Autumn is almost upon us here in Lake County! That means ample opportunity to grab the camera and snap beautiful pictures of nature with the seasons’ change. We put together this guide for 20 festive fall photo ops in Lake County 2022.
Speaking of photography, the #LetsSnapLakeCounty Photo Contest has started and goes through Halloween. Submit up to five photos and/or videos for a chance to win the grand prize: a $100 VISA gift card.
Now through early November, our Spooks & Spirits: Lake County, IL Autumn Celebration shows off fall festivals, costume parades, haunted houses, corn mazes, pumpkin patches,“supernatural” attractions and terrifying delicious local craft beer, wine and spirits from the Lake County Libation Trail. There’s something for everyone in autumn.
Fright Fest presented by SNICKERS® at Six Flags Great America starts this Sept. 17. Prepare yourself for frightful thrills, delicious food and a boogying good time.
Here are the 20 festive fall photo ops in Lake County.
With a vast array of plants and florals at the Chicago Botanic Garden, you can see the leaf colors change as they might around the world. The Garden sits on 385 acres and features four natural areas spread across nine islands surrounded by lakes. The 28 different gardens inside the Glencoe sanctuary offer ample opportunity to snap a picture of the autumnal equinox. The “Flourish: Garden at 50” birthday celebration goes through September 25 and features decorative installations, music and past stories. The Night of 1000 Jack-o-Lanterns in October and Lightscape in November add a seasonal twist to your Lake County photo ops.
Ryerson Conservation Area and the Brushwood Center take fall seriously. There are plenty of chances to snap an autumn picture and to peruse the grounds taking in everything the Lake County Forest Preserve center has to offer. Their Halloween Hikes (October 21-22) add a haunted twist to the normally serene woods that will have everyone chuckling. Check back for their annual maple syrup hikes in winter.
The historic park in the City of Progress is known for its environmental learning stations representing a forest ecosystem, plus playgrounds and a spray area for the kiddies. There is also an exercise trail in the park. The Waukegan Park District area features lush trees and sprawling fields and has a cascade of wonderful colors during the autumn season for your festive fall photo ops in Lake County.
The Beer Garden at Independence Grove Forest Preserve is a part of the scenic 1,135-acre recreation area. The Beer Garden features delicious beverages from partners of the Lake County Libation Trail including Black Lung Brewing Co. of Round Lake Beach, Tighthead Brewing Co. of Mundelein, Mickey Finn’s Brewery of Libertyville, 9th Hour Brewing Co. of Lake Villa, Roaring Table Brewing Co. and Phase Three Brewing Co. of Lake Zurich, ZumBier of Waukegan, Ravinia Brewing Co. of Highland Park, Buffalo Creek Brewing of Long Grove and Liquid Love Brewing Co. of Buffalo Grove. The forest preserve provides education opportunities around a 115-acre lake reclaimed from a gravel quarry. Visitors can enjoy fishing, boating, a marina with boat and bike rentals, a native garden and nearly seven miles of trails. Snapping a shot at the pyrotechnic nature explosion is a sight to see. While there, hang out and listen to different artists as part of SeptOberFest. This free festival is highlighted by lakeside fire pits, free firewood, s’mores kits and more. Check out the schedule, grab a beer and get your nature photography on while watching live music.
- September 29: Kraig Kenning
- October 6: Kraig Kenning
- October 13: Kraig Kenning
- October 20: Todd Donnelly
- October 27: JT/James – Rock/Pop/Country Duet
Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway (Passes through Wadsworth, Gurnee, Libertyville, Vernon Hills, Deerfield and Mettawa)
The Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway protects land along more than 85 percent of the river in Lake County, providing wildlife habitat, natural flood protection and outdoor recreation opportunities. The trail spans nearly the entire length of Lake County for 31 miles as it winds through 12 forest preserves. The LCFPD trail offers seasonal activities like hiking, bicycling, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and snowmobiling. The trail also connects to the Cook County Forest Preserve trail system.
Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is a scenic photo destination that any shutterbug will appreciate in Lake County. It is tough shot to beat having the ability to snap a photo from a 70-foot-high-bluff that overlooks Lake Michigan. Trails inside the preserve connect to self-guided educational exhibits that teach about the area. The defunct base also provides perfect angles for your camera lens. Visitors to the preserve experience hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, fishing, picnicking and birdwatching. The trails running along Lake Michigan were among the first that offered public access to the shoreline back in 1887. The preserve’s savanna, ravines and lakefront location allow visitors to observe one of North America’s busiest flyways for migratory birds, with at least 236 species located here.
Relish in the rich history of Antioch at the Hiram Buttrick Sawmill Tour. Visitors can learn about the economic importance of sawmills in the 1800s and tour the replica facility. This replica was built in 1976 and is 500 feet downstream of the original site. Builders constructed it with the abandoned and salvaged sawmill material of the original structure. The location of the sawmill is a picturesque opportunity for your fall photo ops in Lake County 2022.
This historical mansion is situated on 60 magnificent acres in the Village of Lake Villa. Constructed as a summer home for Chicago retailer Edward J. Lehmann in 1912, it has been extensively restored to the grandeur of its past. The Lehmann Mansion is an integral piece of Lake Villa’s past, present and future. The elegant construction offers plenty of opportunities for the keen-eyed photographer that enjoys both nature and architecture.
