If you’re looking for an easy fall day trip from Chicago without a hotel stay or time off from work and school, this is your list. From farms to quaint towns, and fall leaves, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite fall day trips from Chicago. Pick pumpkins, stroll through shops in Galena or Savanna, hike the shoreline in Sheboygan, or check out a haunted house. Every trip on this list is located in Chicagoland or less than 2.5-hours away. Happy fall exploring. Visit our Fall Fun Guide for more trip ideas, guides, holiday crafts, and more.
1. Visit the Pumpkin Patch
There are plenty of great pumpkin patches that are just a short day trip from Chicago. Many feature pick-your-own pumpkins, hayrides, petting zoos, and more. Check our Fall Fun Guide for the latest pumpkin patch festivities and events.
Photo courtesy of the Orchards at Royal Oak Farm
2. Go Apple Picking
There’s nothing better than a fall apple. Visit one of the many orchards around Chicago and neighboring states for a quick fall getaway. Pick apples right from the trees in all your favorite varieties. There are often baked apple treats, cider, donuts, and more to eat there and take home along with your apples.
3. Visit a Local Farm
When you’re looking for a fun and festive fall day trip from Chicago, a local farm is a great place to start. Check our list of Best Farms, which feature entertainment, petting zoos, activities, playgrounds, and more. Your little ones can experience life on a farm with some fall festivities mixed in.
Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo
4. Check Out a Corn Maze
There is no shortage of incredible corn mazes around the Chicago area. Nearby Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan also boast some impressive corn mazes. Check out our guide here for the latest themes and designs featured each year by some of the local farms.
5. Get in the Halloween Spirit at a Haunted House
For many fall lovers, Halloween is what it’s all about. If your family is looking for a spooky little road trip, take a ride out to a haunted house. You’ll have the anticipation building the whole car ride there and the kids recapping their adventures the entire ride back. It’s bound to be a scary good time.
6. Have an Up-close Encounter with an Animal or a Petting Zoo
Petting zoos often make their debut in the fall months. This is a perfect opportunity to take a quick trip to a local farm or animal encounter. Go on a wild safari, pet goats, alpacas, and more before the animals get tucked in for winter. There’s an experience within driving distance for every animal lover.
7. Take a Fishing Trip
Fishing isn’t just for the summer. Cooler temps and the changing season often bring new fish to the surface and keep different species moving around. While the temperatures become more comfortable, enjoy the beautiful fall weather by catching some fish with your little ones.
Photo courtesy of the Chicago Children’s Museum
8. Explore an Indoor Kid-Friendly Activity
Fall in Chicago can feel like all four seasons in one week. When the weather starts to take a turn for the worst, hedge off cabin fever by getting out and exploring some of Chicago’s best indoor activities. You’ll find play spaces, museums, and more for your family to enjoy some time inside.
9. Take a Trip to the Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is a beautiful place to explore in the fall. Since it’s an indoor facility you won’t have to worry about cooler temps or a fall rain shower. Take a trip into the city and see all the Shedd offers.
10. Find Fall Fun at the Zoo
Zoos are a great place to visit in the fall. With so many within driving distance, you can easily make a day trip out to any local zoo. Many offer Halloween and fall festivities to get you in the fall spirit.
Photo courtesy of Visit Lake Geneva
11. Visit Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lake Geneva is a quick trip over the border of Wisconsin. Whether you’re looking to take a boat ride, walk the free shore path, or get some shopping in, there’s something for everyone on Geneva Lake. Explore this beautiful lake while the colors are still changing for a quick fall getaway without the hotel stay.
12. See Fall Colors in Sheboygan, Wisconsin
The trees off Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, Wisconsin are worth the short drive in the car. In the fall, this shoreline is transformed into a sea of gold, red, and orange that will keep you coming back year after year. Kayak, canoe, walk or hike. There are also plenty of adorable boutiques, restaurants, and shops to warm up in.
13. Hike the Kettle Moraine State Forest
A forest in the fall is truly magical for kids and adults of all ages. Located just a short drive from Chicago, the Kettle Moraine State Forest is a great place to spend the day exploring.
Photo by Jacki Musser, courtesy of the Starved Rock Lodge
14. Explore Starved Rock
Starved Rock is one of Illinois’ most scenic natural wonders. With caves, rock formations, and waterfalls, these hikes are beautiful and challenging for older kids. You can spend the entire day exploring all there is to look at here.
15. See Leaves Changing in South Haven, Michigan
South Haven in Michigan is known for its fall beauty. The changing trees and colors make this a great day trip option. You can hike, canoe, kayak, or walk down by the shores of Lake Michigan. Stop in town for coffee, ice cream, hot chocolate, and adorable shopping.
New Buffalo beach photo courtesy of southwestmichigan.org
16. Get Outside or Visit a Pick-Your-Own Farm in New Buffalo
New Buffalo is an easy day trip from Chicago. With breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, changing tree colors, and a vibrant city scene, there’s something for everyone in the family in New Buffalo.
17. Visit Savanna Along the Mississippi River
Savanna is a beautiful river town located off the Mississippi River. Just a 2.5-hour drive from Chicago makes this a good day trip option. Kayak or take a boat ride along the river, bike, or hike the 15 miles of trails.
Photo courtesy of the Rockford Peaches
18. Explore Rockford, Illinois
Rockford is located about 1.5-hours from Chicago. This quaint town offers shopping, restaurants, and a famous piece of movie history. Visit the Rockford Peaches Fan Trail to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Rockford Peaches in A League of Their Own.
19. Enjoy Fall Festivities in Galena, Illinois
Galena, Illinois offers kayaking, boating, fishing, biking, hiking, and more. This cute town has plenty of fall activities for guests and it’s an easy day trip from Chicago.
Photo courtesy of the Garfield Park Conservatory
20. Visit the Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory is a beautiful and free place in the city to see some greenery even when the weather gets cold. Without spending a ton of money, you can take a road trip or train ride into the city and give your kids a dose of the outdoors without all the elements.
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