• Catherine Joy

2020-approved Fall Activities (in or near Chicago)


Fall has officially arrived in Chicago! But fall - like so many other things - looks a little different this year due to COVID. I'm still hesitant to dine out at restaurants and I will most likely be staying in for Halloween this year for the first time in about 8 years. Regardless, I've been determined to enjoy the cooler weather and the changing colors of the season - in the safest way possible, of course. Surprisingly, it's not as hard as you might think to social distance and find safe, fun things to do in/near one of the country's largest cities. Check out my list of COVID-friendly fall activities you can do this year in/near Chicago (or just about anywhere for some of them!)


Walk around Northwestern's campus in Evanston

Go on a leaf-peeping adventure on a beautiful, historic college campus. Northwestern University is currently conducting a lot of their classes online, so very few students are on campus right now. We had no problems walking along the lakeshore and admiring the colors of the season with a pumpkin-spiced latte in hand. Afterwards, we picked up a to-go order from Buffalo Joe's before heading home.


Visit an apple orchard

eThis is sometimes considered more of an early-fall activity, but I still wanted to include it in this list because it's something that John and I were able to safely and responsibly do last month. There are quite a few apple orchards just a short distance out of the city. We found a lot of great options, but ended up choosing Stade's Farm Market in McHenry, IL. We went on a Sunday afternoon and it was fairly busy, but we were impressed by their COVID protocols. There was plenty of open space to social distance in the orchard and masks were required. If you're planning on visiting an orchard, however, I would recommend trying to go during the week when they're less busy!e


Visit a pumpkin patch and carve what you pick

A classic fall activity - pick-your-own-pumpkins at a pumpkin patch! Just like my recommendation for visiting an apple orchard, this activity would be best done during a weekday if possible to avoid large crowds. There are quite a few pumpkin patches located in or near Chicago, like Jack's Pumpkin Pop-Up (a little pricey and mostly good for photo ops if you're looking for that kind of thing), Sonny Acres Farms (pet friendly!!), or Kroll's Fall Harvest Farm. Grab your mask, pick out a pumpkin, and then take it home to carve while watching a Halloween classic, like Hocus Pocus or Halloweentown!


Hot toddies on a rooftop, balcony, or porch

This activity is a little easier to do if you have a private outdoor space (which I understand is a hot commodity in Chicago). We are lucky enough to have a gorgeous sundeck on our roof with a gas fire-pit. A couple weekends ago we mixed up some spiked hot apple cider and watched the Chicago Bears game on the roof.


Lincoln Park Zoo

I love visiting the zoo, and fall always seems like an ideal time to do it. Lincoln Park Zoo only about 1 mile from our apartment, so I run past it quite often and in the pre-COVID days, I used to walk through it all of the time since it's free and open to the public. Admission is still free, but the zoo has set many important safety protocols, including mask requirements and a timed reservation. In the past, Lincoln Park Zoo can be very crowded, so honestly, I really appreciate the required reservations.


Cozy night in with wine and charcuterie

Not one for cooler weather? Create a cozy night it! Search Pinterest for some charcuterie inspo, put a tray together, grab a bottle (or two or three bottles) of wine and cuddle up with a warm blanket on the couch! If you're lucky enough to have a fireplace, fire it up for the evening! If you don't, search for a "yule log" video on YouTube and pretend!


Divvy Bike day and picnic in the park

If you've never rented Divvy Bikes and rode around the city, you're missing out and fall is a great time of year to give it a try! Bikes can be rented for $6 for the first half hour or for $15 for the day. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of hand sanitizer and get pedaling! The Lakeshore Path is beautiful anytime of the year, but especially in the fall as the leaves are changing colors. I know - renting public bikes in the middle of a pandemic does not sound like a great idea, but the bikes can easily be cleaned before and after with disinfectant wipes.


Admire Halloween decorations in Gold Coast

So I may be a little biased because this is the neighborhood I live in, but no other neighborhood does fall/Halloween decor like Gold Coast! If you live in Chicago, I highly recommend visiting Gold Coast this time of year - take a stroll down historic Astor Street, or venture down Goethe Street to appreciate some top-notch spooky decor!


How are you having fun and staying safe this fall?


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