Local parks, forest preserves, botanical gardens, zoos, arboretums, and national parks in Chicagoland offer a variety of Halloween activities this weekend through October 31 for kids. They range from scary hikes, spooky stories, hay rides, encounters with fearsome animals such as spiders and bats, pumpkin-carving, and Halloween parties. A small fee is required for some events; many others are free, but you may have to pre-register. (Event costs at the Chicago Botanic Garden and Brookfield Zoo are higher.) Be sure to double-check times/details with the event host. Here’s a roundup of some popular events, with my comments and descriptions from their websites. After you attend an event, be sure to check out the nature center, savor the vivid fall colors, take a short hike, and simply enjoy nature.
EVENTS IN CHICAGO AND THE FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF COOK COUNTY
BROOKFIELD ZOO (First Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield, IL, 708/688-8000)
- Boo! at the Zoo: Tons of fun activities for kids. Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29, 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
CAMP SULLIVAN (14630 Oak Park Avenue, Oak Forest, IL, 708/386-4042)
- Halloween Hike and Happenings: “Take a night hike, try ghost hunting, and listen to scary stories at Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery. Try our climbing wall, and enjoy live music and s’mores. Costumes are welcome.” Saturday, October 28, 5:00-9:00 p.m.
CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN (1000 Lake Cook Road Glencoe, IL, 847/835-5440)
- Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns: “More than 1,000 hand-carved pumpkins—some as large as 150 pounds—will light up the night at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The LED-lit jack-o’-lanterns will be staged along a festive, paved pathway, starting at the Esplanade. Along the way, encounter entertaining characters, watch live carving, and view the ghostly trains in the Model Railroad Garden: Landmarks of America. Ghoulish eats & drinks.” Act fast because tickets are going quickly. Thursday-Sunday, October 26-29, 6:30-10:30 p.m.
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT
- Dozens of Halloween-related activities at parks across the city from Friday, October 27 through Tuesday, October 31.
CRABTREE NATURE CENTER (3 Stover Road Barrington Hills, IL, 847/381-6592)
- Somewhat Scary Stories: Storytelling and treats around a campfire. Family-friendly. Friday, October 27, 7:00 p.m.
- Owls, Bats and Spiders: “Dissect an owl pellet, listen to bat calls, and meet an owl up close.” Sunday, October 29, 1:00 p.m.
LINCOLN PARK ZOO (2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL, 312/742-2000)
- Spooky Zoo: The zoo’s annual free, safe, and family-friendly Halloween celebration. Saturday, October 28, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
RIVER TRAIL NATURE CENTER (3120 Milwaukee Avenue, Northbrook, IL, 847/824-8360)
- The Un-haunted Forest: “Come in costume for a magical hike through the forest. Registration required.” Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29, 1:30 p.m.
SAND RIDGE NATURE CENTER (15891 Paxton Avenue, South Holland, IL, 708/868-0606)
- A Sand Ridge Halloween: “Bats, spiders, and snakes are just a few critters which help make the spookiest holiday so fun. Come and learn about these fascinating creatures and why they’re really not so scary. Costumes strongly encouraged.” Sunday, October 29, 1:30 p.m.
EVENTS IN THE FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF DUPAGE COUNTY
MORTON ARBORETUM (4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL, 630/968-0074)
- Trick or Trees: “Play tricky games, fashion fun fall crafts, and plant a tree seed to take home as your treat. Small pumpkins to paint will also be available for purchase. Costumes encouraged.” Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
FULLERSBURG WOODS NATURE EDUCATION CENTER (3609 Spring Road, Oak Brook, IL, 630/850-8110)
- Halloween Night Walks: “Enjoy Halloween tricks and natural-history tales during a 75-minute guided walk through the woods after dark. Short stops along the way will delight you with dramatic antics and humorous tales. These walks are a spook-tacular treat! Ages 2 and up; under 18 with an adult.” Saturday, October 28, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
ST. JAMES FARM FOREST PRESERVE (East side of Winfield Road, 0.25 mile north of Butterfield Road, Warrenville, IL)
- Autumn Moon Hayride: “Enjoy a rare chance to experience the preserve after the sun sets and hear stories about the moon on a 30-minute tractor-drawn ride. Then, enjoy hot cocoa and s’mores by the fire. Rides begin at 6:00, 6:30, and 7:00 p.m. All ages; under 13 with an adult.” Friday, October 27, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
EVENTS IN THE MCHENRY COUNTY CONSERVATION DISTRICT
HICKORY GROVE CONSERVATION AREA (500 Hickory Nut Grove Road, Cary, IL, 815/338-6223)
- Trick or Trees: “Enjoy some family time in the company of trees, learning what makes them special and about the services they provide. Travel the tree ID trail, finish the Family Tree Scavenger Hunt, play tree games, do a hands-on tree craft, and take the time to hug a tree. No tricks will be necessary, as treats will be shared with all who show their appreciation for trees!” Saturday, October 28, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
EVENTS IN THE FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF KANE COUNTY
LEROY OAKES FOREST PRESERVE (37W700 Dean Street, St. Charles, IL, 630/444-3190)
- Scary Stories in the Woods: “Gather around the campfire for an evening of spooky stories, told by master storytellers from the St. Charles Public Library! This frightful program is for adults and children ages 8 and above. Meet outside Creek Bend Nature Center. Be there, if you dare! Advance registration is required.” Saturday, October 28, 8:00-9:00 p.m.
EVENTS IN THE NATIONAL PARKS
INDIANA DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE (645 Broadway Avenue, Beverly Shores, IN, 219/395-1882)
- Halloween Campground Program: Held at Campsite 28 at Dunewood Campground. “There will be a showing of a Halloween video and ghost stories…Campers are encouraged to decorate their campsites. Be sure to bring your children out to trick-or-treat…Campsites at the campground are on a first-come, first-served basis.” Saturday, October 28, 6:00-9:00 p.m. (Central Time)
Copyright (text, except quoted material) Andrew Morkes; photos courtesy of Google Commons