Chicago offers plenty of outdoor activities for everyone. From lush parks to miles of trails, countless outdoor attractions in Chicago will leave you mesmerized. Whether looking for a peaceful stroll through nature or an adrenaline-filled adventure, the Windy City has something for everyone’s dream Chicago vacation. To prove that fact, this list will explore the ten best parks, trails, and outdoor activities that Chicago has to offer. From top public parks in Chicago to must-see attractions, consider this guide an adventure through the great outdoors of this fantastic city.
10 Millenium Park
Visit the largest public space in downtown Chicago and the biggest free attractions in Chicago-Millenium Park. It’s open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., offering plenty of exciting outdoor activities. Visitors can take a selfie with the cloud gate, popularly known as ‘the bean,’ or enjoy music at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or splash at the crown fountain. Enjoy ice skating at the McCormick Tribune ice skating rink, tour the picturesque BP pedestal bridge, or view art collections at the Boeing gallery.
9 Lincoln Park Zoo
Experience an unmatched wildlife experience in the heart of Chicago at the Lincoln Park zoo in the heart of Chicago. It has almost 200 animal species worldwide and more than 1,200 plant species in the garden. Get an opportunity to see some of the most endangered plant and animal species, including the 100-year-old oak trees, the hydrangeas, Jamaican Iguanas, and Colombus monkeys. Visitors can help with seal training and feeding, ape cognitive care, or experience the Lionel train adventure.
8 Lakefront Trail
One of the best places to experience Chicago’s outdoors is hiking the 18-mile lakefront trail that follows the Lake Michigan shoreline on the city’s eastern edge. Among the many things travelers don’t know about Lake Michigan and its shoreline is that this beautiful trail runs from Ardmore Avenue on the north to 71st street on the south, providing stunning views of lakefront neighborhoods, including Edgewater, Lincoln park, Bronzeville, Hyde park, Southloop, and Lakeview. Tourists can enjoy plenty of outdoor activities, including leisure strolls, running, biking, and rollerblading.
7 The 606 Trail
Also known as the Bloomingdale Trail, the 606 trailhead is a 2.5-mile path that used to be an industrial train line. It features scenic vista points, an observatory, and a public installation. Visitors can access it from Wicker park, Humboldt park, or Bucktown, which is open from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Enjoy plenty of outdoor activities, including running, walking, biking, and watching the sunset from Exelon observatory.
6 Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park is a 20-acre public park in the loop community area of Chicago managed by the Chicago park district. Tourists can access it from Randolph street using the bicycle path along lakeshore drive or the BP bridge from Millenium Park. Visit the cancer survivors’ garden and enjoy beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the field museum of natural history. Plus, Chicago has many amazing museums to explore for an unforgettable experience. Other exciting outdoor activities in the park include rock climbing, ice skating, golf, and tennis.
5 Grant Park
Grant Park is a 319-acre urban park in Illinois in the central business district of Chicago, Illinois. It’s home to Chicago’s most iconic landmarks and attractions, including the famous Buckingham Fountain, the art institute of Chicago, the Adler planetarium, sheds aquarium, baseball diamonds, and stunning gardens. It opens daily from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and hosts the city’s biggest music and food festivals and the start and finish lines of the Chicago marathon.
4 Forest Glen Woods
Explore forest Glen woods and hike the North Branch trail system consisting of paved and unpaved trails, connecting forest preserves in the northern part of the Chicago River. It’s open from sunrise to sunset throughout the year. It is relatively flat, making it ideal for walking, running, hiking, or biking. 13 miles of paved trail links Caldwell woods with Skokie lagoons while it winds up in Chicago botanical gardens.
3 Northerly Island Park
Northerly Island Park is a 119-acre park along the Lake Michigan shoreline on the Chicago museum campus. It consists of a prairie savanna, a 5-acre pond, and hiking paths that offer beautiful views of native wildlife and birds. Experience more than 150 species of native plants, savanna, trees, and shrubs, and year-round outdoor and environmental programs, including guided nature trips, camping, fishing, paddling, and youth nature programs. The park has spectacular fishing spots and offers breathtaking city views.
2 Chicago Riverview Riverwalk
Explore the 1.25-mile Chicago Riverwalk path along the southern bank of the picturesque Chicago river covering four districts–the Arcade, the Confluence, the Civic, and the Esplanade. It allows proximity to the river and is great for a date night out; visitors can listen to music or take a boat tour with a loved one. A guided Chicago architecture river cruise is also a popular option for tourists in the city hoping to see its most famous buildings. Alternatively, go kayaking on the Chicago river, enjoy numerous art displays along the path, or learn history at the Chicago river museum.
1 La Bagh Woods
Visit La Bagh woods in the upper branch of the Chicago river and experience varied natural areas, including savannas, wetlands, woodlands, and Sedge meadows. They are some of the most important refuges for migrating birds in Chicago and home to unique animals, including the Mink, and native plants, including cottonwoods, maples, and large oaks. Explore the woods during spring migration to see unique bird species like the Warblers, Sparrow, Tanagers, Coopers, and red-tailed hawks.