Summer's weather is perfect for taking advantage of all the
activities outside. Discover fabulous lakeside beaches, stroll the fragrant
gardens, play in the parks and even take an outdoor tour to see the sights and
sounds. Here's a guide to playing outside in Chicago.
PLAYING IN THE PARKS
If you're looking to
reconnect with Mother Nature, plan a stop by a Chicago park — there are more
than 580 to choose from. One of the most popular (and largest) is Millennium Park. Bask in warm summer
rays as you take in the sights, like the contemporary art on the north and
south sides of scenic space. Spread out
a blanket on the Great Lawn and
lounge with a good book. Or grab a sandwich and have a seat at the
100-foot-long Running Table by
artist Dan Peterman.
If action-packed play is
more your thing, splash in Millennium Park's Crown Fountain, a shallow reflecting pool bookended by 50-foot
towers with faces of Chicago citizens projected on LED screens. Birds and
butterflies flit among the prairie clover and foxglove in Lurie Garden, a living work of art in the park's southeast corner.
Wander at your leisure or take a guided tour, but have your camera handy to
capture the river of purple salvia blooms. Before your visit ends, take a
mind-bending photo at the 110-ton Cloud Gate (the "Bean").
At the expansive Grant Park, known as Chicago's "front
yard," Buckingham Fountain stars as
the main attraction. The elaborately carved Georgia-marble fountain shoots a
geyser spectacle 150 feet in the air every hour and illuminates each evening
with a light and music show. You can also
follow your nose to the fragrant Rose
Garden, a nearby spot ideal for a romantic stroll among award-winning
roses, trellises and sculpted hedges.
While both parks also boast
a busy slate of summer concerts and festivals, Grant Park takes center stage
with the world-renowned food festival (or should that be feastival?) Taste of
Chicago (every July). Here, where
quintessential city treats are served alongside international flavors
cooked up in Chicago's melting pot of cultures.
Speaking of cultural
influences, don't miss a hidden gem with a touch of Zen in Jackson Park. Osaka Garden is a Japanese garden
tucked away on the park's Wooded Island.
Pass through the Shinto gate to discover a picturesque moon bridge and
traditional Japanese plantings.
While other cities cram
buildings smack-dab up to their waterfronts, Chicago preserves the beauty of
its beach playgrounds, leaving miles of sandy, sun-soaked fun. Steps off
Michigan Avenue, Oak Street Beach beckons
bathing beauties, families and athletic types with its deep-water swimming and
many volleyball nets.
North Avenue Beach often wins "most popular." The vibe is busy and high-energy at this
Lincoln Park hot spot. Grab a sandwich and beer from boat-shaped Castaways Bar & Grill, and don't
miss scoping out the Beach House, which
boasts great city views (and restrooms and outdoor showers).
Toss a Frisbee with the kiddos at the family-friendly Montrose Beach
near the Uptown neighborhood.
If you're the type who
prefers a laid-back beach where you can catch some rays and perhaps a quick
catnap, make your way to Ohio Street
Beach. Near Navy Pier, the quiet beach offers food vendors, chair rentals
and open-water lap swimming.
TAKE A TOUR
No doubt, a boat tour is a
Chicago must-do. Grab a seat on deck and you'll quickly see why. Sail past
soaring skyscrapers, glide beneath iron bridges and soak in the stories of your
knowledgeable guide. Find
Landlubbers, explore at your
own pace with Chicago Trolley and Double
Decker Co. Hop on and off their cherry-red vehicles, looping by downtown
sights. Local comedians give the lowdown on Millennium Park, the Museum Campus,
Skydeck and other iconic stops. There's even a break for Chicago's famed,
sweet-and-salty Garrett Popcorn. Gray
Line runs a similar trolley and double-decker service, plus a combo bus and
boat tour for those who want the best of both.
When you want to roll like a
local, a bike tour is the way to go. Thanks to the city's level terrain and
more than 10,000 bike racks, pedaling the car-free, 18-mile Lakefront Trail or
meandering through President Obama's Chicago stomping grounds is a breeze. Find
a night ride, neighborhood tours, kid-friendly excursions or food lover tours. Find
a bike tour.
How can you cover more
ground than a walking tour without sacrificing the up-close-and-personal experience
of a leisurely stroll? It's as simple as a Segway. On these self-balancing
vehicles, you can whirl around Buckingham Fountain and buzz right up to the "Bean."
Segway Experience goes the tall-building
route, guided by Chicago Architecture Foundation docents. Steve's Segway Tours features the latest technologies. Absolutely Segway zips into shadowy
alleys for haunted spins once darkness falls.
Discover more activities to experience while in Chicago.