Scarecrow Trail at The Morton Arboretum (Photo courtesy of The Morton Arboretum)

No need to drive hours to a corn maze or spend a bucket of cash on an organic pumpkin to have fun with the family this fall. Make the most of autumn together with these great local activities for all ages.

Jam out to Mucca Pazza

This eclectic marching band of funk-rockers performs throughout the city and suburbs to crowds of dancing, jumping, blissed out fans of all ages. It’s the kind of high-energy show that will fill your family with inspiration and excitement, then lead to a happy nap for danced-out concert-goers on the way home.

Check out the live show schedule here and prepare for the fun with a front-row viewing of Mucca Pazza videos here.

Cheer on Midnight Circus in the Parks

This ensemble of acrobats, jugglers, clowns and performers brings the charm of a small-town circus to parks across the city.  The fun “magical little big top” experience helps raise funds for Chicago parks. Catch this year’s final performances through October 13th.

Tickets are $20 each (kids under 2 are free) and first-come, first-serve seating is in bleachers and on the floor (pro-tip: bring a blanket and snacks).

Get artsy in the garden at the Morton Arboretum

Create nature-inspired origami that are self-guided and perfect for creative kids of all ages. Open daily (weather permitting) from 11 am to 4 pm in the Children’s Garden, this discovery activity is one of the many things to explore on the grounds.

Check out the Scarecrow Trail, created by local scout troops, while you’re there. And combine the paper-folding fun on October 21 with a stop by the Cider and Ale Fest, where  adults can sip craft beers and seasonal drinks and everyone can sample delicious dishes and listen to a local band.

General admission to the Arboretum is $9-$14, Cider and Ale Fest tickets are additional.

Snuggle up at the drive-in double feature

See two movies (in a row!) under the stars at the Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago. Bring the kids, your pets or charcoal to whip up s’mores, hot dogs and stove-top popcorn on one of the provided grills.

Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through the end of November.

Go wild at Chicagoland’s Halloween zoo parties

Taking place the last two weekends of October, Brookfield Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo festival  includes costume parades, hayrides, cookie decorating and animal meet-and-greets.

Trick-or-treat at the animal exhibits at the Spooky Zoo Spectacular on October 28 at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Stay super-local with a DIY pumpkin patch in your own backyard (or courtyard or front stoop)

Mom of three Yanira Garza brings fall fun to her own home (and saves some money) by picking up pumpkins at local stores to decorate in the yard.

Pull out all those unused arts and craft supplies and invite neighbors, families and classmates over for a cookie and apple cider potluck! Everyone gets messy, everyone has a blast, no one has to spend the afternoon whining in the car.

Written by Jessica Ashley
Jessica Ashley is a writer, coach and the voice of Single Mom Nation and its sister podcast. She wears inappropriately high heels to the playground, is mom to a teenager and a threenager and lives with her chef boyfriend on the north side of Chicago.