There are so many activities and events geared toward families, in fact, that it's impossible for parents to know about them all. Jean Lemke, co-founder of kidwinks.com, is here today with several suggestions for you from their Fall Fun Guide.
For many more ideas on kid-friendly events, restaurants where kids eat free, and seasonal family activities, visit www.kidwinks.com, a website that gathers Chicago area family-friendly events, activities and more into one easily searchable database.
Michigan Fall Colors - Warren Dunes State Park
Southwestern Michigan is just 1.5 - 2 hours from Chicago, and offers many options for families to enjoy the great outdoors and beautiful fall colors. One that is not to be missed is Warren Dunes State Park. This park sits on 1,950 acres with three miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline and 6 miles of trails. The rugged dune formation rises 240 feet above the lake and offers spectacular views. On a clear day you can see the Chicago skyline across from the top of Tower Hill sand dune.
Where: Sawyer, MI When: Open year-round. Cost: Vehicle permit is required to enter state parks; fee is $8/day for non-residents. Ages: All ages.
From a crazy costume parade to pumpkin-carving demonstrations, Brookfield Zoo's annual Boo! at the Zoo festival is the perfect way to celebrate Halloween, and everyone is invited to attend! The not-so-scary event will include frightfully fun activities for the entire family! Some of the fun includes zoo chats on "Halloween-type" animals like bats, spiders, owls and snakes; pumpkins for the bears and hippos; and Halloween crafts for the kids. Area high school marching bands will lead a costume parade on each of the four days of this event.
When: October 16-17, 23-24
Cost: Zoo admission: Adults $13.50; Seniors 65 and Over $9.50; Children 3 to 11 $9.50
Most Boo at the Zoo activities are included with zoo admission except the Haunted Hayrides, which are $4 for adults and $2 for children.
Ages: All ages.
Pumpkin Patch at Park Ridge Community Church
If you are searching for the perfect pumpkin, and want your pumpkin dollars to benefit a good cause, then you need look no further! Visit the Youth Pumpkin Patch at Park Ridge Community Church (PRCC) in the heart of Park Ridge. More than 2,000 pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, plus other seasonal items such as Indian corn and gourds, will be on display and available for sale.
Proceeds from the patch sale will be shared between the New Mexico Navajo Tribe that grows the pumpkins and the PRCC Youth Ministry Fund, which supports community outreach projects, an annual youth mission trip, and other youth ministry activities.
Weekends bring special entertainment and free Saturday evening showings of the classic movie "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". All are welcome to visit the Patch for pictures of the kids with pumpkins or the weekend activities, whether or not you choose to purchase anything.
Find many more Pumpkin Farms on kidwinks.com.
Where: Church's field at Prospect and Crescent Avenues in Park Ridge When: Patch open daily October 16 - 31; movie in the patch shown Saturdays at dusk. Cost: Free to visit the patch and view the movie; pumpkins are priced by size. Ages: All ages.
Danada Fall Festival of the Horse
There are many fall festivals occurring around the Chicago area, but one of the more unique ones is the Danada Fall Festival of the Horse at the Danada Equestrian Center, which is part of the DuPage Forest Preserves. Kids generally LOVE horses, and this is a unique and free opportunity for them to see horse performances and learn a bit about them.
Main-arena events will feature the Danada Equestrian Center's resident Percherons, American quarter horses and mustangs as well as the Danada volunteer musical horseback drill team. Families can enjoy hayrides through the autumn woods; watch a farrier make horseshoes; tour the Kentucky-style barn; and learn about horse care.
Children can decorate paper hobbyhorses for a romp in the main arena, play in the straw pen, paint pumpkins, climb up a tall oak tree, or stop by the face-painting booth.
Kidwinks lists many more fall festivals.
Where: Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton
When: Sunday, October 10
Cost: Free admission and parking; some activities have a small fee
Ages: All ages
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,117 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. It's an excellent place to celebrate autumn by taking in the gorgeous fall colors and enjoying the many fall-related activities offered for families and children. These include a Scarecrow Trail, fall theatre hike and taffy apple bar as well as games, pumpkin painting and spider crafts in the Children's Garden.
When: Open daily 7am - sunset
Cost: $11 Adults (18-64); $10 Seniors (65+); $8 Youth (2-17); Children under 2 are free Admission includes FREE parking; Wednesdays are discounted admission days.
Ages: All ages
Apple Pie in a Bag - The Elegant Farmer
The apple pies Jean brought with her are from the Elegant Farmer, home of the award-winning Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag®. The Elegant Farmer is noted by Gourmet and the Wall Street Journal as having "the best pie in America." The award-winning Apple Pie Baked in a Paper Bag has been the farmer's signature item for decades, and over a quarter of a million of these pies are baked each year.
During the Autumn Harvest Festival, everyone is welcome to The Elegant Farmer's orchard to pick from its 12 varieties of apples right from the tree or pumpkins from the patch. Enjoy beautiful fall colors aboard a tractor-pulled hayride or vintage trolley ride. The East Troy Electric Railroad's turn-of-the-century trolley departs Saturdays and Sundays from and returning to The Elegant Farmer.
Find many more Apple Orchards http://www.kidwinks.com/FamilyFun/OutdoorKidsActivities/ApplePicking/ and Pumpkin Farms http://www.kidwinks.com/FamilyFun/OutdoorKidsActivities/PumpkinFarm/ on kidwinks.com.
Where: Mukwonago, WI
When: Open year-round; Autumn Harvest Festival and apple picking runs through October 30.
Cost: Pies in a Bag are $19.99 each or $34.99 for two and can be ordered online.
Ages: All ages
Kidwinks.com is a boutique website that caters to today's generation of parents who are time-crunched, socially conscious and internet reliant. Kidwinks provides one-stop access to information about kid-friendly events, activities, restaurants, shops and services in the Chicago area. There is no charge to use kidwinks and membership is also free. Members enjoy additional benefits including email reminders and the ability to sort search results by distance from their home. Developed by two Park Ridge, IL moms, kidwinks has grown to thousands of members. For more information, please visit www.kidwinks.com.