The feeling of fall. It is an undeniable yearning to seek out the comforts of the season and the best that nature has to offer. We wait, we watch, and plan — with the hope to time it just right to find ourselves in a moment filled with the tranquility that only fall’s brilliant shades of color can deliver. We know the importance of these moments. We are grateful for nature’s abundance in DuPage and to share this list with you.
- THE MORTON ARBORETUM
As you approach the arboretum and glance at the horizon beyond, you get the feeling that you’re in for something spectacular. The arboretum is vast, yet intimate. It envelopes and inspires. And during the fall, the crisp fall air and stunning vistas of fiery orange, warm gold, and vivid crimson fill your senses. Find yourself on a scenic road, or perhaps find much-needed alone time on a hike. With demand to visit year round but particularly in the fall, please plan accordingly, reserve in advance your timed-entry tickets, and know before you go.
- DANADA FOREST PRESERVE, EQUESTRIAN CENTER AND FARM
A trip to Kentucky horse country without leaving DuPage. At Danada, awe and respect for horses harmoniously blends with appreciation for nature. Roam the meticulously maintained estate grounds, its gardens and surrounding preserve. Nearly three miles of the nationally designated Danada-Herrick Regional Trail wind through prairie, woodland and marsh habitats — particularly scenic during fall. Extend your trip to include the full Hoofbeats through History experience in our Natural Wanders series, with Danada as your starting point in a five-preserve adventure.
(Photo courtesy of @sheristapleton)
- CANTIGNY PARK
Cantigny Park lands on almost every list we create and there is good reason — it offers a dynamic mix of beautiful grounds, horticultural design and nature, history and storytelling, and quite frankly one of the most unique urban escapes to be found in DuPage. In the fall, Cantigny’s gardens – among the largest in the Midwest – are simply stunning. Bring your binoculars, fall is prime bird watching season at Cantigny.
- ILLINOIS PRAIRIE PATH (IPP)
There is something to be said for “firsts.” The IPP started it all, and decades later we’re seeing the rail-to-trail movement go full steam across the country. With 40 miles in DuPage, a ribbon of color extends for miles and miles — uplifting certainly for the eye but also the soul. Simply enjoy or stop along the way for the fall beauty and the small-town charm of downtown Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn and Wheaton. The IPP is off-road and entirely crushed limestone — making this excursion accessible and enjoyable for all.
- GOLF IN DUPAGE
This time of year, nature is at its best on the rolling greens. Spend the day out in the cool fall air in a landscape perfected by pops of color. DuPage is a renowned golf destination, welcoming novices to the pros. With more than 50 golf courses to choose from, a number of which are award-winning and feature varied terrains, this is a DuPage fall favorite.
- FULLERSBURG WOODS FOREST PRESERVE
Not far off from the urban rush is a small destination most noted for the historic Graue Mill and Museum, but we think the magic of fall here rivals that of bigger destinations. Quaint bridges seem to come alive in fall as if inviting you to a special place on the other side. The “Flat Bridge” at Fullersburg Woods does just that, transporting visitors on their fall escape. It is a perfect place to appreciate your surroundings, with a beautiful view of the nearby Education Center (open 10am – 3pm Monday through Saturday). The 2.3-mile Night Heron Trail is popular among fall enthusiasts. This is a wildlife haven — you are sure to see animals along your way, including migratory birds.
- WILDER PARK
This is not just your usual park. Wilder Park is part of the pulse of Elmhurst, welcoming residents and visitors to meander, stay a little longer and truly feel the best of small-town charm. This is a beautiful spot to be admired… your place to unwind, picnic in the park under a shade tree, and appreciate the warmth of color across 17 acres. Whether walking the grounds of Wilder Mansion, exploring Wilder Park Conservatory, strolling the formal gardens, or letting the kids loose at the playground, you will feel a sense of familiar comfort but delight in the unexpected. Be sure to plan a stop at Elmhurst Art Museum, at the northern corner of the park, to experience a beauty all its own.
- PRATT’S WAYNE WOODS
Pratty’s Wayne Woods is the largest forest preserve in DuPage and naturally, a good location to experience fall on its 12 miles of trails. With five lakes, this preserve is popular for fishing (valid Illinois fishing license required). In 2004, Audubon named this an important bird area, with 256 acres protected through its designation as the Brewster Creek Marsh Nature Preserve. Its grasslands and wetland habitats are successful breeding sites for sandhill cranes, Henslow’s sparrows, least bitterns, yellow-headed blackbirds and other rare species. Some of the most spectacular bird photos we have seen come from visitors to this preserve.
- THE FORGE: LEMONT QUARRIES
An adventure park may seem like an odd choice to appreciate fall’s beauty, but this park is unlike any other. The Forge is located in the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area, home to seven beautiful quarry lakes perfect for a fall afternoon on a pedal boat, canoe or kayak (rentals available). Or go vertical for a scenic view from the sky! Options include ziplines, rock walls, and their renowned high-ropes challenge. Kids 3 and older can enjoy the Kids Adventure Zone. With a full events calendar that includes trivia nights, concert series, special “adventure dining” options and more, The Forge offers the perfect pairing of scenic outdoors and endless activities.