Every year at Richardson Adventure Farm, they rearrange their renowned 33-acre corn maze with a new layout of trails, twists and turns that stretch for 11 miles. You can tackle the full maze or just a short trail. If you feel brave, explore the maze at night by flashlight or moonlight. After the maze, stroll over to the Sunflower Festival which sits on 13 acres, has 3.2 miles of trails and features 25 species of the aforementioned plant. Other attractions at the adventure destination include a 50-foot tube slide, 50-foot tall observation tower, bridges, pedal carts, pumpkin patches, corn crib, goats, chickens and a play area. There are concessions for purchase and free wagon rides on the weekends. Sit for a snacking spell in the wooded picnic area with free campfires. Reservations are suggested for groups and for private picnic tables and campfires.
Paulus Park offers plenty of photo opportunities overlooking Lake Zurich. Visit with friends and family during the fall and walk the trails. Take a journey through the Jack-o-Lantern World experience and walk a 3/4 mile long trail through the thousands of hand-carved Jack O’Lanterns. Experience the one-of-a-kind whimsical celebration of art, nature and fall. Not only is the pumpkin event a snazzy photo op, but Paulus’s aesthetic is beautiful during the autumn months.
Illinois Beach State Park is situated along the scenic shores of Lake Michigan. It stretches from Waukegan to the Wisconsin state line. The park offers numerous photographic chances on the walking and biking trails. The park features a campground, full-service resort, camp store and picnic areas.
If you’re seeking a truly unique outdoor photo opportunity, the Volo Bog State Natural Area is a must-see shoot. This is the only “quaking” bog in the state of Illinois. Bird watchers and nature lovers alike can have the experience of a lifetime. The floating boardwalks make for a unique photo opportunity no matter the season, but the browns and oranges of fall make for great-looking angles and aesthetics.
This quiet and serene area along panoramic Lake Michigan offers the relaxation you expect and the nurturing you need. The natural and lush recreational setting makes for breathtaking images when the sun is rising or setting. The large variety of boats that can be seen lazily entering and exiting the harbor is an excellent opportunity for avid schooner enthusiasts and nature photographers alike. While there, stop by the Harbor Brewing Co. Lakefront Biergarten for a libation to further bask in the autumn glory.
The Chain O’ Lakes State Park is home to the largest concentration of natural lakes and is a water-oriented recreation area. The trees, plants and wildlife that call the area home are ripe for a photo shoot and ready to show their (autumn) colors. The park is split between McHenry and Lake Counties and sits on nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline. The Illinois DNR location has seven picnic areas and four trail systems. Whether you’re walking/biking the six miles of foot trails or galloping the eight miles of equestrian trails via steed, you’re almost guaranteed to stumble upon the perfect photo shoot spot.
Visitors can enjoy a 97-acre preserve with oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands. Three miles of trails offer nature and solitude. Document your fall expedition with a selfie in the Highland Park conservation area.
Are you ready to compare delicious apples to delicious apples? It’s always a delight to snag one of these red or green treats fresh off the tree. The changing colors of the leaves in combination with one of the succulent fruits make any fall photo shoot really pop.
The Lincolnshire farm features edible creations, kid’s rides, an animal land zoo, pig races (only on the weekends), straw and corn mazes, a pumpkin playland, horse-drawn rides and everyone’s favorite enormous orange berry. New for this year is the “Wheels of Agriculture Game Show,” where participants can test their knowledge of all things farming. After the farmyard fun, walk to Grandma D’s Bake Shop for taffy apples, gourmet eats, sweet fall treats, or get lunch at the Pumpkin Patch Café to wrap up the day.
The highest wetland classification in the land of lakes offers views of an array of wildlife habitats and gorgeous plant meadows. This preserve features rolling landscapes of scenic woodlands, open fields and sensitive wetlands. Heron Creek Forest Preserve is also a bird watcher’s paradise. There are more than 116 species of birds that have been observed here. Six state endangered bird species, black tern, black-crowned night heron, yellow-crowned night heron, osprey, Forster’s tern, and three state threatened bird species, brown creeper, pied-billed grebe and red-shouldered hawk have been found in the area.
Rollins Savanna is named an “Important Bird Area” by the National Audubon Society due to the large number of endangered yellow-headed blackbirds that have found refuge here. Shutterbugs can take a festive fall photo there. Maybe Tweety will photobomb you.
Before you lay out your yoga mats, just chillax on the shores of the Highland Park beach to see the sun come up. Tucked away on the east side of Sheridan Road, Rosewood Beach’s sunrise is a perfect place to soul search and meditate before beginning your day along Lake Michigan. Leading up to the Lake Michigan shoreline, a ton of vegetation pops all the right colors as you approach Rosewood.
#LetsSnapLakeCounty is your opportunity to win cash and have your picture features! Spooks and Spirits: Lake County, IL Autumn Celebration has something for the whole family! September isn’t over yet. Click here to see more fun activities. Find out what’s happening this weekend by clicking here.