(credit: Undercover Mother)

The air is beginning to change quickly to the crispness of autumn in the Chicagoland area, which means harvest is near and so are fall festivities. Be sure to take the family and engage in a few activities on this autumn bucket list as they will quickly disappear {or seem less appealing!} once winter descends upon Chicago.

Tailgate a football game

The Bears aren’t the only team in town! Chicago is also home to more family-friendly football — the Northwestern Wildcats and myriad high-excitement high school football teams. Pile on the layers, grab a blanket to keep warm after the sun sets on the stands and field and enjoy the sights, sounds and spirit of a football game together. Little kids might not watch an entire game, but the beginning of it might prove to be exciting along with the half-time show – and both might prove to be almost as enticing as the treats typically sold at the concession stand. Hot apple cider and hot chocolate are among our football-game favorites.

Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
(888) 467-8775 {ticket office}

(credit: Undercover Mother)

Apple Picking

The countryside surrounding Chicago and the suburbs plays home to quite a few u-pick apple orchards, where the entire family is encouraged to make a day out of apple-picking adventures. Several orchards boast trees from which even small children can glean apples. And, of course, while visiting the orchards, there are often other fun activities to engage in – like climbing atop of antique tractors and taking a peak at a few farm animals.

Apple Holler
5006 S. Sylvania Ave. / Stertevant, WI 53177

All Seasons Orchard*
14510 Rt. 176 / Woodstock, IL 60098

(credit: Undercover Mother)

Foliage Adventure

The Chicago Botanical Gardens, the Morten Arboretum and Grant Park are all spectacular places to feast on beautiful autumn colors gracing the tree leaves. Preschoolers and toddlers will love to collect the fallen leaves, take them home and glue them to their own construction paper tree; trust that discussion about seasons will ensue with them – a perfect authentic learning experience in the outdoor classroom. Older kids may like snapping pictures and creating a fall collage with the magnificent colors they’ve captured; throw a spin on it by buying them disposable cameras so as to increase the anticipation of the pictures shot. Accent the day spent enjoying the changing scenery with a picnic beneath the foliage.

Chicago Botanical Gardens
1000 Lake Cook R. / Glencoe, IL 60022

Morton Arboretum
4100 Lincoln Ave. / Lisle, IL 60532

(credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Pumpkin Festivities

Like apple orchards, the Chicagoland area is home to numerous pumpkin patches – after all we are located only 100 miles north of where most of Libby’s canned pumpkin is grown and harvested. Many of the pumpkin patches in the area are u-pick, so everyone in the family can glean his or her own pumpkin right from the field. Also like the apple orchards, many of the pumpkin patches feature fall festivities on the farm grounds, so families can easily make a day of their patch experience.

Abbey Farms*
850 Butterfield Rd. / Aurora, IL 60502

Vana’s Pumpkin Land
7705 W State Rt. 17 / Kankakee, IL 60901

Corn Maze

Perhaps Chicago isn’t synonymous with cornfields but venture about 60 miles north, south or west, and it’s easy to see how Illinois certainly could be. Many farms that feature u-pick harvests and autumn festivities cut rather large mazes into the tall corn stalks, providing the perfect place for family togetherness. Little children will simply love running amok through the aisles while older ones and teens might enjoy the challenge of making it out without calling for rescue. Have a bigger family? Split up and see who can make it out first. {Don’t forget your cell phones in case you get inescapably lost!}

*corn mazes at locations

Hyacynth Worth writes about all things mothering, faith and family at Undercover Mother

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