By Meredith Lyons
An urban setting is not generally one that inspires visions of nature, such as picturesque mountain landscapes or rolling meadows. However, Chicago is blessed not only with a fantastic lakefront but also with a multitude of parks, which makes it an exceptional city to enjoy during the autumn months. It is easy to miss the changing of the leaves as the fall season generally flies by, however if you really want to enjoy them, there are several places around Chicago to do so.
The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, IL 60532
The Morton Arboretum is just 25 miles west of Chicago and an easy drive up I-290 W to I-88 W. The drive will take approximately 35 to 40 minutes and the signs along the interstate to the Arboretum are easy to follow. In addition to hiking through the trails, rental bikes of all types are available to ride along the nine miles of paved roads. For detailed information about what foliage you might encounter on the day of your visit, The Arboretum offers a detailed weekly account of what plants are in bloom in September, October and November.
Crabtree Nature Center
3 Stover Road
Barrington Hills, IL 60010
Reachable in a little less than an hour up I-90 W, the Crabtree Nature Center features several miles of self-guided trails. The entrance is on Palatine Road off of Route 62 and the trails are open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily. In addition to observing the fall colors, the Crabtree Nature Center is ideal for bird watchers as over 260 species have been observed in addition to the seasonal ducks and geese that the center plays host to in the fall and spring months.
Harms Road between Golf and Old Orchard Roads
Glenview, IL 60077
A mere 30-minute drive from downtown Chicago up I-90 W to I-94 W brings you to Harms Woods in Glenview. This preserve has the standard paths for walking and biking and deserves a full day to really take in the beauty of the landscape. Harms Woods also provides picnic shelters, portable toilets and special lawns for pets and other activities. Pack a lunch and enjoy an outing with the family.
The Elegant Farmer
1545 Main St.
Mukwonago, WI 53149
To get a full dose of all kinds of autumn festivities, visit The Elegant Farmer. Take I-94 straight up to Wisconsin and then Route 41, following exit 333 toward WI-20. The drive is scenic and just under two hours. If you arrive during the Autumn Harvest Festival (weekends from September 15 to October 27), you can participate in apple picking, pumpkin picking, train rides that depart every 45 minutes, pony rides and hayrides. Satisfy your sweet tooth and make your own caramel apple or just pick up one of the award-winning, homemade pies from the farm.
Starved Rock State Park
Deer Park Township, IL
Driving one hour and 45 minutes up I-55 S and I-80 W will bring you from Chicago to Starved Rock State Park. The park has several trails for hiking, all of which have maps available online in case you would like to preplan your day. There are 13 miles of hiking trails with beautiful rock formations and waterfalls. If you’re interested in viewing the foliage from Fox River, the park offers jet ski rentals, paddleboats, water cruises, canoe and kayak rentals and well as fishing on Fox River. If you decide to stay overnight, camp sites are available or you can rent a room in the lodge.