It's a Bounty of Food and Fall Fun in Chicago

Each season brings its own joy to Chicago and autumn does not disappoint. While exciting hotel and restaurant openings (like VU, the South Loop’s first rooftop bar) 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 Grand Cochon 555 and Chicago Gourmet. Festivals fusing autumn treats, live music and activities from the weird (grape spitting at Lynfred Winery's Annual Oktoberfest & Pig Roast) to the wonderful (scarecrow building at the fest in St. Charles), dot the calendar from September to November. Be a part of breaking a world record of most pumpkins carved and lit at once at the Annual Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival. The West Town Food Truck Social & Art Walk combines noshing and art in an eclectic neighborhood. Be prepared to be awed while nosing around the city's architectural wonders during the fabulous Open House Chicago or viewing the work of unconventional Chicago artists at the Art Institute's newest exhibition. Take a big, crisp bite out of fall in Chicago. It's delicious. 


You can eat your art out at the West Town Food Truck Social and the West Town Art Walk taking place along the busy Chicago Avenue corridor. Expect visual art, music, culinary creations and fashion showcased within neighborhood shops, businesses, restaurants and galleries. At least 15 food trucks will be offering items like lobster rolls, donuts, empanadas and pierogi. Count on Ice cold beer from sponsor Tecate and others, as well as samples from sponsors Prairie Organic Vodka and Douglas & Todd Bourbon Whiskey. The 8th Annual west Town Art Walk features a public art walking tour, live art demos, chalk drawing activities and visit at least 15 spots on the map to be qualified to enter the West Town Art Walk raffle.

Among 385 acres of landscaped gardens and millions of plants and flowers, Chicago Botanic Garden has trees - lots and lots of trees with leaves turning crimson, amber, russet and maroon. See how diverse foliage, from prairies to Japanese gardens, react to autumn and self-guided tours point out the season's best. In addition, special fall programming includes Harvest Weekend (Sept. 29-30) when you can learn how to harvest, preserve, and store the veg you grew or bought at farmers market this summer. The Fall Bulb Festival – Oct. 5-7, offers more than 250 varieties of daffodils, tulips, crocus, and specialty bulbs as well as mums, asters, peonies and paperwhite narcissus to decorate the house. Don't miss more than 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins (some as large as 150 pounds) lighting up the Night of 1,000 Jack-o'-Lanterns Oct. 24-28.

There are those who say the city is oversaturated with restaurants and to that we say - "eat it all up" especially at Chicago Gourmet. The event turns 11 in 2018 and the three-day high end food festival offers a bounty of highlights. Taking place in Millennium Park Sept. 28-30, 2018, the fest's theme is "Rock the Fork," harmonizing gourmet cuisine and pop-up musical performances on the Great Lawn. Chicago chefs Graham Elliot and Matthias Merges have created a special soundtrack to accompany the Grand Cru both days. Don't miss the Hamburger Hop showdown on Friday. The all-star lineup includes Rick Bayless, Carla Hall, Jeff Mauro, Stephanie Izard, Duff Goldman, Joe Flamm, Tony Mantuano, Art Smith, Emily Fiffer, Heather Sperling and an nine Master Sommeliers. Joe Flamm joins BRAVO Top Chef Season 15 pals Bruce Kalman and Joe Sasto to show off their pasta-making prowess. Purchase tickets at


The 9th Annual Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival returns Oct. 5-7 to yet again attempt to break a world record of most pumpkins carved and lit at once (the current Guinness World Record is a display of 30, 851 lit jack-o'-lanterns). Consider it a kick off to fall festival season with popular activities including: all-you-can-carve pumpkins (and be a part of a record breaking attempt); trick or treating; costume contests; hay and pony rides plus a petting zoo; carnival rides; kids crafts; two stages jamming with live music; food and beverage vendors offering autumn delights; and a Superhero 5K Pumpkin Run/Walk honoring a Highwood Make-A-Wish child that lost his battle with cancer. Stay past dark to check out the nightly grand pumpkin wall light displays. There's a $3 daily admission with all proceeds going to Make-A-Wish Illinois.

