As you go past the city limits during fall, the skyscrapers give way to apple orchards & pumpkin patches. The air smells of kettle corn and apple cider donuts. Trees burst with captivating gold, red, and orange. And after dark, even a few ghosts roam the streets looking to enjoy the season, too.
Day 1: Plainfield, Homer Glen, Justice, Lemont, Joliet, and Lockport
As you breathe in the crisp air of this idyllic autumn morning, it’s tough to imagine the ghostly frights and supernatural mysteries you’ll encounter once night rolls around. But push that out of your mind for now — you need to decide how you’ll start your day.
From hayrides to pumpkin and apple picking, you’ll have your hands full at Bronkberry Farms in Plainfield. If you stop here, make sure to grab some freshly grown veggies on the way out.
Or perhaps you’d rather check out Bengtson’s Pumpkin Farm in Homer Glen. This delightful farm-carnival hybrid offers ample attractions to fill an entire day, so you’ll need to be strategic. Which rousing ride looks most exhilarating, Rooster Rodeo, Rockin’ Rabbits or Barnyard Dance Cow Coaster? Do you dare for a scare in the Haunted Barn or fancy a ride on a pretty pony?
It’s still early, but you’ve been quite the busybody — it’s time for a pit stop. Head to Willowbrook for lunch at Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket, a nostalgia-inspiring Route 66 mainstay that was featured on the hit show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.
Get the blood circulating again with Zombie Apocalypse Tactical Laser Tag at The Forge: Lemont Quarries Adventure Park. During October, you can courageously enter this post-apocalyptic world and battle a horde of the undead to prevent them from overtaking the world. No pressure, though.
Surviving a zombie revolution can be draining — you’ve earned a drink, a snack and a break from the chaos at Corner Stone Tavern a couple blocks away.
The journey resumes with a drive to Joliet, where you’ll check into the Hollywood Casino Hotel. If you have some time, feel free to dabble in table games or place a wager at the onsite sportsbook. Reserve a table for dinner at Final Cut Steakhouse, which is located within the hotel.
After a brief respite, the ghoulish tour continues. Not far from the hotel, you’ll discover Haunted Trails, a Halloween-themed park with endless opportunities for family fun, including go-karts, miniature golf, and batting cages. If it’s chilly outside, step into the Monsters’ Tomb Game Room and aim at winning a huge selection of prizes.
Does an ominous, 19th-century prison sound more appealing than a theme park? If so, opt for a tour of Old Joliet Prison instead, where you’ll be regaled with grim stories and chilling rumors of nefarious criminals who spent hard time locked within its walls. Keep in mind that haunted tours happen on Fridays.
If HellsGate Haunted House sounds creepy and foreboding, well…that’s because it is. Within this isolated mansion deep in the Lockport woods, you’ll have to brave secret passages, giant slides, and shocking surprises while attempting to keep a clear head to finish the journey. Remember to book your adventure in advance.
Congratulations, you made it through. You’ve made it this far — there’s no going back now. Head to the hotel, get some sleep, and brace yourself for round two.
Day 2: Lisle, Libertyville, and Gurnee
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so this is a big decision: The Southern Cafe in nearby Crest Hill, or Egg Harbor Cafe a bit further up the road in Naperville? Both menus offer a wide range of wholesome American breakfast dishes, and each includes fun pancake flavors fit for the season — s’mores at The Southern, and pumpkin at Egg Harbor.
The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is a wondrous sight to behold any time of year, but in the autumn, it’s truly spectacular. See the vivid fall colors at its Maple Collection, vote for your favorite handmade scarecrow on the Scarecrow Trail, and peruse (and purchase) striking, glass-blown art at the Glass Pumpkin Patch.
For your midday meal, make a choice between two Libertyville favorites: Clucker’s Charcoal Kitchen and The Picnic Basket. At Clucker’s, it’s all things chicken — tender wings, crispy sandwiches, juicy breasts…you get the picture. Or, grab some grub at The Picnic Basket, including giant sandwiches and steaming homemade chili.
Hopefully, you’re thirsty because the Lake County Libation Trail — and its 20+ breweries, wineries and distilleries — eagerly awaits your exploration. If your journey takes you through Wheeling, you can stop at Lynfred Winery, a satellite location for Illinois’ oldest and largest winery.
If at any point you find yourself within striking distance of Spring Grove, do yourself a favor and check out Richardson Adventure Farm. With so many fun activities at your fingertips, it’d be impossible to list them all here. That being said, how many farms feature a 700-foot zipline and the ability to ride inside a giant, 11-foot rolling ball?
Few destinations both endear and instill fear simultaneously, but Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America pulls it off with aplomb. Once night falls, the rousing theme park transforms into a ghoulish entertainment extravaganza, delivering intense thrills, spooky shows and unnervingly realistic haunted houses.
At long last, it’s time to retire to the safety of your hotel. History enthusiasts may want to lodge in Lake Forest at The Forester Hyatt Place (the first hotel to open in the community since 1929), where you’ll appreciate the scenic lakefront setting and convenient modern amenities. Or opt for the Hampton Inn Chicago/Waukegan, conveniently located just a few miles from Six Flags.
Day 3: Glencoe and Brookfield
You’re on the home stretch, but there’s still time to squeeze some final morsels of fun out of the trip. Head to the Chicago Botanic Garden to stroll through a natural oasis unlike any other in the area, then dine at the onsite Garden View Cafe as you continue to bask in your serene surroundings.
If you’d rather mingle with bats and bears, you can instead visit Spirit Elephant in Winnetka for an organic, plant-based breakfast before driving to Brookfield Zoo. On weekends leading up to Halloween, Boo at the Zoo will be in full swing, where you can pose for photos with creepy crawlers and keep your eyes peeled for roaming werewolves.