Best Things to Do in Fall in Chicago

It's a bounty of fall fun in Chicago

Each season brings its own joy to Chicago and autumn does not disappoint. While exciting hotel and restaurant openings continue to entertain locals and visitors, special seasonal celebrations add the spice to the pumpkin latte. It's no wonder that the best restaurant city on the planet is host to world-class culinary events this fall including Chicago Gourmet. Chicago culinary legend, Rick Bayless, sends up the restaurant life in A Recipe for Disaster. Festivals fusing autumn treats and music dot the calendar from September to November - case in point - the Lincoln Square Neighborhood's 34th Annual Apple Fest. Be prepared to be awed while nosing around the city's architectural wonders during the fabulous Open House Chicago or viewing the work of British provocateur in the largest touring exhibit of genuine Banksy art works on the planet.  A visit to 13th Floor will shake the cobwebs from your mind as will a night with the raucous Blue Man Group.  If it gets chilly, visit the new Vivian Maier: In Color exhibit at the Chicago History Museum;  the colorful pop-up museum, Neon and Light Museum; and The Office Experience debuting right here in the Windy City. Take that big, crisp bite out of fall in Chicago. It's delicious. 


Magnificent Mile

Reruns of The Office are on a continuous loop on Comedy Central for a reason - it was a great show. This fall, you can skip the reruns and be transported to Dunder Mifflin Paper Company when The Office Experience makes its debut in Chicago, Oct.15, 2021 - Jan. 17, 2022. The largest official interactive fan experience based on The Office is two-stories and 17 rooms filled with original props, costumes and set re-creations. Snap photos throughout the Dunder Mifflin office like Pam's desk, Michael's office, Ryan's closet and Schrute Farms. And who doesn't want to relive Kevin's Chili Spill, Beach Day and Jim and Pam's love story? Located in the Shops at Northbridge, couple your visit with lunch or dinner (Lao Sze Chuan and Weber Grill are good bets within the mall and Eataly is just across the street) or overnight at The Gwen which is an elevator rade away.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Fans of The Office can have a delightful time transported to Dunder Mifflin as The Office Experience makes its debut in Chicago.

Jacky's expert tip: Timed entry tickets, starting at $37.50 plus taxes and fees, must be reserved at the web site.

Read more about The Office Experience →

Schiller Park

If the daily news doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, 13th Floor Chicago is just what the monsters ordered. One of the Chicago area's largest haunted houses (close to 40,000 square feet of indoor space), 13th Floor returns for an eighth season (select dates Sept. 10 - Nov. 13, 2021) in a new location with two new haunted attractions: Bad Blood and Spirit of Halloween. There's bad blood between skate punk vampires and werewolves on wheels - don't get caught between them! In the Spirit of Halloween, the witch of the woods summons the spirits of the underworld to cross over so watch out for those Halloween decorations as you traverse the attraction. Admission to both new shows is included in one ticket purchase. Monsters, vampires, maniac clowns and aliens with saliva issues insure plenty of screams. Leave Junior back home with a babysitter unless they can handle the graphic nature of the attraction. The new location also features a carnival-like midway of games, food and beverage.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Who doesn't need to scream their head off these days? 13th Floor is an elaborate voluntary scare ending with laughs and a sigh of relief.

Jacky's expert tip: Premium valet parking, located at 9500 River St, Schiller Park, is right next to the haunted house offering full valet service, covered lot, and 24/7 security.

Read more about 13th Floor →

You'll have the answer to, "How do you like them apples," at Lincoln Square Neighborhood's 34th Annual Apple Fest, Oct. 2-3. Hours are 9am-6pm both days that offer fresh apples, cider, dumplings, pies and other creations, plus live music and activities for the little Honey Crisps in your life. Apple Fest is a comfortable way to soak up the waning rays and taste and purchase apple confections: apple brats and apple fries; apple bacon cider soup served hot or cold; candied apple bacon; apple donuts and fritters; and grilled cheese with apple slices. Count on plenty of other goodies, too, from deep fried pickles to Kobe Beef Burgers and potato pancakes. There will be live music on stage both days. Admission is a suggested $5 donation.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Apple Fest is a comfortable autumn outing to soak up the waning rays of sun amid fall colors and up your antioxidant levels with apples.

