8 Great Things To Do In Chicago This Fall

This time of year practically begs for a cozy infinity scarf and great pair of sunnies to enjoy those few cool-yet-sunshine-filled days left. Sure, there’s never a dull moment in Chicago — but even more so if you’re clued into the best places to hit. And, who says just because temps are dropping, the fun has to stop? With that in mind, we rounded up eight amazing things to do this fall before retreating into full-blown winter hibernation mode.
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Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Gourmet.
Chicago Gourmet
If choosing a favorite annual event was like picking a favorite child, then Chicago Gourmet would be the Marsha Brady our social calendar — sorry, Jan. What started as an under-the-radar festival six years ago has now become the city’s top display of food and wine. Presented by Bon Appétit, Chicago Gourmet is like wine tasting on steroids, without the hassle of traveling to Napa. Strewn across the lawn of Millennium Park are tasting stations as far as the eye can see featuring everything from wine and Champagne — we’ll be sipping red at Silver Oak and Jordan — to a variety of spirits, as well as tastings and demos by Chicago’s top toques (Art Smith, Homaro Cantu, and Patrick Fahy, to name a few).

For supped-up insider access, splurge on tickets to Grand Cru, a special event within the fest that offers exclusive tastings of some of the world’s finest wines as master sommeliers discuss the pours. Side-by-side tastings are prepared by 10 international culinary rock stars, who are each paired with a local, Michelin-starred chef.
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Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Gourmet.
When: Saturday, September 28, through Sunday, September 29.
Where: 201 East Randolph Street (between Michigan Avenue and Columbus Drive).
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Photo: Courtesy of Jayson Flea.
Jayson Home Fall Flea Market
Jayson Home seems to have a knack for striking the perfect balance of antique home furnishings and modern refinishes to create sophisticated interiors. So, why not let them do all the work scouring the globe for unique finds so that you can just show up and spend your hard-earned cash? This annual fall flea market is a three-day event showcasing antique furniture, accessories, textiles, tableware, and much more. Items are sold either "as found" from Belgium to France or refurbished in the vintage-chic style that’s signature to Jayson. With the store’s inventory overflowing into a white tent hoisted in the courtyard, we expect that the complimentary cup of Joe served directly from La Colombe’s coffee truck will do just the trick to get you in gathering — and hunting, if need be — mode.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jayson Flea.
When: Friday, October 4, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, October 5, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, October 6, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 1885 North Clybourn Avenue (at Kenmore Avenue); 773-248-8180.
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Cheering On the Chicago Marathon
Even if you've never laced up a pair of running shoes, watching the Chicago Marathon is a seriously inspiring way to spend a Sunday. After all, it's got agony, ecstasy, close finishes, and more drama than Orange Is the New Black.

Photo: Courtesy of Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

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Photo: Courtesy of CH Distillery.
CH Distillery
We’re already dreading the impending chill of Chicago’s extended winter, but nothing takes the edge off like a stiff drink. And, there are surely plenty of those to go around. CH Distillery is the city’s newest distillery and cocktail bar, named for carbon and hydrogen, the fundamental compounds of alcohol, as well as a serendipitous nod to the spelling of Chicago. Vodka, gin, rum, and whiskey spirits are produced from scratch in custom-built stills and made from locally grown grains. Sidle up to the bar for a gin and tonic (house-made tonic and CH gin) and aged cheddar crisps with sea salt and thyme. Then, take a tour of the distillery, which starts with the Traditional (a shot of ice-cold vodka, rye bread, and side of pickles), followed by a chance to, err, see where the magic happens.
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Photo: Courtesy of CH Distillery.
When: The cocktail bar is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight; and closed on Sunday and Monday. Tours of the distillery are offered for $15 on Saturdays, starting after 5:30 p.m.
Where: 564 West Randolph Street (at Jefferson Street); 312-707-8708.
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Photo: Alvaro Illizarbe.
Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Fall shopping is pretty much a given, but this year, we’re treating it like a marathon — not a sprint — due to the opening of the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Consider of all your online shopping, catalog earmarking, and browsing of September fall fashion magazines as the training that led you to this point: Gucci, AllSaints, Brunello Cucinelli, Burberry, Prada, Barneys New York Warehouse…the list goes on and on. With 530,000 square feet and more than 100 retailers, FOC offers men, women, and children’s fashion, shoes, accessories, fine jewelry, and leather goods, not to mention plenty of spots to refuel like Prasino and Freshii. We’re planning a full day of it. Here’s to hoping we survive!
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Photo: Alvaro Illizarbe.
When: Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Fashion Outlets are accessible via CTA, and shopping packages are available on the website that include transportation to and from downtown and special discount offers.
Where: 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, (in Rosemont); 847-928-7500.
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Custom Cocktails at The Boarding House
It may be tough to get a seat at North Side's chicest restaurant, but you can still belly up to the bar and enjoy the stunning glass-sculpture chandelier — and the life-affirming charcuterie board.

