Although I love the mountains, I’ve always been a water person. I love nothing more than to sit and watch the ocean, a sound, or a lake, and just enjoy the view as I let my thoughts wander.
I didn’t realize how strongly I felt this way until I visited Chicago and was drawn to the city’s parks. I didn’t select my favorites because of the greenery or open spaces (although those were awesome perks). All of my favorite parks had something else in common: They all were located on the waterfront of Lake Michigan.
In these urban oases, I could run, walk, stroll, or have a picnic, all while soaking up my beloved water view. Sure,there are some great parks farther inland, but when you’re in Chicago, don’t miss the waterfront.
Promontory Point/Burnham Park
The Point, as locals call it, is located in Burnham Park and is a man-made peninsula south of the city along the waterfront. This is my favorite Chicago park because of the 6-mile walking path along Lake Michigan. No matter the weather, people always are out walking, running, and biking.
Since The Point juts out into the water, there are great views of the city from here, too. And the water is almost Caribbean blue; something I never expected to find in the Midwest.
If you’re up for it, make a day of your visit and walk the two hours from downtown along the waterfront to Promontory Point. While in the area, you can visit the Museum of Science and Industry across the street, and then take a cab or bus back to The Loop.
Lincoln Park has a lot of great attributes. One of the best: It boasts a zoo that is free and open daily.
Located on the north side of Chicago, this park comprises 1,208 acres. To the east, the park boundary is Lake Michigan. If you’re not a zoo person, you can visit the conservatory and botanical gardens (a great place to warm up in the winter). You also can check out the archery range.
Lincoln Park has plenty of benches and grassy areas where you can just hang for the afternoon. Sit close enough to the zoo and you’ll likely hear lions roaring. This is exactly what scared the bejesus out of me as I walked out of the conservatory.
If you don’t have a car, this park is easily accessible using public transportation.
Sculpture in Millennium Park
Grant Park is located on 319 acres in the city’s central business district. It’s amazing to me that the city has given up so much space for this park. Within the boundaries of the park, you’ll find many green spaces, as well as cultural activities and art.
You also will find the Art Institute of Chicago, Buckingham Fountain, Daley Park (where concerts are held), the Museum Campus (where three of the city’s museums are located), marinas, harbors, and an 18-mile lakefront trail. When you think about all Grant Park offers, it’s really mind-boggling. Grant Park is easy to get to if you’re staying at a hotel downtown, too.
Although this park technically is part of Grant Park, it’s my downtown favorite so thought it deserved a special shout-out.
One of the city’s newer parks, Millennium Park quickly has become one of the city’s most popular. People love it so much because it’s easy to get to from The Loop.
What struck me most about Millennium Park is all the fantastic sculptures it offers. Perhaps the most famous of these is Cloud Gate; it’s the one that looks like a giant metal jelly bean (Chicagoans actually call it, “The Bean”). The Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts concerts in the summer and there’s an ice rink in the winter. Even on the coldest of days, this park is worth a visit.
What are your favorite urban parks?