Jacky's expert tip: Take a bigger bite out of your visit and amble through the neighborhood's indie shops, restaurants and attractions such as the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Read more about Lincoln Square Ravenswood Apple Fest →


When fall's flush begins to fade from the scarlet Sugar Maples and golden Aspens, get to the city's latest pop-up museum for a shot of vibrant color - the Neon and Light Museum. Get in front of, behind and under more than 60 works by light benders like British artist Sarah Blood, feminist neon artist Zoelle Nagib, pop sign artist Jason Pickleman, San Francisco's Helen Lee, abstract sculptor Michael Young and master bender Jacob Fishman, See an iconic neon self-portrait by John Lennon and a number of pieces by visual artist, John Bannon. Some pieces are interactive and all are dazzling when you realize that neon gas is inserted into a glass tube and shot with electricity to produce these sculptures and interactive light shows. Reservations top out at 60 persons per hour for safe social distancing. The Neon & Light Museum pop-up is open Thursday-Sunday from Sept. 9-Oct. 31.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: It's not every day one can see so much of the vibrant art form on display in one venue.

Jacky's expert tip: There's a roster of worthy restaurants just a block or two away including Avli River North, Union Sushi & Barbecue Bar, and one of Chicago's oldest bars, The Green Door.

Read more about Neon and Light Museum →

Mash up art and laugh-out-loud mini golf fun at Par Excellence Redux, a fully playable course designed by artists and architects from the Midwest and elsewhere. Paying homage to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's popular 1988 exhibition, Par Excellence, the exhibit's artists who designed the mini golf greens touch on various themes, with holes that feature optical illusions, an exploration of the cosmos and commentary on social and environmental issues. Wander The Back 9, on display throughout the Museum's main galleries, which includes: "Pinball Golf: An American Life" by Wes Baker that merges the format of pinball including flippers, pins, and targets with elements of mini golf; "Timing is Everything" by James Merz uses moving elements to illustrate that timing is everything, in life and in sports; and "Mission: Mars" by Vincent Lotesto (to achieve a hole-in-one, you must aim the golf ball up a ramp located on the highest volcano in our solar system and the ball falls into a collapsed crater on the summit and exits on the eastern side of the mountain. Exhibition-related fall and winter programming is free with museum admission and includes: a conversation about the inspiration and history behind the exhibition with the curator; an ugly sweater night; and a family holiday party (check for dates and times).

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Elmhurst Art Museum's artistic mini golf course promises a fun approach to art and social commentary.

Jacky's expert tip: Open from Oct. 13, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2022, reserve tee times at an additional cost at the web site.

Read more about Par Excellence Redux: The Back 9 →


A Recipe for Disaster" is a a fully scripted immersive event during which the audience sips cocktails and wine and and nibbles bites created by Chicago culinary legend, Rick Bayless. The story is based on Bayless's real-life experiences and set during influencer night at one of the city's hottest restaurants. Anyone who has been a server, bartender of restaurant worker will recognize the night when everything that could possibly go wrong occurs. In this case, however, the events are hilariously chaotic between an ill chef, a visit from the health inspector and a barrage of negative Tweets. The Windy City Playhouse show opens on Oct. 6 for an open run through at least Dec. 26. Tickets include six bite-size tastings and three cocktail and wine samplings with regular and VIP options. Limited to 30 guests per performance, the VIP experience includes a pre-show charcuterie board and cocktail, premium seating and a gift bag.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: A Recipe for Disaster takes our obsession with food and restaurants to another level in a funny and delicious way.

Jacky's expert tip: The experience takes place on the Club Level at Petterino's in the heart of the Chicago theater district . The entrance to Windy City Playhouse's space is just around the corner on Randolph Street.

