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The Best Ways to Enjoy the Chicago Southland Autumn With Kids

By published September 14, 2021

By LuLu Yang

Autumn is a special time for parents and kids because the weather is perfect! Chicago Southland is also the perfect place to head outdoors and make memories. Fall festivals and events, farmers markets, nature hikes, and a number of low-or-no-cost activities in Chicago Southland will keep the kids busy after school, on weekends, and during holiday breaks.  


Parks and Rec

Autumn’s cool temperatures attract children to area playgrounds for a bit of fresh air and exercise. The Chicago Ridge Park District has several family-friendly parks in the Southland area, complete with colorful foliage and walking paths. Take along a picnic lunch or snack and a few bottles of water for your active (and always-hungry) children. 

  • Tot Lot is at 107th and Menard, where you’ll find a playground, ball field, and walking paths.
  • Freedom Park, a 10-acre expanse located at the edge of Birmingham and Oak, has two baseball fields, a picnic area, a playground, a basketball court, soccer, and football fields.
  • Frontier Park on South Sayre features a playground, picnic spots, volleyball and basketball courts, and walking paths.
  • Guardian Park is at 104th street and Nashville. With picnic tables, a playground, and a basketball court, this small recreational area is a quiet place for a sunny afternoon.
  • Close to Ridge Central and Finley schools, Jenkins Memorial Park, on 107th and Lombard, has playground equipment and picnic tables.
  • Joanne Christian Memorial Park sits on nearly 6 acres at 107th and Menard. Pack a lunch and stop by to watch a baseball game or two.
  • Tower Park, Village Memorial Park, and O’Connell Park are also nearby for a few hours of playground fun and picnicking.


Gardens and Preserves

Public gardens are a great place to remind children of the importance of flowers, trees, and the environment. Point out plants and flowers native to Chicago, such as wild bergamot, foxglove, and phlox. (You may have some of these in your own flower beds). Golden-yellow, orange, red, and maroon-colored mums are a few of the fall flowers you’re bound to see in gardens and nature centers -- probably some asters, pansies, and primrose, too. Black-eyed Susans and coneflowers are standard for fall gardens.

Forest Preserves of Cook County

A great place for walking, hiking, bird watching, horseback riding (bring your own horse), fishing, picnicking, and camping, just to name a few. Visit the nature center where you can learn why it is NOT a good idea to feed wildlife.

Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Gardens

Explore nature, take a class, rent a canoe, check out the waterfall and prairie, and just relax at Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens located within the Chicago Southland area. Take the kids on a nature walk -- Lake Katherine is home to more than 120 bird species, 17 types of reptiles, 19 kinds of mammals, and several dozen species of fish. Trees, colorful fall flowers, shrubbery, and floating water plants are growing throughout the park. (photo by Orlando Gonzales @Lakes77)

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Located on Willow Springs Road, the nature center offers educational programs, animals, exhibits, self-guided trails, and various events throughout the fall.  


Do the Zoo

If a zoo visit isn’t on your autumn adventures list, add it! The Brookfield Zoo on 31st Street and First Avenue is a family favorite. Check out the dolphins in action. wild encounters, hands-on experiences, play zoo, and the zoo animals carousel ride. 


Fun and Games

Gaming arcades have come a long way in the last few years; your kids will enjoy a day at Odyssey Fun World. In Chicago Southland area 2, you’ll find In The Game with an arcade, miniature golf, go-karts, giant slide, bumper cars, and more. Perfect for Halloween, Haunted Trails Burbank in Chicago Southland has games, rides, mini-golf, and trails with a haunting theme. Urban Air Adventure Park in Mokena is a trampoline and adventure park. After a day of jumping, climbing walls, and working their way through the ropes course, you can bet they’ll sleep well.


Don’t Blink

Chicago Southland has its share of things to do, but the best part of the day is sharing these activities with your children. Take a lot of pictures and don't blink -- time does fly.

As an army brat, LuLu Yang lived all over the world throughout her childhood. She caught the travel bug early, and she still can't shake it. Now, she makes her living trotting the globe, uncovering the best sights to see and the tastiest treats to enjoy.


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