All over Illinois, autumn transforms cities, towns, and forests into a vivid landscape of spectacular views
BY ILLINOIS OFFICE OF TOURISM
The breeze off Lake Michigan meets the cool, crisp air of autumn. Bits of red, yellow, and orange dapple the trees lining the Chicago streets or climbing the bluffs of a riverside byway. At family-owned apple orchards, visitors warm up with fresh cups of hot cider.
Garden of the Gods.
All over Illinois, autumn transforms cities, towns, and forests into a vivid landscape full of relaxing activities and spectacular views.
Shawnee National Forest
In the city of Chicago, the autumn air is a perfect excuse for al fresco drinking at locals’ favourite rooftop bars and patios. Throughout the city, people celebrate the season with autumn festivals and Oktoberfests.
One of the newest sights is right in the heart of the city’s LGBTQ neighbourhood, a stretch of North Halsted Street known as Boystown. Designed by local artist Matthew Hoffman, the new art installation invites travellers of all kinds to feel at home in Illinois, a destination that prides itself on being Amazing For All.
Amazing For All art installation
Home to great restaurants, gay bars, and vintage shops along a pedestrian-friendly corridor, Boystown is a relaxing place to spend the day, but it’s also where you’ll find some of the city’s rowdiest parties.
At night, the bars open up the dance floors and drag queens hit the stage for rousing performances. But you’ll want to bring your own costume for parties such as the Northalsted Halloween Parade — ranked one of the 10 Best Halloween Celebrations in the US by Fodor’s Travel Guide.
Every year, a horde of zombies resurrects Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” dance to kick off the parade. If you dare, enter the costume contest judged by a panel of drag queens, or just enjoy the autumnal festivities in one of Chicago’s most spirited neighbourhoods.
Great River Road
This season is also a great time get out of the city and explore the rest of Illinois. As red and orange hues begin to pepper the landscape, you’ll find some of the most spectacular views with a road trip to chase the fall colour along the Great River Road.
The scenic byway runs parallel to the great Mississippi River, with stops along Illinois’ idyllic river towns, including the romantic getaway of Galena, and activities such as ziplining and hiking.
In Southern Illinois, where the hues of Shawnee National Forest pair perfectly with colourful vineyards, getting away means raising a glass of Illinois Made wine. Located in Alto Pass, Alto Vineyards is just one of 11 independent vineyards and wineries along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.
It’s the perfect excuse to explore a region filled with charming antique shops, outdoor adventures, and lodging options ranging from cosy bed and breakfasts to rustic cabins.
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