Let’s Explore! Where to Find the Best Fall Foliage in Chicago

Fall Foliage to the Bean in Millennium Park

After summer, fall is my favorite season in Chicago. Although the weather doesn’t feel like fall yet, I wanted to share some of my favorite places to see best fall foliage in Chicago. The colorful fall leaves may only last for a few weeks (or less) in Chicago so get ready and happy exploring!

I know that many of these places on my list are popular and most people know about them. But they are popular for a reason. These pictures are from previous years but I decided to devote a whole blog post to my favorite places for fall colors in Chicago. And hint, these Chicago locations are also good for fall family portraits.

Red leaf the the Bean
Red trees at the Nichols Bridge / Millennium Park

Millennium Park

Whether your’re a tourist or local, you must stop by Chicago’s Millennium Park for fall colors. From the trees lining up to Cloud Gate (aka “the Bean”) to the trees along the Nichols Bridgeway to the Art Institute, you will be surrounded by all the beautiful red leaves. If you are nearby the Nichols Bridgeway (at the end of the season), be sure to stand beneath the trees (to the west of the bridge). You will be surrounded by all the fall leaves falling from the trees.

Fall foliage at Millennium Park
Fall foliage at the Lurie Garden / Millennium Park

Before heading up the bridge, be sure to stop by Lurie Garden for more fall foliage. You can see layers of fall colors from the garden.

For a bird’s eye view of all this foliage, go up to Cindy’s Rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Hotel.

Ivy wall at the Art Institute Chicago

Art Institute Of Chicago – South Garden

After you have wandered around Millennium Park, take the Nichols Bridge over to the Art Institute of Chicago’s South Garden. Fall foliage can be a bit tricky in Chicago because you can get the colors early in the season or later in the season. If it’s early in the season, the south garden will still be open for you to come inside and wander. If it’s later, the south garden will be closed. You will only be able to see from the gate outside.

My favorite is the different fall colors on the ivy wall of the building.

Luke in Grant Park in Chicago in the fall

Grant Park

Grant Park is sometimes overlooked because of the popularity of Millennium Park. But one of my favorite spots to find a sea of yellow leaves is in Grant Park. We went here one year after seeing all the yellow trees from Lakeshore Drive. Luke was trying to look for sticks underneath all the leaves. We plan to go again this year with the twins. I can’t wait.

Inside Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park and Lincoln Park Zoo

We never really walked around Lincoln Park during the fall until last year since we are always chasing fall colors downtown. But Lincoln Park did not disappoint with the huge trees and diversity of fall colors.

Did you know that admission to Lincoln Park Zoo is free? Get into the actual zoo area early and check out the fall foliage all around the zoo. My favorite place is just by the entrance to the zoo. Sit on a bench and enjoy all the yellow leaves.

Fall at the Lincoln Park Nature Boardwalk

The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo is always a popular place for tourists and family portraits. It’s so popular because you get the city skyline views while in the midst of the beautiful fall foliage.

In front of Farm in the Zoo

Don’t forget about the Farm-in-the-Zoo area for fall leaves. I discovered this place last year and can’t wait to go back for all the yellow leaves.

University of Chicago Campus

We always try to make to the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park each year during the fall. The campus is filled large trees and ivy hugging the buildings. It doesn’t really feel like you’re in Chicago when you are there. I always think I’m in a middle of Harry Potter’s world when I’m there.

These pictures were taken a few years ago at the University of Chicago in our twinning fox sweaters. I hope we have time to go back this year.

House on Dearborn Street in the Gold Coast Chicago

Residential Neighborhood Streets

While it’s true that you can find fall foliage in all the parks I listed but don’t forget about the many Chicago neighborhoods with tree-lined streets. A few of my favorite Chicago neighborhoods for fall foliage are the Gold Coast (on Dearbon Street), Lincoln Park (off Armitage Ave – this was the area that Charlie and took our engagement photos at almost 10 years ago) and Andersonville (just east of Clark St.)

Fall at Elawa Farm in Lake Forest

Additional Places in Chicago We Will Explore For Fall Foliage this Year

Our plan this fall is to explore places we have not been to to see the fall colors. My top three new places to see fall foliage are: the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond in Lincoln Park, North Park Village Nature Center in Chicago, the Osaka Japanese Garden in Hyde Park. I’ll be expanding this post after we visit these places. Happy exploring!

Fall Foliage in the Chicagoland Area

I’ve kept this list for places to find foliage in the city of Chicago. But if you want to venture out to the suburbs, there are some pretty spectacular fall foliage. Visit the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois; Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois; the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois; and Elawa Farm in Lake Forest (this was where we took our family portraits 5 years ago!).

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