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Safe outdoor events and activities to do in fall and winter in northern Illinois

Though a few weeks late , the Fall Colors are now at their peak at Starved Rock State Park in Utica.
Though a few weeks late , the Fall Colors are now at their peak at Starved Rock State Park in Utica.

With the onset of fall and the dropping temperatures, the Shaw Media Local News Network is here to help you out with some fun outdoor events and activities that can be visited safely in the Best of the Fox and Starved Rock Country regions.

Best of the Fox region

“A Nightmare at West Main”

What is it: The Batavia Park District is putting on “haunted hikes” on two Fridays in October. The event is for kids and adults 10 and older and requires registration ahead of time.

Where: West Main Community Park, 40W101-40W479 Main St., Batavia

When: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Oct. 16 and Oct. 23

Marklund’s Run, Walk and Roll Geneva

What is it: The eighth annual run may be virtual, but proceeds still go toward Marklund’s mission of helping people with disabilities. After you register and run, you can enter your time online according to the honor system.

Where: Virtual, so anywhere

When: Oct. 18


What is it: This day of Halloween events includes a costume contest, parade, yoga with your pet and kids’ crafts. You can register online.

Where: Animal House Shelter, 13005 Ernesti Road, Huntley

When: Oct. 24

Puppy yoga: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Kids craft: 1 p.m. -3 p.m.

Costume contest and parade: 3 p.m. -4 p.m.

Winter Lights in Aurora

What is it: This night will feature food trucks, Santa and Mrs. Claus, a parade and a fireworks display along the Fox River. And parking is free.

Where: Downer Place in downtown Aurora

When: 6 p.m. -9 p.m. Nov. 20

Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum

What is it: This year’s tree lights will be viewed from your car; the organization’s website estimates the event will take you 30-40 minutes to drive through. This dazzling two-mile drive will include five new designed sets, too.

Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle

When: Nov. 20-Jan. 3, hours vary by day; check online at

Midnight in Morris

What is it: According to the Grundy Chamber of Commerce, “Downtown retailers stay open until midnight and offer great specials throughout the night.” This event will allow you to start (or finish) your holiday shopping while seeing downtown decorations, too.

Where: Downtown Morris

When: 8 p.m. -11:55 p.m. Dec. 4

Christmas tree lighting and Christmas cruise

What is it: Hosted by Destination Shabbona, this Christmas event will accommodate COVID-19 guidelines but still allow your family to celebrate the holidays. Shop at the holiday farmers market and see the already-lit Christmas tree on Comanche Avenue, then head to Water Tower Park for treat bags from Santa. There will also be prizes for the best decorated house and business, so you’ll see plenty of decorations, too.

Where: Downtown Shabbona — tree will be located on Comanche Avenue west of Nokomis, and then head to Water Tower Park

When: Dec. 5

Holiday farmers market: 2 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.

See the tree and visit Santa: 5 p.m. -7 p.m.

Starved Rock Country

Haunted Trolley Tours At Starved Rock

What is it: Experience local haunts aboard the new Starved Rock Trolley Ghost Tour. Costumed, ghoulish guides will escort you to destinations where ghostly sightings, orbs, voices, and unexplained happenings have been sighted around Starved Rock State Park. For more information, visit

Where: Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, One Lodge Ln, Oglesby, IL 61348

When: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through October

Time: 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.

Outdoor Literary Festival

What is it: Mark your calendars, an Outdoor Literary Festival is coming to Ottawa's Washington Square Park this Saturday! Prairie Fox Books has invited more than 20 authors, including New York Times bestsellers Kate Hannigan and Liesl Shurtliff, to show their works at this social distance-friendly event. For more information, follow Prairie Fox Books on Facebook.

Where: Washington Square Park, 101 E Lafayette St, Ottawa, IL 61350

When: Saturday, October 17 at 11AM

Third Friday Artisan Market

What is it: Come out and experience Ottawa’s final in-person, socially distant, Third Friday Artisan Market for 2020! Local artists will have booths spaced out along a closed off street, along with a food truck and free live music. For more information, follow Open Space Art Gallery on Facebook. 

Where: Open Space Art Gallery and Studios, 223 W Madison St, Ottawa, IL 61350

When: Friday, October 16 from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Hocus Pocus At August Hill Winery

What is it: La Salle’s August Hill Winery is set to host two socially distant outdoor screenings of the Halloween classic 'Hocus Pocus’ on their sprawling vineyard hillside. Tickets are only $25 per car, wine can be pre-ordered on their website. For more information, visit 

Where: 21 N 2551 Rd, La Salle, IL 61301

When: Friday, October 23 and Saturday October 24, starting at 7 p.m.

Oktoberfest At Tangled Roots Brewing Co.

What is it: Come celebrate Oktoberfest at Tangled Root’s social distance friendly al fresco tent! This three day fest will feature some delicious German-inspired food, authentic drink specials and live music from the OOPAH Band, Die Musikmeisters. Starved Rock Country’s hometown brewery will even be welcoming back their fan favorite Oktoberfest beer, a Märzen style Lager craft beer fans won’t want to miss.

Where: 812 La Salle St, Ottawa, IL 61350

When: Friday, October 16, 7 p.m. - 10 p.m., Saturday, October 17, 7 p.m. - 10 p.m., and Sunday October 18, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Autumn On The River Boat Cruise

What is it: Fall water cruises on the Illinois River offer unbeatable views of the changing season and Starved Rock's majestic sandstone bluffs. This fascinating, one hour, open-air group tour is peppered with historical and geological facts, as well as excellent birding opportunities.

Where: Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, One Lodge Ln, Oglesby, IL 61348

When: Thursdays and Fridays, through October, starting at 11 a.m.

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