I grew up as a city girl. We lived at the Oak Park stop on the “L” so for us we were close enough to the city to consider ourselves “Chicagoans.” I’d prefer laying inside in the A/C watching TV to hanging out at the small parks close by or trekking a few miles away to a lackluster forest preserve. I quietly consented to being an “indoor” person.
No more! When I moved back to Chicago a few years ago my first apartment was a few blocks from Lake Michigan. At the time my frustration with my body was at a high and I decided to start utilizing the lakefront path to learn how to run.
It was those hot summer afternoons slow jogging from Bryn Mawr down to Irving Park and back that ignited my need for nature. The running part sucked, but I loved the feeling of the sun on my skin and the smell of the water. For once in my life I wanted to spend more time outside.
Since then, I have discovered that there are so many beautiful green spaces in this concrete jungle of ours! Before we know it we will be shivering and shuffling through the frozen tundra, enjoy summer’s bounty while you still can. Here are a few of my favorite naturescapes:
Lincoln Park Conservatory – I list this first because it is FREE and you don’t need to leave the city to go here! There are beautiful green fields and some flowered sections leading up to the conservatory itself. Inside you will be wowed by exotics from around the world and you’ll also get to meet the friendly staff. They are passionate and love talking about this treasure. When you’re done head over to the zoo or walk south for even more green space.
Chicago Botanic Garden – If you don’t want to have to travel far, but want to be surrounded by spectacular gardens this is the place for you. It’s less than an hour away from downtown and the cost is $25 per car ($30 on the weekend). Bring a few friends with you and that’s nothing!
Morton Arboretum – Although a bit pricier at $14 per person, this one is more than worth it. You’ll want to dedicate a whole day to exploring it because it has at least double if not triple the space of Chicago Botanic Garden! These pictures are from our most recent visit where we got the chance to view Origami in the Garden which runs through October 22nd.
Starved Rock – I feel like this is a frequent escape for city dwellers. The paths are paved, the views are nice, and there are waterfalls! This is also the furthest from the city at almost 2 hours, so perhaps it feels like a more authentic “get-away.” We made the mistake of visiting last year during Labor Day and the lot was full, but luckily there are a few other parks nearby and we had an equally great time navigating Matthiessen State Park.
Honorable mentions that were cut from my list because at this point I’m losing your attention: Moraine Hills State Park, Beverly Lake, Independence Grove, 606, Lake Geneva.
If you have a nature spot that I haven’t referenced please comment, I want to see them all!