25 Fall Activities To Help You Revel In The Season


By Alaina Stratton, Senior News Contributing Editor

Midwest dwellers have long appreciated the beauty of the fall. Before the long, dark months of winter come to northern Illinois, adults and families alike take advantage of agreeable temperatures and stunning foliage. The autumn season will eventually come to an end, but there are a variety of ways to enjoy and savor the season while it lasts. Here are 25 ideas, from the very practical to the out-of-the-ordinary ways to celebrate fall holidays, savor the weather, and connect with family and friends.

Craft with your grandkids. Utilize homeschooling websites or those of craft queens like Martha Stewart to plan a day of fall-themed crafting with your grandchildren. Use leaves and other found objects to create art, teach them how to knit or crochet, or start planning Christmas gifts to make for other family members.

Go “leafing.” Plan a drive to your favorite forest preserve, or better yet, out into the more rural areas to the west and north of the Chicago area. Northern Illinois boasts a multitude of state parks and forest preserves. Depending on where you head, you’ll see a variety of colors to brighten your day.

Go to the zoo. Try Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Summerfield Zoo in Belvidere, which specializes in exotic animals; Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora, and large number of smaller petting zoos throughout the area.

Join the community. The Chicagoland and Rockford areas are full of libraries, senior center, and park districts offering special events free or at low cost for residents and non-residents alike. If you’ve never taken advantage of these events, now is the time! Visit local organizations or their websites to get the low down on what fall festivals, educational events, hikes and biking, and other activities are offered in your area for older adults to meet and connect with one another.

Volunteer and make a difference. The winter and holiday seasons provide a new set of challenges for those in our community who are isolated, experiencing harship, or disabled. Join a local organization to bring joy or relief to those in your town — whether it’s volunteering at a local soup kitchen or food bank, becoming a mentor, starting a fund at your church to help others afford Christmas gifts, or even fostering dogs waiting for homes, there is plenty to do in this season to bring warmth and joy to those that need it most.

Take a fall foliage tour of your neighborhood. If time is short but you don’t want to miss out on the color show, the trees throughout your own neighborhood are sure to delight. Plan a route based on the distance you can comfortable cover, ideally with a park where you can stop to enjoy a picnic lunch before heading back.

Stroll along the lakefront. Beaches have a majestic quality any time of year. Without sunbathers and swimmers to contend with, a walk along the shore lets you appreciate the waves crashing, the wind in your hair and the sun warming your face. Spending time there in contemplation puts perspective on the hustle-bustle life we lives.

Plan a leaf party. Invite friends over when it’s time to rake and make short work of it — but don’t forget the best part! No one is ever too old to get a kick out of taking a running leap and landing in a soft pillow of leaves. The party can reconvene on subsequent days so each friend is given a hand with the task.

Cut the last of the late summer flowers. You can simply vase them to enjoy in all their glory for a week or more, or try your hand at drying or pressing them for later use.

Visit a pumpkin farm. Illinois is the pumpkin capital of the US, with farms easily within reach no matter where you live. Do a little research first, to find one that offers activities in addition to picking pumpkins if you’re interested.

Welcome harvest season. In addition to decorating for Halloween, any displays you create specifically highlighting the autumn season can be left in place through Thanksgiving. Attractive components might include bales of hay, corn stalks, multicolored corn cobs, pumpkins and gourds, mums, and of course, scarecrows.

Visit public gardens. Places like Cantigny in Wheaton, Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, and Nicholas Conservatory and Garden in Rockford let you walk the grounds and see Mother Nature at her best.

Repot your houseplants. After the active growing season (spring and summer), most houseplants need to be repotted. Use fresh soil appropriate to the particular type of plant, and a slightly larger pot to give them enough space for healthy growth.

Connect with your family. Use the shortening days to get in cozy quality time with loved ones. Teach your grandkids one of your favorite card games or past times, or start making a list of sports events or movies you can watch together when it’s too cold to go outside in the months to come.

Create off-season interest. Just because summer is over is no reason to deprive yourself of flowers! Set up large, weather-proof flower pots and fill them with multicolored mums. When cold weather arrives, swap the mums for pine boughs decorate with red or gold ribbon to brighten the winter landscape. Pansies can replace the pine very early in the spring and will do well until temperatures warm enough for traditional summer plants.

Walk your dog. Or enjoy a stroll with a friend. It’s hard to get out in extreme heat or cold, so take advantage of the comfort autumn brings.

Tend your gardens. It’s just about time to pull last season’s annuals and mulch your beds for winter. Prune and cover tender perennials, replenish the compost bin with yard waste and food scraps, and start dreaming about next season’s plans.

Plant spring bulbs. Tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, crocus, iris and lilies are the harbingers of spring. But they need to get their start right now! Plant spring bulbs before the hard frost for a beautiful display next year.

Go camping. Illinois has a multitude of beautiful parks within driving distance with amenities for campers. Enjoy the season by getting out into nature — camping, fishing, and creating memories with friends and family to keep you warm through the dark winter months. Large stores like REI often offer classes in camping and related skills for those who are new — or you can use the opportunity to bond with a friend or family member who already knows the ropes!

Go apple picking. Freshly picked apples have a richer, more pleasing flavor than those that are picked from afar, waxed, and transported to our local grocery stores. Make it a family event so you can share the bounty.

Haunt your house. Halloween is just around the corner, and young trick-or-treaters will enjoy the chills and thrills that come form visiting your house turned haunted. Elaborate mechanical decor, complete with motion and sound effects, can be found in most big box stores, but very spookily pleasing results can be achieved on a more modest budget.

Prepare your home for winter. Check caulking and weather seal around doors and windows; give the gutters a final cleaning when the last of the leaves are down; put away the spades and rakes and make sure your sidewalk salt and shovels are handy!

Fertilize your lawn. Experts recommend a final application of fertilizer between September and November to help strengthen roots and store nitrogen for use in the early spring.

Ride a bike. Get a little extra exercise while you’re enjoying the sights of the season. Invite a friend to join you or arrange to meet a family member for lunch when you reach your destination.

Watch the sunset. Sure, the sun will continue setting every night all winter long. But enjoy watching the event from your favorite spot in the yard, enjoying the mild temperature and the perfect end to a picturesque day in this most glorious of seasons.