Wednesday 12 May 2021
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The Big City Blog: Lincoln Park Zoo’s Fall Fest, Jack’s Pumpkin Nights pop-up, and Pier Pumpkin Lights at Navy Pier

By Trent Modglin

A regular staple for loads of fall harvest fun every October in Chicago is Lincoln Park Zoo’s Fall Fest, a free, family friendly celebration with seasonal activities of all kinds.

This year’s version features ticketed attractions throughout the zoo like a 65-foot Ferris wheel, corn maze and hay mountain, endangered animal carousel, corn pool, caricatures and face painting, fun slide, inflatable obstacle course, Lionel Train adventure, Pirate’s Revenge ride, pumpkin patch pop-up and more.

Free activities (zoo admission is also free 365 days a year) at the Fall Fest include animal chats, musical entertainment, a pumpkin patch, professional pumpkin carvers, the wild sapling play forest, canopy climbing adventure and some fall-themed enrichment for the animals.

Fall Fest runs Fridays-Sundays through Oct. 27, as well as Monday, Oct. 14. The zoo is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Fall Fest attraction tickets cost $3 for one ticket, $27 for 10 tickets, and $51 for 20 tickets, and select Fall Fest attractions will remain open during the week. 2001 N. Clark.

If you’re not easily spooked, follow Adam Selzer, author, podcaster and host of Mysterious Chicago Tours, for his Haunted History Tours, where guests get to enjoy a spine-tingling stroll through the allegedly haunted zoo. These tours are quite popular throughout the month and run Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 and 9 p.m. Visit for more information.

For a fun Halloween pop-up experience complete with carnival games, bounce houses, axe throwing, live performances, nighttime light displays, food trucks and a beer, cocktail and cider-stocked bar inside of a giant corn maze, head to the two-acre lot near Goose Island for Jack’s Pumpkin Nights. It’s a perfect blend of entertainment for the kids during the day, and then the adults as it becomes a fun party scene as the afternoon turns into evening. With plenty of fall-themed props, fun Instagrammable photo opportunities abound too.

Open daily through Nov. 3, Mondays-Fridays 4-10 p.m. and Saturdays-Sundays 11 a.m.-10 p.m. 1467 N. Elston, but main entrance and ride dropoff is at 1265 W. Le Moyne St. 312-777-4888. Tickets available at

Through Nov. 2, check out Pier Pumpkin Lights, an experiential fall spectacle that boasts nearly 1,000 pumpkins, jack-o-lantern towers, glowing light displays, Halloween festivities and various food and drink specials throughout Navy Pier. Stretching from the main entrance past the Centennial Wheel, this is one visually stunning experience you won’t soon forget.

Insider’s tip: Check out the Pier Pumpkin Lights food and drink specials at the following restaurants: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Giordano’s, Harry Caray’s Tavern, Tiny Tavern, Riva Crabhouse, Big Bowl, Billy Goat Tavern, Snow Dragon Shavery and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.

Also noteworthy is the fact the Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze will add some spookiness to your visit by transforming into a Haunted Maze on select weekend dates.