Experience the 25th annual Johnny Appleseed Festival happening Sept. 30 in downtown Crystal Lake.

Four Classic Festivals to Celebrate Autumn

Now that the weather is turning and the days are getting shorter, it’s time to focus on the family fun that comes with fall. Learn about four quintessential fall festivals in the northwest suburbs.

Experience the 25th annual Johnny Appleseed Festival happening Sept. 30 in downtown Crystal Lake.

When the winds grow colder and the harvest ripens, you know it’s time to enjoy the things that make a Midwestern autumn so memorable. And what better way to create fall memories than to take the family to one of our region’s quintessential festivals? We found four of the best in the northwest suburbs.

Johnny Appleseed Festival

Sept. 30, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Location: Downtown Crystal Lake, various locations

What is it? Now in its 25th year, this local festival celebrates Johnny Appleseed, also known as John Chapman, who spread apple trees from Massachusetts to the Midwest in the early 1800s. Though he never visited Crystal Lake, Johnny Appleseed’s trees do have a descendant in town.

Highlights: The day begins with a pancake breakfast (apple pancakes included) at Bethany Lutheran Church. Find children’s activities at the parking lot by Starbuck’s, see the Historical Society’s antique apple cider press, enjoy sales at downtown merchants, and meet a true Johnny Appleseed re-enactor from Indiana – bare feet and all.

Don’t Miss: Kids love the Great Ball Race on Brink Street at 3 p.m. Buy a raffle ticket ahead of time and cheer for your ball, as hundreds of them are rolled downhill toward Crystal Lake Avenue. The first 21 balls through the funnel win prizes.

St. Charles Scarecrow Fest

Oct. 6-8
Location: Downtown St. Charles, various locations

What is it? More than 138,000 people show up to pay homage to the humble scarecrow.

Highlights: Dress your own scarecrow or marvel at the unique creations on display, enjoy carnival rides and food vendors, admire a classic car display, or explore the arts and crafts show. Parking is a challenge, but a free trolley shuttles visitors around the festival’s four zones.

New This Year: Tour six area farms on Friday and Saturday, and you’ll experience wagon rides, farm animals and more.

Don’t Miss: Vote on your favorite display at the scarecrow contest, with six categories including a special designation for mechanical creations.

Autumn Drive

Oct. 20-22
Location: Nearly 20 homesteads around Garden Valley Road, between Marengo and Woodstock.

What is it? Part arts and crafts fair, part lawn and antique sale, part farmers market, this 30th annual event draws together a hodgepodge of rural neighbors.

Highlights: Find fresh produce and treats at All Seasons Apple Orchard, Goebbert’s Farm Stand, Prairie Sky Apple Orchard and Cody’s Farm; look for a variety of antiques, and tour several artists’ studios, including festival leader Robert Blue’s Blue Eagle Pottery.

One Thing to Try: Food sold at The Lunch Barn, located at Lisk Pumpkins, on Garden Valley Road, is staffed by a local nonprofit.

Nightmare on Chicago Street

Oct. 21
Location: Downtown Elgin, along Chicago Street, Grove Avenue, and Spring Street

What is it? For just one night, you’re transported into the scene of a Zombie Apocalypse, complete with overturned cars, boarded-up windows and roving members of the “undead.” You’ll be safe, of course, inside the designated “military control zone.” This event is for adults only.

Highlights: Dressing up is encouraged, and you can show off at a contest at the YWCA. Meet TV’s Svengoolie, watch graffiti artists in action and watch live entertainment on three stages. Food and merchandise vendors will be scattered around the festival.

Bigger & Better: The Circ D’ Freak Show recalls a twisted circus sideshow, while the Thunderdome hosts lively mixed martial arts fighting with a “Mad Max” twist. This year’s “Genetic Lab” promises new gross-out attractions.