8 Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago

Chicago is one of America’s most special cities. Not only is it the birthplace of the skyscraper, but it boasts some of the most incredibly unique architecture in the nation. While it is often nicknamed the “Second City,” there’s one thing for certain Chicago does better than New York City: urban green spaces. And comedy. But that’s beside the point.

Chicago’s Department of Cultural and Natural Resources is responsible for managing over 8,100 acres of land. That’s right. This midwestern gem is not only full of charm and rich history, but its eco-friendly escapes make it so remarkable. While these green spaces may be no mystery to locals, they’re worth highlighting for those of you who haven’t visited.

 

Millenium Park

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

This space was once known as an urban wasteland. These days it features Cloud Gate (also known touristically as “the bean”), a five-acre perennial garden and a world-class music venue. In fact, the park also holds the title for the world’s greenest rooftop – 24.5 acres. The grass covers a railway, an opera hall and two parking garages. Pretty awesome if you ask me. As if the park itself wasn’t green enough, the five-acre Lurie Garden is on the property, too. Chances are you’ll find some 9-5ers seeking solace here during their lunch hour.

Bonus: If you’re visiting Chicago during the summer, check out this music schedule for Millenium Park. Each Tuesday, bands play in the Pritzker Pavillion free of charge. The event is obviously BYOB – because that’s the Chicago way.

Address: 201 E. Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60602

 

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

Luckily for Chicago residents, the city hosts three gorgeous and well-kept nature conservatories for those who need a breath of fresh air mid-winter. I often found myself escaping to Lincoln Park’s Conservatory Greenhouse, wandering through the different houses admiring our Earth’s gifts. I am particularly fond of the greenhouse’s orchid room, as I’m always fascinated by their intricacies.

Protip: If you’re keen on visiting the city’s most expensive farmer’s market afterward, you’re in luck. It’s located just around the corner!

Address: 2391 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

 

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

 

Out of all the eco-friendly spots in Chicago, this one has my heart. The lily pool means a lot to me as I spent quite a lot of time there throughout college. I can’t remember the exact moment I discovered this zen haven, but I’m so fortunate to have done so. While this pond may be located in one of Chicago’s most well-known neighborhoods, it’s not the easiest to find. The entrance is just off a busy road and blends in with its surroundings. This peaceful slice of heaven is just around the corner from the Lincoln Park Conservatory!

Protip: If you’re into long walks, walk down to the Chicago Lakefront Trail after perusing the grounds. It’ll take about 5-10 minutes to get to the entrance.

Address: 125 W. Fullerton Parkway, Chicago, IL 60614

 

Jackson Park Osaka Garden

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

While the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is the epitome of zen on the north side, the west side is home to the city’s king daddy of zen. Located adjacent to the Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary, this peaceful spot has been renowned as a perfect escape for decades. Walking into this park will make you feel as though you’re time traveling into ancient Japan. The garden hosts various pools, a rock waterfall, lanterns, a mood bridge, a Torii gate and is home to several rare flora. Although it may be a bit of a hike from the city center, this sanctuary is worth a visit.

Address: 6401 S. Stony Island, Chicago, IL 60637

 

Milton L. Olive III Park

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

This is another spot on the list that captured my heart. While this park may not be as grand as New York City’s Central or Bryant Parks, it’s certainly a special one. Its namesake is a Chicago-native and Vietnam War veteran. Although he left Chicago at a young age and relocated to Mississippi, the city honored him with this lovely park alongside Lake Michigan. It’s a wonderful haven with a bit of history. Win-win!

Protip: Avoid the touristy Navy Pier and continue walking along Lakeshore Drive!

Address: 500 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611

 

Chicago Lakefront Trail

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

If you’re a bicycle fanatic or runner, you’ll love this trail. One of the cooler things about Chicago is that it’s located alongside the beautiful Lake Michigan, while still emitting big city vibes. This trail highlights both of these features and allows for both its urban and natural characteristics to compliment one another. I spent lots of time on this path when I lived in Chicago – both on foot and via bike. In fact, I spent pretty much every day bicycling here before I moved to Korea.

Protip: Take advantage of Chicago’s bike share program and rent a Divvy bike. Ride up to Montrose Harbor and walk over to the beach. There’s a bar along the beach called The Dock, and there’s often live music during the summertime. Montrose Beach is a dog-friendly spot.

Address: This path is 18 miles long, and can be entered in a few locations.

 

Oz Park

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

I used to live around the corner from this park, so it’s certainly one that I love. One of the quirkier aspects that make Oz Park stand out from the rest is that there are statues of the Wizard of Oz situated throughout. While it may not be the largest park on this list, it’s a perfect spot for a romantic stroll and allows you to walk through Chicago’s ritzy Lincoln Park neighborhood afterward.

Protip: If you’re in the mood for brunch, head over to Toast – located around the corner from the park entrance. If your walk is in the evening, walk about 15 minutes north on Halsted to AliveOne for some tasty beer and good tunes. If you want a good burrito, walk about 10 minutes to Allende, located near the corner of Lincoln and Halsted.

Address: 2021 N. Burling Street, Chicago, IL 60614

 

Garfield Park

Eco-Friendly Escapes Within Chicago www.willfulandwildhearted.com

This nature haven isn’t exactly close to the city, but it’s worth the drive or train ride. The 184-acre park boasts a swimming pool, fishing lagoon, sports courts and a conservatory that puts its Lincoln Park sister spot to shame. In fact, the Garfield Park Conservatory is home to over 12,000 plants and one of the largest greenhouses in the United States. That’s pretty impressive, right? If you want some Jurassic Park vibes without escaping the urban limits, be sure to stroll through the conservatory’s fern room.

Protip: Take the train. It’s worth seeing and is an experience within itself.

Address: 300 N. Central Park Avenue, Chicago, IL 60624

 

Living in a big city can be a challenge for nature lovers. Luckily Chicago has plenty of hidden (and not so hidden) gems throughout. Click here to discover where my favorites are located!

Pin me to your favorite board, please!

 

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6 Comments

  1. May 12, 2017 / 12:31 am

    I love Chicago and I love your pictures! I went to Millennium Park when I was there and had a great time, but I never went to any of the other parks, I will have to try the Osaka Garden and the Lincoln Park when I am there this summer!

  2. May 12, 2017 / 1:21 am

    I haven’t been to Chicago since I was really young and have been wanting to revisit for ages! I love all the options of eco-friendly spots in the city. Typically when visiting urban areas or big cities it’s not so easy to find open green spaces!

  3. May 12, 2017 / 3:18 am

    I’ve only been to Chicago during the colder months and really have missed out! All of these suggestions sound like great places to explore. My first choice would be Jackson Park Osaka Garden. I love Japanese gardens as they always have such a peaceful and calming vibe.

  4. May 13, 2017 / 3:41 am

    I had no idea that the skyscraper was invented in Chicago! That’s pretty cool! I only managed to see two of these when I was in Chicago. Millennium Park is basically a must-stop in Chicago now, which is actually pretty cool! I also enjoyed the Lakefront Trail, even though it was wicked cold. I’ll have to check out the other places next time!

  5. May 13, 2017 / 3:50 am

    What a great post! I love that more and more people are promoting sustainable travel destinations. These spots are gorgeous, especially the Osaka Garden. I’d love to stroll down the lakefront trail…

  6. May 14, 2017 / 7:00 am

    I am definitely going to book mark this because I have never been to Chicago and I have always been interested and this post was a great opportunity to see more of what there is to do!

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