Photo: Courtesy of Anthony Tahlier Photography.

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Photo: Mike Schwartz.
Chuan Spa
Looking to treat yourself? Nothing says pampering like the treatment menu at Chuan Spa, the wellness retreat located inside the newly opened Langham Chicago. The 9,000-square-foot spa offers nearly 50 treatments that blend the best of Eastern and Western medicine, as well as recognized Traditional Chinese Medicine practices like cupping and acupuncture. We’re dying to try moxibustion ($125 on a weekday, $140 on a weekend), a 60-minute treatment where the end of a small, spongy herb called moxa is lit and burned close to acupressure points for several minutes at a time to penetrate the skin with a warm, soothing sensation and stimulate one’s chi. As Chuan means “flowing water,” which represents rebirth and rebalance, each treatment begins with the Chuan Bathing Ritual in which guests go through a series of water-focused relaxation treatments — think a salt stone sauna or oriental steam room with soothing chamomile — to rebalance one’s senses and prepare for some serious R&R. Go ahead, get your Zen on.
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Photo: Mike Schwartz.
When: Open Monday through Friday, from 6 am. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: 330 North Wabash Avenue (at State Street); 312-923-7650.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Field Museum.
MSI Columbian Expo Exhibit
We Chicagoans like to think we’re on top of everything there is to know about our city, but even the most born-and-bred Bears fan could use a history lesson every now and then. Check out The Field Museum’s newest exhibit, debuting October 25, which transports viewers back to a pivotal turning point in Chicago’s regrowth after the devastation of the Chicago Fire: the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair debuts artifacts from the museum’s archives that rarely have been exhibited — if ever —and brings to life the energy of the fair through digital technology, such as life-size video projections and the opportunity to view some of the 50,000 objects that were the main contributions to the founding collections of the museum.

One that won’t be resurrected? The 250-foot Ferris wheel, which was 100 feet taller than the Navy Pier attraction today and could carry 2,160 people. And just so you won’t look totally clueless touring the exhibition, we’ll give you a hint for some products that were introduced to the world 120 years ago and are still popular today: diet carbonated soda, Aunt Jemima syrup and pancake mix, and our very own Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum.
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Photo: Courtesy of The Field Museum.
When: October 25 through September 7, 2014
Where: The Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive; 312-922-9410.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tanta.
Tanta
We waited long enough for Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio — who owns nearly 40 restaurants around the world and is widely considered the modern ambassador of Peruvian cuisine — to open a Chicago eatery, and the newly opened Tanta does not disappoint. The location is Acurio’s third U.S. restaurant, following La Mar Cebicheria in San Francisco and New York, and helmed by chef de cuisine Jesus Delgado, who comes from the San Francisco restaurant. Expect traditional Peruvian dishes with some modern updates served in a casual, colorful atmosphere. Sample the cebiches made from the catch of the day, authentic Peruvian dishes like Arroz con Pato, crispy duck leg served with cilantro rice, and street food skewers like chicken with sweet potatoes. Top it off with a Pisco-based cocktail, the ubiquitous brandy made in the wine regions of Peru. We recommend the on-tap offerings, a Pisco Punch made with pineapple and lemon, or the Lima Llama, which mixes Pisco with lime and ginger beer. Now we just have one question for Acurio: What took you so long?
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Photo: Courtesy of Tanta.
When: Open Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight; and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: 118 West Grand Avenue (at LaSalle Street); 312-222-9700.
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Photo: Courtesy of Shaw's Crab House.
Oyster Fest Block Party
We’ll be the first to admit that we wouldn’t have predicted an oyster fest would last 25 years, but Shaw’s Crab House proves us wrong this October. The classic Chicago restaurant marks the milestone with a week of specials and festivities that culminates in its annual block party in River North. All week long, stop by Shaw’s Oyster Bar for half-priced oysters on the half shell, or throw class and refinement out the window and partake in the nightly slurping contest (beginning at 6 p.m.). In a look-mom-no-hands style, be the first to take down a dozen oysters and advance to the Grand Slurp-Off — the winner of which will take home $1,000. With more than 4,000 attendees expected at the Friday night outdoor block party, Shaw’s sets up grills and raw bars to serve plenty of its signature dishes alongside Goose Island beers and a full lineup of musical entertainment. Headliner Buddy Guy, who we like to consider one of the world’s best living guitar players and the guy behind that legendary Chicago blues sound, takes the stage at 8:30 p.m. Draft beer and fare from two local faves, as well as “Sweet Home Chicago” live on stage? It really doesn’t get better than that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Shaw's Crab House.
Where: Shaw’s Crab House, 21 East Hubbard Street (at Wabash Avenue); 312-527-2722. The Block Party is on Rush Street between Hubbard and Illinois Streets.
When: Oyster Fest runs October 14-18; the Block Party takes place Friday, October 18 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.; the Grand Slurp Off begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Block Party. A portion of the $30 entry fee benefits the Shedd Aquarium and Special Olympics.