The beautiful city of Chicago was home to the world's first skyscraper and is the birthplace of today's modern architecture. It's an amazing place and was actually where the first open heart surgery in the entire nation was completed. Chicago is the only city in the world where you'll find a river that was made to flow backward, and back in 1942 at the University of Chicago was when the first atom was split. It's easy to see why Chicago is such an incredible place and everywhere that you turn you'll find innovation and creativity.
Although there's lots to learn and do at all of the amazing institutions in town it can be a good idea to get away from everything for a while and spend time in nature. There's a reason that Chicago has been nicknamed the City in a Garden and you'll find plenty of green space throughout the entire town. Whether you're a tourist enjoying Chicago for the first time or a local who wants to get more active in their city, here are a few of the best Chicago parks for you to check out.
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Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park, along with a few other public parks in Chicago, make up the much larger Grant Park which has lots to enjoy, like the beautiful Buckingham Fountain. You'll find this one right next to Millennium Park and it has fun activities for the whole family, no matter what the season. In the summertime, those visiting the area come here for roller skating or riding around the grounds on a scooter, and it's the perfect spot for skating on the ribbon ice rink in the winter.
Some of its top highlights include an impressive 40 foot climbing wall and the Play Garden, which is a huge hit among kids. The latter is equipped with a large pirate ship that has rope bridges, climbing areas and huge slides. Nearby there's also an Enchanted Forest and more nature themed spaces for kids to let their imagination run wild. If it's particularly hot when you visit you'll be able to cool off in the park's watering hole.
There's more than enough to satisfy an older crowd here as well, including an 18 hole mini golf course decorated with local landmarks like a miniature representation of the Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture or the Willis Tower, plus a tennis court. Overall the park covers 20 acres of space and is a new favorite among locals and visitors of the city.
Burnham Park is a beautiful spot to spend an afternoon being situated right on the banks of Lake Michigan. It's a large space at over 600 acres in size, covering the area between Grant Park and Jackson Park. If you're a sports fan then you might recognize it as where the Chicago Bears go to play at Soldier Field. That's not the only thing the park was made for, and originally it was created to be a habitat for many species of plants and animals.
Make your way to the northern part of the park and you'll see a nice man made peninsula called Northerly Island which covers 119 acres and is the best spot to get out onto the lake. Nearby there are piers where you can go fishing if that's your thing, plus there's often public art set up as well. If you're lucky you'll find some kind of event or performance happening in the Bank Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater. It's home to a couple of beaches and biking paths, too.
Before you leave the park make sure that you stop by the butterfly and bird sanctuary at McCormick Place. It acts as another performance venue as well, which is why Burnham Park is such an important place for the community of Chicago. Towards the southern parts of the park, you'll spot the Burnham Skate Park and a marina where you can rent out equipment for different water sports on the lake. Make sure to check out Promontory Point, one of the best viewpoints of the city. Fun fact; the park was named after Daniel Burnham, an architect and urban planner.
This green space, which covers 42 acres, is a fantastic spot for nature lovers to meet up and enjoy the natural landscape around Chicago. It's got everything that you could want or need at a park, including lots of walking trails to explore. One of the most popular is the North Branch Trail which starts here in the park and continues on for 16 miles. If you follow it all the way you'll eventually end up at the Skokie Lagoons.
As you explore the park keep an eye out for wildlife since more than just people take advantage of the gorgeous green space. It's got multiple ponds where you can go fishing, a lagoon, and an outdoor swimming pool. The playground is a great spot to bring the kids, and they'll have a blast playing around on the colorful jungle gym and climbing blocks.
Sports enthusiasts will have lots to do at Gompers Park, too. It has a couple of athletic fields plus a basketball court and tennis courts, so make sure that you bring your equipment. This is a great park to enjoy nature or be active.
Garfield Park, situated in East Garfield Park on Central Park Ave, is easily one of the best parks in Chicago for many reasons. It's pretty big at 173 acres and has all sorts of facilities and attractions for the community to enjoy. Here, you'll find 12 acres of gardens that are home to about 600 different species of native plants and exotic flora originating from around the globe. Each garden actually has to be set to the right temperature for the plants that it houses. On top of that, the Garfield Park Conservatory is 1.6 acres in size and is known to be one of the world's biggest indoor gardens.
