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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Mathena

Best Parks Along the Chicago Lakefront

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

Best Parks Along the Chicago Lakefront

Almost 200 years ago Chicago's motto became "City in a Garden". Today this is exemplified by over 8,000 acres of open space with over 570 parks, 31 beaches, 50 nature areas, and 2 conservatories. The parks host thousands of special events and recreational programs. Following are some of the best parks in Chicago located along the lakefront.

Grant Park is situated on 319 acres of lakefront property of the Loop neighborhood in downtown Chicago. The park includes Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park and Museum Campus. It is home to some of Chicago's top museums, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. The Chicago Landmark designated Buckingham Fountain is located in the park. Inspired by one of the fountains at the Palace of Versailles it's known as one of the world's largest fountains.

The park hosts some of Chicago's largest events such as Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza, and is the start and finish of the Chicago Marathon. Many outdoor activities can be found in the park such as a skate park, dog park, and baseball diamonds. A section of the Chicago Lakefront Trail runs through the Eastern Edge of the park.

Grant Park Chicago, IL

Millennium Park is a 24.5 acre park opened in 2004 to celebrate the 3rd millennium. It's located in the Northwest corner of Grant Park in the downtown Loop neighborhood along Michigan Avenue. The park sits on top of parking garages and rail lines and is therefore known as the world's largest rooftop garden.

The arts meet nature and outdoor activities in this popular Chicago park. During the summer the outdoor Pritzker Pavilion is home to many free events, including the Grant Park Music Festival, Millennium Park Summer Music Series, and Millennium Park Summer Film series. Indoor performing events take place at Harris Theater home to many small Chicago performance groups. The park features the Cloud Gate sculpture, also referred to as "The Bean", by Anish Kapoor and Crown Fountain by Jaume Plensa. The Boing Galleries exhibit temporary modern and contemporary art. The Nichols Bridgeway connects the park with the 3rd floor of the Art Institute's Modern Wing featuring a free sculpture terrace.

Lurie Garden is a hidden four season urban garden modelling responsible horticulture and naturalistic plantings. McCormick Tribune Plaza has ice skating in the winter and outdoor dining in the summer. The free Millennium Park Summer Workout Series takes place on the Great Lawn Saturdays during the summer. McDonald's Cycle Center offers bike rentals, repairs and storage to encourage biking downtown.

Maggie Daley Park is a 20 acre park opened in 2014 in the Northeast corner of Grant Park between the lakeshore and Millennium Park to which it is connected by BP Bridge. It is named after Chicago's former first lady, Maggie Daley, who passed away from cancer. The park features the Bloch Cancer Survivor's Garden with 3 main garden rooms representing the 3 state of healing: acceptance, support and celebration.

The park is family friendly with 6 age divided play gardens inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory including The Wave Lawn, The Harbor, The Watering Hole, The Slide Crater, The Enchanted Forest and The Sea. Features in the play gardens include a large ship, slides and a mirror maze. Other activities in the park include rock climbing walls, a quarter mile long skating ribbon, tennis courts, mini golf, and bungee jumping.

Lincoln Park is a 1208 acre park that spans 6.5 miles along the lakeshore of Chicago from the south at Ohio Street Beach in the Streeterville neighborhood north to Ardmore Avenue in the Edgewater neighborhood. The park offers many opportunities to experience culture, nature and sports.

The park features the free Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States, open year round with around 1,110 animals representing 200 species. Lincoln Park also includes the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum which features a butterfly house featuring over 200 species of butterflies, Lincoln Park Conservatory with plants from many different climates around the world, and the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool which is an important example of Prairie School landscape architecture. There are also several bird sanctuaries and community gardens.

Cultural opportunities at the park include the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Cultural Center and Theatre on the Lake.

There are many opportunities for outdoor activities at Lincoln Park. There are numerous beaches, some of which offer beach volleyball, Montrose Beach Dog Park and several harbors. Other activities include a rowing canal, archery range, playgrounds, skate park, baseball fields, tennis courts, a driving range and more.

Burnham Park is a 600 acre park running along 6 miles of the Chicago lakefront located south of Grant Park in Chicago. It runs through the Chicago neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas, and Near South. The Chicago Lakefront trail runs through Burnham Park. The popular destinations of Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears football team, and McCormick Place, one of the top convention centers, are located within Burnham Park.

The park features several harbors, beaches, playgrounds, a skate park, model boat pond and community garden. It also includes Promontory Point and several bird sanctuaries.

Burnham Park Chicago, IL

Northerly Island is a man-made peninsula along the Chicago lakeshore. It was part of the site for the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair. For over 50 years it operated as Meigs Field, but today has been brought back to it's original vision as a park.

Huntington Bank Pavilion hosts outdoor concerts during the summer. The Natural Area is a development in progress with a lagoon, prairie, savannah and wetland. A paved path wanders around the Natural Area and is a great place for bird watching and viewing other wildlife. There is also a beach, a natural play space for kids, and There are great views of the Chicago skyline from Northerly Island.

Jackson Park is a 550 acre park located along the lakeshore of the southside Hyde Park and Woodlawn neighborhoods of Chicago. It was the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Museum of Science and industry is located within the park in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the Fair.

The park particularly, Wooded Island and Bobolink Meadow, is great for bird watching. The Chicago Audubon Society provides weekly bird walks on Saturdays year round weather permitting. Wooded Island also includes a Japanese garden, Garden of the Phoenix.

The park contains Jackson Park Gold Course the first public golf course built in the Midwest. There are several beaches, playgrounds, harbors, fishing a dog bark and a community farm. Many other athletic activities at the park include basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, football/soccer fields, a driving range and a lawn bowling green.

Best Parks Along the Chicago Lakefront Map

These parks are popular options to enjoy activities along the Chicago lakefront. If you need help moving in Chicago out team of professional movers at Under One Roof is happy to help. Contact us for a free estimate for your Chicago moving needs.

Blog authored by Michelle Mathena, President of Under One Roof, a local moving company in Chicago. Michelle has over 20 years of experience in the moving industry. Under One Roof has had thousands of satisfied customers since 1982.

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