Chicago has unparalleled sophistication, class and style. Not to mention, breathtaking views. Discover the natural beauty among the man-made wonders within this urban playground.

Just imagine... 26 miles of uninterrupted lakefront nestled against undoubtedly one of the most magnificent skylines. And that's not all we've got. The lakefront includes 16 miles of sandy beaches and an 18-mile stretch of bike path. Bikers, boaters, sunbathers and volleyball players abound.

Turn to Chicago's green space and you'll find even more activity among Chicago's best parks, from the playful Oz Park and the serene Ping Tom Park in Chinatown, to downtown's crown jewels: Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park and Grant Park.


Chicago Parks, a Quick History

One of America's best-kept secrets is Chicago's historic park system. In the 1830s, Chicago's emerging government took on the motto "Urbs in horto," which translated from Latin means "City in a Garden." The city's green legacy grew with architect Daniel Burnham's pioneering 1909 Plan of Chicago advocating public outdoor spaces. For nearly two centuries, Chicagoans have preserved the environmental landscape — greening existing natural areas, expanding to new park spaces and fighting to keep the public lakefront grounds "forever open, clear and free." For the enjoyment of everyone, visitors and residents alike, Chicago's parklands reflect the city's motto to this day.

Currently the Chicago Park District owns more than 8,100 acres of green space, making it the largest municipal park manager in the nation. In addition to boasting 580 parks, the Park District offers hundreds of facilities to explore nature, enjoy arts and culture, and take part in sports and recreation — plus you'll find great amenities such as dog friendly areas, unique meeting/event space and picnic groves.


Park Picks for Arts & Culture

Drummers playing at Chicago SummerDance

Culture vultures can get their fill in many ways at Chicago parks, from enriching cultural centers to an outstanding collection of fountains, monuments and sculptures. Take in an outdoor movie, lounge on the lush lawns during concerts, enjoy live theater performances, or expand your horizons at one of the 10 world-class museums located within park grounds.

Two amazing urban green spaces take arts and culture to the ultimate level:

  • Grant Park
    Proudly referred to as Chicago's "front yard," Grant Park is among the city's loveliest and most prominent parks. Its nearly 320 acres encompasses the Museum Campus, home to The Field Museum, Art Institute and Shedd Aquarium. The park also plays host to the city's many free events and festivals, celebrating everything from local culinary talents at Taste of Chicago, to music at Chicago Blues Festival, to dance at Chicago SummerDance. More than 20 million people visit Grant Park and its centerpiece, the iconic Buckingham Fountain, every year, making it the second most visited park landmark in the U.S.
  • Millennium Park
    Since its 2004 opening, this award-winning 24.5-acre lakefront attraction has become one of the city's top sights. Transforming what was unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots, the architecturally distinctive park hosts hundreds of outdoor concerts and performances in Frank Gehry's stunning Jay Pritzker Pavilion nearly every afternoon and evening in the warmer season. All are presented free of charge, including the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Grant Park Music Festival – America's only free, outdoor classical music series. Among the innovative pieces of public art, Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate, are two of Chicago's most recognizable symbols.


Chicago's Best Park for Kids — Maggie Daley Park

Children playing at Maggie Daley Park Chicago

The newest addition to the Loop is a family favorite, completing a trifecta of interconnected downtown lakefront parks. Kids of all ages go mad at Maggie Daley Park, a high octane mega playground built to burn the endless energy of its pint-sized visitors. Within its 28 acres, its the 3-acre Play Garden that will spur their imaginations and have them sliding, swinging and climbing for hours. Everything here is oversized — a giant whale sprays water and children can captain a boat in The Sea, giant upside-down trees are perfect for peekaboo in the Enchanted Forest, while the fearless will tackle the towering Tower Bridge.


Highlights for Nature Lovers

Spring blooms on trees at Lincoln Park in Chicago

Tropical havens nurtured in spectacular conservatories. Bright blooms surrounded by sculptures and waterfalls at flower gardens. Lush habitats filled with native plants and birding areas. Waters buzzing with wildlife within historic lagoons. Connections with nature will open your eyes to a lesser known side of Chicago. Don't miss Chicago's best parks for nature enthusiasts:

  • Northerly Island, a nature area situated on a 91-acre peninsula with wild prairie grasses taking root, beautiful strolling paths, casual play areas and a spectacular view of the skyline
  • Lincoln Park, 1,208 acres of beauty and activity, from the glorious and free Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo, with its nearby nature boardwalk, to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, North Pond Nature Sanctuary and Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary
  • Jackson Park, a 500-acre park designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition that features lagoons and beaches, as well as a picturesque Japanese garden and even a golf course, and serves as the home of the Museum of Science and Industry, the fair's only remaining building
  • Humboldt Park, where the landscape's meandering prairie river, picturesque gardens and impressive boat house were influenced by notable architects, artists and landscape designers such as Jens Jensen, who created a distinctly Midwestern expression called the Prairie style of landscape architecture


Active Adventures: Sports & Outdoor Recreation

People playing beach volleyball in Chicago

Play in the parks every season. With hundreds of fields and courts, you'll find a place for every sport — tennis, basketball, football, beach volleyball, ice skating and more. Favorites for the outdoors enthusiast include:

  • Chicago Lakefront Trail, an 18.5-mile multi-use path along the coast of Lake Michigan. Run, walk, bike or skate along from north at Hollywood Avenue to south at 71st Street as it passes through beautiful Lincoln Park, Grant Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park.
  • Beaches, wide sandy stretches to take a swim or just lie out. Open Memorial Day (May) to Labor Day (September), the 26 Lake Michigan beaches are free and open to the public.
  • Harbors and Boat Launches, 10 Lake Michigan marinas that stretch from Lincoln Park in the northern part of the city to Jackson Park in the south.
  • Fishing, between 11 stocked park lagoons, a number of ponds, a reviving Chicago River, 22 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan, and access in eight harbors and along the north side of Navy Pier.
  • Golf, with six scenic courses, three driving ranges and two miniature golf courses all within the city.

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