It seems kind of strange to be talking about Fall colors when we're currently looking at temperatures in the low to mid 90s, but here we are, less than a month before the Autumnal Equinox, or first day of Fall.

Maybe it's because I'm a local-area kid, but I've always thought that if you want to look at Northern Illinois' Fall foliage in its greatest glory, you need look no farther than Illinois Route 2 between Rockford and Dixon. When the leaves flip over to a multi-colored palette, the bluffs along the Rock River are as pretty as you'll find anywhere in the Midwest, maybe the whole country.

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What Does The Fall Foliage Map Cover?

The Fall Foliage Prediction Map is out with its predictions on the best times to catch the most colorful leaves, not only here in Illinois, but for the entire country. The map got its start when David Angotti, an expert on statistics who lives in Tennessee, created the first Fall Foliage Prediction Map to help visitors plan their Great Smoky Mountains vacations when autumn leaves are the most brilliant. When people wanted information beyond Smoky Mountains, David expanded the map to what we see today.

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So When Are Illinois Leaves At Their Colorful Peak?

The Fall Foliage Prediction Map says that for the Rockford area here in Northern Illinois, we'll start to see what they call "partial coverage" beginning the week of October 4th. We'll be at "near peak" the week of October 11th, with the absolute peak in colors coming the week of October 18th. Central and Southern Illinois will trail the Rockford area by about 2 weeks.

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You won't have to travel to New England to get a great fall color show this year. However, if you're one who thinks you have to drive to Vermont for the best views, let me save you some time:

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Stacker compiled a list of the best places to live in Illinois using data from Niche. Niche ranks places to live based on a variety of factors including cost of living, schools, health care, recreation, and weather. Cities, suburbs, and towns were included. Listings and images are from realtor.com.

On the list, there's a robust mix of offerings from great schools and nightlife to high walkability and public parks. Some areas have enjoyed rapid growth thanks to new businesses moving to the area, while others offer glimpses into area history with well-preserved architecture and museums. Keep reading to see if your hometown made the list.

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To determine the most popular national parks in the United States, Stacker compiled data from the National Park Service on the number of recreational visits each site had in 2020. Keep reading to discover the 50 most popular national parks in the United States, in reverse order from #50 to #1. And be sure to check with individuals parks before you visit to find out about ongoing, pandemic-related safety precautions at www.nps.gov/coronavirus.