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EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS OF CHICAGO

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Mark Twain's prophetic words about Chicago ring true today: "...She is always a novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time." What Twain knew then is that Chicago continuously reinvents the urban experience.

The latest developments in public green spaces not only transform the aesthetic of well-known areas of the city, but also create more opportunity to enjoy the characteristics that make Chicago such a vibrant and unique destination. This is the ideal time to explore these new additions and some established favorites by embracing all there is to do outdoors.

If it didn't already have an impressive public park system, Chicago took it to the next level with the opening of the following innovative open green spaces:

  • The 606 (The Bloomingdale Trail) - Officially opened to the public June 6 (6/06), this 2.7-mile elevated trail — akin to New York City's High Line — is built upon what was once a rail line. The trail connects four ground-level parks and offers greater access to the Northwest side neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Logan Square and Humboldt Park. Create a full-day itinerary exploring these communities using this re-imagined space as your guide.

  • Maggie Daley Park - Situated just east of Millennium Park, and connected by a Frank Gehry-designed bridge, the newest addition to Chicago's "front yard" is a departure from your typical local park. Equipped with an ice skating ribbon (which you should plan to glide along come the winter months), state-of-the-art play areas for tikes through tweens, and a 40-ft.-tall rock climbing wall for those so inclined to take on the challenge, Maggie Daley Park is a full outdoor recreational center for all ages. And if you just want to take in a warm summer day, choose from the six picnic groves available throughout the park.

  • Chicago Riverwalk - The much anticipated Riverwalk Extension project opened the first two phases to the public June 9 and 10, making it possible for people to enjoy the Chicago River even more. The Riverwalk project is part of the city's goal to reclaim the Chicago River and transform the space along its banks from an industrial corridor into a public recreational center where pedestrians can take in stunning architecture views further west along the river, between State Street and LaSalle Street. The transformation of the Chicago Riverwalk is one of the most visible and ambitious renovations of a public space in the city's history, and is scheduled to be fully completed in 2016. It also makes for a great lunch date.

  • Grant Park Skate Park - What was formerly a grass lot at Grant Park's south end is now a state-of-the-art skate park and bicycle obstacle course known as the Grant Park Skate Park. This new recreational space of 1.86 acres opened to the public in December 2014, but will see its fair share of skateboards, scooters, rollerblades and BMX bikes this month and going into the summer. Go check out novice and expert talent on wheels as they take on the concrete ramps and grinding rails at the only downtown skate park. Or better yet, join in on the fun.

Looking for more fun outdoors? Here are some additional ways to enjoy time out and about in Chicago's urban landscape:

Take a ride with Divvy along the Lakefront Path - With more than 26 miles of lakefront and 18 miles of bike path, there is no lack of beauty to take in when riding along between two scenic backdrops: Lake Michigan to the east and Chicago's iconic skyline to the west. Divvy makes a day along Chicago's treasured lakefront trail a breeze.

In addition to infrastructure updates that help make the city more bike-friendly, Chicago's Divvy bike sharing program, is adding another 1,750 bikes and 175 bike stations to its 3,000 bikes and 300 strategically placed bike stations across the city.

Prefer a guided experience for your lakefront journey? Check out Bobby's Bike Hikes or one of these tours on wheels.

Check out a local farmers market - Outdoor farmers markets across Chicago are now in full swing. Green City Market in Lincoln Park is a great destination on Wednesdays and Saturdays, offering sustainably grown food and educational workshops with local chefs. Its proximity to North Avenue Beach and Lincoln Park Zoo is a plus! As of June 14, Green City Market introduced a third site at Soho House Chicago (113-125 North Green Street.), which will be open every second Sunday of the month through October from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Other opportunities throughout the week to purchase quality, locally-grown food include the weekly farmers market at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington St.), on Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; as well as a myriad of neighborhood farmers markets all other days of the week.

Catch an outdoor concert or movie - Don't just take in the beautiful outdoors, pack a picnic basket and head to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for some Tchaikovsky or a Mariachi and Folklórico Festival as part of the Grant Park Music Festival.

Or if you'd prefer, head "Back to the Future" before counting down the launch of "Apollo 13" with the Millennium Park Summer Film Series. There are numerous ways to enjoy some fun outdoors this season.


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