This public park has something for everyone with a fitness center, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, a swimming pool and basketball courts. It's a fantastic spot to meet up with friends to play some games, and there are plenty of walking and cycling paths to discover as well.
There's even more to do in Garfield Park including a playground, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children's Garden for kids, plus a fishing pond. Close to the Garfield Park Conservatory, you'll spot the Gold Dome Fieldhouse which is a local landmark and even has a ballroom inside.
Spanning about 197 acres, Humboldt Park is a popular spot for both tourists and locals to spend time in nature. It's located on the west side of the city and is a good place to go cycling on the trails or to play sports on the basketball courts and baseball fields. Bring your binoculars if you're into bird watching since the park is home to several different species.
Humboldt Park's lagoon is a beautiful spot to just hang out, or you can relax on the inland beach. You'll definitely want to check out the Little Cubs Field, which was actually made to be a replica of Wrigley Field. You'll also find a playground, a nature area, and a couple of spots to have a picnic or barbeque.
The community garden located on the grounds is one of its top attractions and a nice way to get the people of Chicago involved in the park. Check out the Humboldt Park Boathouse which is the perfect example of prairie styled architecture. This green space is sometimes used as a venue for events, including the Latin Jazz Festival and the Puerto Rican Festival which is put on every year.
Head to the Hyde Park neighborhood if you want to visit this Chicago park which spans nearly 600 acres and was named after President Andrew Jackson. This green space is best known for being the site of the World's Columbian Exposition back in 1893 which is why you'll see the golden Statue of the Republic standing in the grounds today. Jackson Park is now also a museum campus and is where you'll find the Museum of Science and Industry.
You can easily waste away an entire afternoon taking in everything that the park has to offer, including an 18 hole golf course and driving range. Several athletic fields, disc golf and a community farm are available on site as well, and feel free to bring your four legged family members to go for a run in the Jackson Bark doggy playground.
By far one of the top highlights in this public park is the Wooded Island. Lots of permanent communities and migratory birds can be spotted here making it a good place to go bird watching. One spot that you'll definitely not want to miss on the Wooded Island is the gorgeous Osaka Japanese Garden. If you're lucky the stunning cherry blossoms will be in bloom when you visit, but if not then the teahouse is always a great place to spend time.
This is one of Chicago's parks that everyone should visit. It covers a 6.5 mile long area along the lake shore between Ohio Beach and Hollywood Beach and was given its name shortly after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
Aside from golf courses, a skate park, baseball field, jogging, biking and walking trails, Lincoln Park is also home to several notable institutions like the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Cultural Center. A fun place for the entire family to check out is the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to visit and houses nearly 1,200 animals from 230 different species like rhinos, giraffes, camels, tigers, penguins, zebras and monkeys.
This historic park is all around a nice place to play sports, go for a stroll and just lounge or have a picnic in the summer by the lily pool. You can reach the Lakefront Trail from here, and inside the grounds is the Chicago History Museum which can also be explored free of charge.
There's really no shortage of things to do at Washington Park which covers 345 acres of land. If you're just looking for a calm place to go for a stroll or a jog, this is the perfect spot with nicely maintained pathways lined with trees. There's also a lagoon where you can go fishing, or you're welcome to just sit by the water and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Those who want to do more can make use of the sports facilities like softball fields, tennis and basketball courts, soccer fields, the cricket pitch or the pool. On site, there are also two gymnasiums, a dance studio, a fitness center and three playgrounds.
While you're here take a minute to look at the Fountain of Time sculpture. The park is a fantastic spot for the community to gather and is home to a six week day camp in the summertime, as well as different family friendly and holiday themed events throughout the rest of the year.
Enjoy fresh air in Chicago
Chicago is a great city to visit and to live in, with an abundance of activities to do all over town. Despite how exciting Downtown Chicago can be it's sometimes a good idea to get away and appreciate the nature around you. There are a lot of places to enjoy the great outdoors in this city, and they're fantastic places to meet up with friends or just spend time by yourself.
These are only a few of Chicago's parks and there are even more inside of the city or along the banks of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan that are worth exploring. Looking for somewhere to go with the kids? Check out Oz Park where you can visit the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow as well as Dorothy and Toto.
If you want to take your outdoor exploration to the next level you can check out the Best Hikes in Chicago. We've mentioned a couple of spots by the water already but you might also want to look at these Beaches Near Chicago, which are the perfect spots to take it easy by the water.