harvested, distilled, barreled, bottled and sold on the same Illinois farmland. It’s truly a one-stop shop. Now, onward to Starved Rock Country for even more adventure!

No matter who you are traveling with, a stay at the rustic Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center will make for an unforgettable trip. They even offer cabins for the ultimate cozy, camping experience. Families will also love Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort – a destination where water park fun meets natural wonder. Make sure to get some rest, though, you’ll want to get an early start in the morning to explore the wonder of Starved Rock!

  • Day 3: Utica & Ottawa

Before heading out for your fun-filled day at Starved Rock State Park, stop for a delicious breakfast at the Starved Rock Lodge Restaurant. Its rustic ambiance, complete with an oversized stone fireplace, will make you want to come back for lunch! After breakfast, make your way over to the park. With picturesque waterfalls, awe-inspiring bluffs and rugged canyons, Starved Rock State Park is absolutely breathtaking in the fall. Outdoor activities include hiking, canoeing, paddle boat cruises, fishing and picnicking. Follow the trails that lead to Buffalo Rock State Park, the small but charming sister park to the larger Starved Rock that sits on the bluffs of the Illinois River. 

Toast to an adventure-filled day over some tasty craft beer and delicious food at Tangled Roots Brewing Company in Ottawa, another one of our Illinois Made makers. Enjoy one-of-a-kind brews with flavors named after areas in Starved Rock State Park like “Devil’s Paintbox IPA,” inspired by the colorful rocks often found within the park. If you prefer bubbles, stop at the award-winning Illinois Sparkling Co. in Utica. With flavors ranging from sweet to dry, there’s something for every wine lover to enjoy!