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Fall For It! The Ultimate Guide to Harvest Festivals

We can almost smell the apple cider in the air. Savor fall in all its splendor at a harvest festival. Happening everywhere from Lincoln Square to Long Grove, these fetes rustle your senses with hayrides, bonfires, pumpkin patches and more. Here are our picks for a season of non-stop fun.

lincoln-square-apple-fest

IN CHICAGO 

Lincoln Square Apple Fest
Your first bite of autumn happens at this neighborhood celebration that revolves around the season’s favorite fruit. Buy freshly baked apple pies, bushels of apples, hot apple cider and even apple pizza. There’s a Kid Zone with family activities and crafts, along with live musicians at Giddings Plaza.

Saturday, September 21
9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Free
Lincoln Avenue, between Leland and Lawrence avenues
Online: lincolnsquare.org

Rogers Park Harvest Celebration
Gather on the North Side for free hayrides, inflatables, drinks, live music, pumpkins and other fall goodies. Whole Foods is dishing out apples, cider and cinnamon rolls, and will do a kid-friendly cooking demo.

Saturday, September 28
1-4 p.m.
Free
Willye B. White Park
1610 W. Howard St.
Online: rogers-park.com

eugene-field-park-fest

Cornucopia at Eugene Field Park
Pick from a pile of pumpkins and cut loose with live entertainment, face painting, bouncies and pony rides. This festival is three years old, and more than 2,500 people dropped by last year. Food trucks are scheduled to roll up, so come hungry.

Saturday, October 5
10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Free
5100 N. Ridgeway Ave.
Albany Park
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Apple Fest at Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens
Have a deliciously good time at this event that’s all about the season’s favorite fruit. Make your own applesauce, learn about the park’s apple trees, make apple art and eat, eat, eat. You can even cheer on a worm during a worm race.

Saturday, October 5
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Admission is $5
1801 S. Indiana Ave.
South Loop
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

lincoln-park-zoo-harvest-days

Harvest Days at the Farm-in-the-Zoo
Dive into a hootenanny you won’t forget at Lincoln Park Zoo. It has fall-themed crafts, animal encounters and live music. You’ll also get your pick of pumpkins of all sizes, including minis that kids can decorate.

Saturday & Sunday, October 5 & 6
10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Free
Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Lincoln Park
Online: lpzoo.org

Harvest Fest at Indian Boundary Park & Cultural Center
New this year, this bash brings a little bit of the country to the city. Pick your new orange best friend from a pumpkin field and personalize it at the decorating station. There is also Halloween-themed carnival games, a petting zoo, pony rides and temporary tattoos.  Capture a family memory at the photo station. Costumes are not only welcome, but encouraged.

Sunday, October 13
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Free; activities range from $1-$6
2500 W. Lunt Ave.
West Ridge
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

north-park-village-harvest-fest

Harvest Festival at North Park Village Nature Center
Give autumn a shout-out at one of the city’s adored nature centers. Build your own scarecrow, walk the trails to enjoy fall colors, listen to live music, make nature crafts and more.

Saturday & Sunday, October 12 & 13
10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Free
5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
North Park
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Fall Adventure Day at Northerly Island
Give nature a warm embrace near the lake. Use the big, open park to run out all that back-to-school energy. Guided hiking tours are available, and families can witness fall bird migrations. Autumnal arts and crafts keep kids entertained. You can also try fishing — all the gear is provided free of charge. Kids ages 8 and up can even kayak in Burnham Harbor.

Saturday, October 19
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Free
1521 S. Linn White Dr.
South Side
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

wagner-farm

IN THE ‘BURBS

Wagner Farm Fall Festivals
This outdoor living history museum gives you an inside look at farming and rural life in Glenview during the first part of the 20th century. And, early every fall, it throws three heartwarming festivals. The Harvest Bonfire kicks things off with a flickering bonfire, apple cider, s’mores and stories. Return a week later to build your own scarecrow. Then join the Corn Harvest Festival, where you can hand-pick corn, do farm activities, sample food, take a wagon ride, and make fall-themed arts and crafts.

