Turning a new leaf
Chicago offers plenty of fall colors for family viewing—all without ever “leaf”-ing the city.
Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary (East of Lake Shore Drive at Addison, no phone).More than 150 species of winged creatures stop here on their journeys south for the winter, landing on red-rimmed oaks and hackberry trees in full bloom. No people are allowed in the sanctuary itself, but a viewing platform overlooking ponds offers the perfect vantage point for seeing the changing colors—and birds on their way out of town. (Lincoln Park at Addison Ave, no phone).
Columbus Park (500 S Central Ave, 773-287-7641). Famed landscape architect Jens Jensen worked on this 144-acre beauty on the city’s Far West Side. While the appeal of the Norway maples and scarlet oaks extends year-round, visit in the fall to get lost in picturesque colors along the park’s peaceful brooks.
Gompers Park (4222 W Foster Ave, 773-685-3270). This Northwest Side gem boasts a Chicago River trail lined with mature oak trees that were planted circa 1810. Follow the trail from one edge of the park’s restored wetlands to the other and marvel at the glowing yellow color. On the south side of Foster, white ash trees give off a deep hue throughout autumn.
Humboldt Park (1400 N Sacramento Ave, 312-742-7549).Another Jensen-designed park, Humboldt features a prairie-style river dotted with buckeyes that transform from green to cinnamon. Burgundy oak trees are a must-see, as well as tupelos that turn crimson with splashes of yellow.
North Park Village Nature Center (5801 N Pulaski Rd, 312-744-5472).This oft-forgotten nature center features more than 46 acres of natural splendor, including woodland trails, wetlands, prairies and savannas. It’s a beautiful place to visit any time of the year, but fall is when it’s most colorful. The center also hosts its 20th annual Harvest Fest October 15–16, with live music, a farmers’ market and a scarecrow-building contest.
Wooded Island at Jackson Park (6401 S Stony Island Ave, 773-256-0903). Inside Jackson Park sits Wooded Island, a secluded area in the lagoon accessible from the main park via bridge. With trees planted more than 100 years go (during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition), the site will transport you to arboretum days of yore, surrounded by oaks, ashes, white hazels and maples in a kaleidoscope of colors, including all shades of yellow and red.