Chicago’s winter doesn’t particularly lend itself to being outside. Once it warms up however, the city springs to life with many unique places in which to enjoy the city outdoors! With 585 parks, 26 miles of lakefront stretches and 50 nature areas, there are over 8100 acres of green space in the city for residents and tourists alike to enjoy.
The 606 is an elevated trail that was created on old train tracks. The train stopped running in the 1990’s so the city decided to utilize the tracks and create a green space for neighborhoods of Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown, and Wicker Park. The trail is 2.7 miles long and provides a safe alternative avenue for residents to walk, run, bike, or hang out with friends in one of the many seating areas.
The Chicago Riverwalk is called Chicago’s Second Lakefront, and for good reason. It is a waterfront pedestrian route located on the south shore of the Chicago River between Lake Shore Drive and Franklin Street in downtown Chicago. This riverwalk provides fantastic views of Chicago’s historic architecture and during the warmer months it’s a great place to sit and read, run, rent a kayak for the river, or dine. If you find yourself in town for St. Patrick’s Day, head down to the river to witness the dyeing of the water green in celebration of the holiday! One of my top recommendations along the riverwark is City Winery, where you can enjoy a wonderful selection of wines and delicious dinner right on the river!
Lurie Garden is a four-season wildflower oasis tucked within the confines of Millennium Park. In the spring, the garden is bursting with vibrant new blooms and a visit to the garden during this time is a great way to say goodbye to the harsh Chicago winter. My personal favorite time to go is in the summer when you can go can be surrounded both by the flowers as well an abundance of butterflies! The best part of the garden is the fact that in certain spots the skyline is obstructed and you can pretend that you are out of the city entirely, even if just for a moment. It’s also in very close proximity to the acclaimed Art Institute of Chicago!
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Do you like watching a symphony outdoors? How about your favorite band? Or classic movie? Jay Pritzker Pavilion, also nestled within Millennium Park, is an outdoor pavilion with a large lawn that allows you to do all of those for FREE. I love to pick up a picnic spread and head to Pritzker with the drove of Chicagoans seeking free and fun entertainment. I definitely plan on going to watch the special sing-along addition of Grease this summer!
Caldwell Lily Pool
The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was opened in 1889, but was redesigned by the help of landscape architect Alfred Caldwell and finished in 1938. Caldwell himself invested some of his own money to ensure that it would be completed in the way he envisioned. In 2006, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
The pond is surrounded by a wall and is gated to visitors during the winter months. It’s tucked away within Lincoln Park just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s a perfect place to enjoy nature in quiet reflection. On any given day you can find students from DePaul University studying, families taking small children on a quiet walk, or an artist sitting and painting. It’s located right next to the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum, making it a perfect addition to a day of fun in Chicago.