Harvest Bonfire: Saturday, September 21, 6-8 p.m. ($5/person, kids under 2 free)
Build Your Own Scarecrow: Saturday, September 28, noon-3 p.m. ($5 per scarecrow)
Corn Harvest Festival: Saturday, October 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ($5/person, kids under 2 free)

1510 Wagner Rd.
Glenview
847-657-1506
Online: wagnerfarm.org

Homewood Fall Fest and Annual Chili Cook-Off
Digging into a heaping bowl of chili is one of fall’s big pleasures. Do it at this fest, which features arts and crafts, a pumpkin patch, horse-drawn wagon rides, food from local eateries and a bean bag toss. Pre-registration is required to participate in the chili-making contest, and chili samples will get dished to the public at 3 p.m. There’s also live music, a magic show and a viewing of “Hotel Transylvania.”

Saturday, September 21
11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Free
Martin Avenue, from Hickory to Ridge roads
Online: homesweethomewood.com

long-grove-apple-fest

Long Grove 21st Annual Apple Festival
Quaint Long Grove is the stuff fall dreams are made of. Drink Manzanita apple soda while waiting for a pony ride or getting your face painted. Kiddie rides and other fun family activities happen all throughout the village. Live entertainment, including Radio Disney, is on the roster. Be sure to stop by Olive Tap to watch apple-themed cooking demos, complete with samples.

Friday-Sunday, September 27-29
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Free
Downtown Long Grove
Near Route 83 and Old Route 53
Online: visitlonggrove.com

Santa’s Village Azoosment Park Third Annual Autumn Harvest Fest
Fresh fall additions make this amusement park even more fun and interactive. Get lost in the corn maze, snack on caramel apples and funnel cakes, and check out fall decorations while riding the carousel or bumper cars. You also don’t want to miss the petting zoo and piping hot chocolate. A Haunted Barn Experience takes place October 19, and Halloween celebrations are held October 26-27 (they include trick-or-treating and costume contests).

Open weekends from September 28-October 27
Admission is $18.75; kids under 2 free (includes access to amusement park rides and attractions)
601 Dundee Ave.
East Dundee
847-426-6751
Online: santasvillagedundee.com

oak-park-fall-fest

Fall Fest at Rehm Park
Oak Park knows how to party. Its annual fest has tons of kiddie fun, including pumpkin picking, horse-drawn hayrides and hand-operated trains. Don’t forget to check out the scarecrows and vote for your favorite. Live entertainment includes music and a science show.

Sunday, September 29
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Free
515 Garfield St.
Oak Park
Online: pdop.org

Volkening Heritage Farm at Spring Valley & Merkle Cabin Autumn Harvest Festival
This blast from the past (aka: the 19th century) celebrates traditional fall splendors. Dig into grilled goodies, roasted corn and taffy apples. Experience farm and frontier-era hands-on demonstrations, like grain threshing, blacksmithing and cider pressing. Kids have the chance to play games from the 1880s, make crafts, and dance to live string music on two stages.

Sunday, October 6
noon-5 p.m.
Admission is $4/person; $16/family of six or fewer, with additional members $4/person; children ages 3 and younger are free.
201 S. Plum Grove Rd.
Schaumburg
Online: parkfun.com

st.-charles-scarecrow-fest

St. Charles Scarecrow Fest
Have you ever seen 150 scarecrows all in one place? You will here. Visitors can vote in six different categories for their favorite, ranging from whimsical to traditional to mechanical. All are handmade, some by local businesses. Come for the ‘crows, but stay for the pony rides, petting zoos, moon jump, food and live music.

Friday-Sunday, October 11-13
9 a.m.-9 p.m. (Fri. & Sat.) & 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (Sun.)
Free
Downtown St. Charles
Route 64 and the Fox River
Online: scarecrowfest.com

Cantigny Park Fall Festival
The 500-acre park is the western suburb’s prime spot to enjoy nature, history and hands-on family fun. Fall color shines through at this fest, which features yard games, hayrides and craft vendors. A bouncy house, face painting and snacks are also part of the experience.

Saturday, October 12
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Free with $5 per car parking ($2 per car after 4 p.m.)
Cantigny Park
1 S. 151 Winfield Rd.
Wheaton
Online: cantigny.org


What is your favorite fall festival? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Jessica Smith

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Photos: Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Park District, Lincoln Park Zoo, Glenview Park District, Long Grove Business & Community Partnerships, Park District of Oak Park, City of St. Charles

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