Whether you’re a Chicago local or vacationing in the Windy City, you’ll be glad to be in town this fall. The cool weather and changing leaves make it a breeze to enjoy everything the area has to offer. While landmarks like the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and Chicago’s many museums are must-see attractions, the food festivals are also worth experiencing. Foodies jump at the chance to try Chicago’s signature flavors and enjoy live entertainment. Check out this guide from the local Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Association to learn more about our city’s iconic fall food festivals.
Though technically a few days before the first day of fall, the Sam Adams Lakeview Taco Fest is the perfect way to ring in the season. The ninth annual event takes place this year on Sept. 17 and 18 at the Southport Corridor, one of Chicago’s hottest commercial strips. You’ll enjoy classic tacos and seasonal beer pairings that are sure to invigorate your taste buds. When ordering your tacos, consider traditional fillings like chicken and steak or innovative ingredients like goat, duck, and seafood.
The festival gives guests the opportunity to vote via text for Chicago’s “Best Taco”, but that’s not all that’s in store. You’ll also enjoy live entertainment in the form of music performers and Mexican wrestlers. There are also plenty of activities for children to ensure visitors of all ages enjoy themselves.
If you’re looking for a fall food festival that matches your exquisite taste, check out Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park. The 2022 event is set to take place in late September and features dishes from the city’s top culinary professionals. True foodies go all out and attend multiple days, but even attending one day will leave you satisfied. The festival kicks off with Tacos & Tequila on Thursday, Sept. 22. Host Rick Bayless and his team of Mexican cuisine experts deliver gourmet tacos and agave spirits that you can enjoy alongside a DJ and mariachi band.
If you’re not a fan of Mexican cuisine, consider attending another day to experience other flavors. The Hamburger Hop on Friday pits local chefs against each other to see who can deliver the best burger. While tasting burgers and drinking beer and wine, guests can cast their votes to determine the event’s champion. Be sure to save room for specialty cocktails, music, and dancing at the TAO Chicago after-party. Other specialty events courtesy of Chicago Gourmet include Grand Cru and Prost! in the Park.
Chicken wing enthusiasts can’t get enough of Wingout Chicago, which takes place this year on Oct. 1 and 2 this year. Find your way to the parking lot of St. Michael’s Church to discover iconic local vendors like The Wing Project, Top Dog Wings, and Tandoor Char House. With an adventurous mindset and plenty of wet wipes, you’ll be able to try various flavors ranging from classic Buffalo and garlic parmesan to umami, Asian ginger, and chili maple. Talented reggae bands are present throughout the event to entertain you and create a lively atmosphere.
Wingout Chicago keeps things even more interesting by hosting Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice competitions. The vendors compete for prizes like “Best Kick,” “Most Original,” and “Best Overall.” Be sure to cast your vote and see if your picks match up with the judges’ opinions. Note that your general admission ticket comes with three hours of unlimited full wing samples, so be sure to arrive with an empty stomach. If you want an even more luxurious experience, consider a VIP ticket for one-hour early admission and a beer and hard seltzer package.
Chicago’s West Lakeview neighborhood kicks off the fall season with its Oktoberfest. The year 2022 marks the nineteenth year of this iconic event honoring German culture throughout Chicago. From Sept. 23 to Sept. 25, you can enjoy Bavarian classics like pretzels, brats, and beer. The festival takes place in and around St. Alphonsus Church, so be sure to walk around and experience everything the event has to offer. Entertainment includes local talent like The Breakfast Club, Run Forrest Run, and Rose & The Rivets. If you attend Sunday, consider watching the Bears versus Texans game on the big screen.
While lots of fall food festivals focus on the savory, those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the Donut Fest Chicago Burbs. Spend your Sunday at the sweetest event in town enjoying donuts, beer, coffee, and more. Your ticket comes with perks like plenty of samples, photo booth opportunities, and a ballot to vote for the “Best Donut.”
Be sure to come hungry if you plan to enter the donut-eating contest. Those who upgrade to a VIP ticket enjoy additional perks ranging from raffle tickets and goody bags to prize giveaways. Note that the event offers tickets and has plenty of non-alcoholic drinks for children and designated drivers, meaning you can bring the whole family along.
Promised Land Foods and Catering is ready to present its third annual Bourbon & Bonfire event. The atmosphere is super casual and welcoming, featuring a lakeside bonfire and plenty of hearty food. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets, claim your spot, and use your ticket to indulge in up to 10 tastings. The bourbon samples are from all over the world, and Promised Land Foods and Catering elevates the experience by presenting classic food and cigar pairings. Additionally, you’ll enjoy great music from DJ Craig Elliot that’ll complement the chill, autumn vibe.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of fall food festivals in Chicago. These events are the perfect way to indulge in our city’s flavors and spend time with loved ones. If you know of any other seasonal festivals, be sure to let us know. Here at the Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine Association, we’re always looking for ways to engage with our patients and experience our city’s unique cuisine and entertainment scene.