1800s buildings flank wide streets in the charming downtown area of St. Charles, Illinois, located 40 miles west of Chicago. During the fall, brilliant-hued trees and the sparkling waters of the Fox River create a beautiful backdrop to a variety of activities. Adjacent towns contribute plenty of fall fun, too. Here are some of the top things to do in the fall in greater St. Charles.
Fun Fall-Inspired Festivals
Nationally acclaimed as one of the country’s best events by NBC’s Today Show, Fodors’ Travel, Country Living and more, Scarecrow Fest has filled downtown St. Charles with activities for every age and taste for over three decades. Vote for your favorite in the Scarecrow Contest, which includes 100 handcrafted scarecrows. Complementary and continuous live entertainment during the festival ranges from dance performances to rock tribute bands. Kids love the carnival rides and petting zoo, and you can even make your own scarecrow to take home. The free Autumn on the Fox Arts and Crafts Show takes place at Pottawatomie Park during Scarecrow Fest as well, with more than 150 artist booths located near the Fox River.
Fall is also the best time of year to explore 19th-century farm life at Garfield Farm & Inn Museum during Harvest Days. Each October, the farm features historically accurate demonstrations of Midwest grain processing during the 1840s. Learn how they pressed fresh apples into cider and much more. Reid Miller, ‘Teller of Tall Tales,’ enhances the experience with stories and songs that match this historic setting. Tour the inn and tavern, view rare heritage breeds of farm animals, and explore the museum’s remaining prairie land as well.
Fall for the Arts
The St. Charles area features many music and arts events throughout the fall season. Every September, the four-day St. Charles Jazz Weekend infuses the downtown area with live jazz, from lunch through evening. The cooperative event takes place at multiple restaurants and various venues known for their art displays and programming, or music and literature.
If you love handcrafted clothing, then the Uncommon Threads Art Show at Fine Line Creative Arts Center is a must-do. For 30 years, this wearable art show and luncheon has brought the best in homemade scarves, cozy capes jewelry, jackets and purses to one place to shoppers looking for something different and original. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Fall is also the time when local theaters begin their new performance schedules. The Dellora A. Norris Cultural Arts Center, a 1,000-seat, professionally equipped theater, hosts musical performances such as the Fox Valley Concert Band or Broadway-caliber vocalists. In addition, the center includes an art gallery, also used as an intimate concert venue for up to 150 patrons.
Considered a star of the Chicago theater scene, the 15-year-old, nonprofit Steel Beam Theatre features award-winning professional theater productions amid intimate, historic surroundings in downtown St. Charles. Funny, sad and thought-provoking plays and other performances make evenings at Steel Beam Theatre ones to keep gaining this little venue high praise.
Inside the 5,000-square-foot Vero Voce Theatre and School of the Performing Arts, studios and classrooms share space with a professional-quality theater. Attend a murder mystery dinner, a musical review by Main Street Cabaret, a sophisticated chamber-jazz concert, orfull-length musicals, such as “Heathers The Musical,” and the TONY Award-winning “Next to Normal.”
Local farms offer multiple fall activities, too. At Primrose Farm, you’ll get a taste of farm life. It’s a great way to show kids farming practices in the Fox Valley. Set on more than 100 acres, the farm’s community garden plots and restored buildings are backdrops for visitors to practice milking a cow by hand, or to take a hay wagon ride. You can take a picnic and explore a wealth of native plants, too.
At Heritage Prairie Farm in nearby Elburn, beehives and naturally grown vegetables (now certified organic) have thrived since 2007. Buy fresh honey at the Farm Store, infused with pumpkin pie spice or lavender, as well as produce, pork and eggs; or purchase grass-fed, grass-finished beef cuts. Monthly chef-designed, family-style farm dinners showcase food from the site in collaboration with local breweries, distilleries and other food purveyors. Complimentary cocktails and passed appetizers kick off each dinner as live music plays, and Farmer Nate provides tours.
Located near Maple Park, Illinois, there’s always something going on at Kuiper’s Family Farm. Pick apples well into October (while supplies last), and sample the fresh cider and cider doughnuts. By September, fresh pumpkins await the harvest and The Barn Store features numerous fall decorating ideas, as well. For an admission fee, kids can take part in a variety of pumpkin farm activities, like ropin’ roundup, giant chess and checkers, and a bale maze. Spend the day and enjoy a farmhouse lunch. Check the web site for other special events, such as the annual chili cook-off and annual tea.
Children, ages 4-14, may participate in their own Fox Valley KIDS Marathon. The program features 25 supervised runs throughout the summer and ends with a 1.2-mile run on race day, for a total of 26.2 miles overall. Each child receives a finish medal, too.
When fall leaves crowd the trees and cool winds fill the air, St. Charles, Illinois, knows how to celebrate the season. Whether you prefer to spend time outdoors, or appreciate indoor options in this suburban area, there are plenty of entertaining possibilities available.