You'll have the answer to, "How do you like them apples," at Lincoln Square Neighborhood's 31st Annual Apple Fest, Oct. 6-7. The festival extends hours this year meaning more fresh apples, cider, dumplings 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 cider, pies and other apple confections. Count on chef demos such as How to Make Hard Cider at Home and How to Create a French Apple Tarte Tatin; live music on stage; and plenty for children to do at the Kids Zone. Bakers will want to visit on Sunday for the Apple Pie Bake-Off when the best looking and tasting pies win prizes. Admission is a suggested $5 donation and hours are 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m..-6 p.m. Sunday.

The night of Sept. 30, 2018, eleven winning chefs from the US and Canada compete in the ultimate culinary showdown for the North American crown of "King or Queen of Porc." Take a quick look at​s. City Winery hosts Cochon555's international chef competition, Grand Cochon, celebrating whole hog cookery for a cause. More than 2,500 pounds of heritage pork raised by American family farms representing an array of cultures and cooking styles is on the menu and the winner is chosen by 30 celebrity chefs and 600 attendees selecting the "Best Bite" of the day. Look for Chicago's own Chef Cory Morris of Boleo competing against 10 other chefs coming to town for the epic whole hog showdown. Indulge in a stand-up gourmet tasting menu, served with luxury wines, boutique spirits, handcrafted cocktails, as well as cheese, charcuterie, sweets, and pop-up food experiences. Purchase tickets at ​

If you get a tear in your eye when Dorothy says to the Scarecrow, "I think I'll miss you most of all," you must get to the 33rd Annual St. Charles Scarecrow Fest anytime between Oct. 5-7, 2018 in downtown St. Charles. All the festival favorites are on the menu, including the Autumn on the Fox Arts & Crafts Show in Pottawatomie Park, carnival rides, Make-Your-Own Scarecrow, live entertainment and, the piéce de résistance, the Scarecrow Contest, the festival's signature event. This year's contest theme is the Illinois Bicentennial. Sammy's Bikes W.A.R. on Wheels Scarecrow Fest Bike Ride features a 12 – 15 mile family ride along the Fox River, as well as a 38 mile scenic farm ride from St. Charles to Maple Park. Festival organizers are also bringing back pony rides and Taste of St. Charles.

Set your eyes upon provocative art on display 50 years after final Chicago exhibition. "Hairy Who" consists of the work of six boldy unconventional Chicago artists who showcased their work at the Hyde Park Art Center in the late 1960's. Inspired by the city's cultural and political fabric of the times, Jim Falconer, Art Green, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Suellen Rocca and Karl Wirsum transformed pop images into virtuosic artworks. Self-named, Hairy Who's specific style transformed the cultural landscape of the city. The fantastic exhibition is on display from Sept. 26, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019, at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Entertain your inner Arnold and party Oktoberfest-style at Lynfred Winery's Annual Oktoberfest & Pig Roast. A Teutonic fall fête is as close as Roselle and before you know it, you'll be locking arms with others swaying to the strains of "Edelweiss." It's two days of German sing-a-longs and dance performances plus Insta moments like Adult and Kid Grape Spitting, Cork Tossing and Grape Stomping Contests. Those dressed in lederhosen or like Lucy stomping grapes should enter the costume contest. Enjoy roasted pig either as a sandwich or full meal, served with warm German potato salad and all the fixings. Other options include grilled bratwurst burgers, homemade chili, freshly grilled sweet corn and a dessert booth serving taffy apples, apple strudel and German chocolate cake. Naturally, you'll want to sample Lynfred's Oktoberfest wine, which will be released at the start of the festival.

Annually, and specifically Oct. 13-14 in 2018, Chicago locals and visitors have the opportunity to witness hidden architectural treasures tucked among the city's diverse neighborhoods during the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House Chicago. The free public festival is a cornucopia of behind-the-scenes access to more than 250 buildings including skyscrapers, mansions, hidden rooms, magnificent theaters, hotels, private clubs, offices and sacred spaces - places that are rarely, if ever, open to the public. Some sites offer discussions and family-friendly activities. Check the web site for a list of sites and times they will be open during the weekend. The event is free and one not to be missed. In addition, the brand new Chicago Architecture Center (111 E. Wacker Drive) just opened featuring interactive elements that tell fascinating stories of the city.


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