Read more about A Recipe for Disaster →

The museum in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood is filled with compelling exhibits about the city's history and the addition of Vivian Maier: In Color is another reason to visit this fall. The exhibit features a new collection of many never-before seen images by the world-renowned photographer who worked as a nanny for Chicago families and took photos of the city's people and places as a hobby. Following her death in 2009, her prints, 100,000 negatives, and a thousand or so rolls of undeveloped film were discovered in an abandoned storage locker and the world came to know this talented woman. This exhibit features more than 65 color images from the 1950s-1970s; film clips made by Maier; and sound bites featuring Maier's voice. Also this fall, the Museum's long awaited exhibition, City on Fire: Chicago 1871, opens October 8, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire through themes of resilience and equity.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: The two newest exhibits at the Chicago History Museum and its location near many restaurants and Lincoln Park, make a fall outing complete.

Jacky's expert tip: Park at 1730 N. Stockton for validated parking, just a two-minute walk from the Museum.

Read more about Chicago History Museum →

The pandemic put the kibosh on the raucous, percussive, cheeky, theatrical experience that is Blue Man Group but the tinted threesome return to perform throughout fall and winter, 2021. In what was once Marshall Field's horse stables, the intimate Briar Street Theatre hosts the wildly popular show that has wowed Windy City audiences since October, 1997. Even if you've seen it before, expect a refreshed show with new music, story lines, custom instruments and state-of-the-art technology. It's the theatrical performance for people who think they don't like live theater as well as serving as a perfect introduction to the art form for kids and teens because it's engaging, curious, unpredictable, nutty, cutting edge and has live music that vibrates through the body. Safety protocols have been put in place so audience interaction remains an important part of the show. The bald triplets explore current cultural norms in unexpected ways with colossal doses of quirky humor and drumming. Who could argue with that?

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Everyone should experience Blue Man Group as least once in a lifetime - it's a fun and exhilarating antidote to the pandemic blues.

Jacky's expert tip: Parking near the theater is dismal at best. Take Uber/Lyft or the Belmont brown/red/purple lines are within walking distance.

Read more about Blue Man Group →

Annually, and specifically Oct. 16-17 in 2021, Chicago locals and visitors have the opportunity to witness hidden architectural treasures tucked among the city's diverse neighborhoods during the Chicago Architecture Center's Open House Chicago. The free public festival is a cornucopia of behind-the-scenes access to hundreds of sites in myriad neighborhoods including skyscrapers, mansions, hidden rooms, magnificent theaters, hotels, private clubs, industrial sites, offices and sacred spaces - places that are rarely, if ever, open to the public. New sites for 2021 include Sable Hotel at Navy Pier; The Penthouse Hyde Park; Bank of America Tower; Quinn Chapel; and the Illinois Holocaust Museum. There's an OHC app, open October 1-31, as well as virtual programs throughout the month. One of the largest architecture festivals in the world, the event is free and one not to be missed.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Locals love it because they can get into spaces that are rarely open to the public and tourists win the architectural sweepstakes visiting this weekend.

Jacky's expert tip: Times vary by site, Saturday to Sunday, Oct. 16-17, 2021 so make a plan to visit the spaces about which you are most curious.

Read more about Open House Chicago →

Take the fleeting opportunity to see and feel The Art of Banksy, the largest touring exhibit of genuine Banksy art works on the planet. Exhibited through Oct. 31, 2021, the show features more than 80 pieces by the enigmatic street artist including many of well-known images such as "Flower Thrower," "RudeCopper" and "Girl with Balloon." Although one could argue that the graffiti master's cachet is elevated by his concealed identity, one trip through this exhibit will cement the fact that he is the art provocateur and disruptor of the 21st century. Banksy's witty and irreverent stenciled graffiti is on full display telling tales of class warfare, hypocrisy, elitism, political idiocy, and even hope. The Art of Banksy is not authorized by the artist, but sourced from private collections allowing us to see many of his works all in one place. If you have a teenager who thinks s/he doesn't "get" art, this exhibit may light up their neurons.

Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: It's a rare chance to see more than 80 works in one place by the mysterious art provocateur.

Jacky's expert tip: The venue is near multiple parking garages and is easily accessible via public transportation including the nearby Grand Avenue CTA Red Line stop.

Read more about The Art of Banksy →


Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky