The Two Best Parks in Chicago to Spend Time

There is a saying that Chicago is a “city in a garden”. That saying can be traced back to Daniel Burnham. He was a world-famous architect and urban planner who was responsible for the noted historical document called “Plan of Chicago” in the 1900s. The Chicago of today very much lives up to its proclamation as a “city in a garden”.

Even though there are numerous neatly designed parks in Chicago that are well worth the visit, there are two parks in particular that best captures the imagination when people think of Chicago. Grant Park and Lincoln Park are the two best parks in Chicago in which to spend time at.

Not only are these two parks expansive in size, but they are also packed with many attractions and features that allows you to get the most out of your time at the parks. These two parks also offers some of the best views of the Chicago skyline.

Grant Park

(Photo courtesy of ovenusa via Wikipedia)

Grant Park is a sweeping, scenic park located in between the central and south sections of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. Grant Park has been called Chicago’s “front yard”. Attractions and features found here include Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, Buckingham Fountain, and the Museum Campus.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is located in the northwest section of Grant Park. There are a few features here. The Cloud Gate is a giant shell-like sculpture that serves as a “mirror” that allows you to see reflections of Chicago’s skyline on the sculpture itself. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is an outdoors concert venue artistically designed as a place for you to catch concerts, listen to music or just to relax on the lawn under the artistic bandshell.

You can also hang around in the Crown Fountain where two giant LED screens will actually spit fountain water out of the mouths of human beings (yes, really). Another feature of Millennium Park is Lurie Garden where you can find your moment of peace among the stunning, colorful gardens found there.

Maggie Daley Park

Maggie Daley Park is the newest addition to Grant Park, having only been built a few years ago. It is located just east of Millennium Park connected by the scenic BP Pedestrian Bridge. There are a variety of compelling features available at Maggie Daley Park for your enjoyment. You can hit a round at the park’s 18 hole mini golf course. There are picnic areas throughout the park for relaxation.

Those of you who want the thrill of skating, running on roller blades, and/or scooting can enjoy them at designated areas at Maggie Daley Park. If you wish to walk, run, or bike, you can do so on one of the paths that winds its way through the park. Children of all ages will find great joy in the park’s Play Garden where they will have an opportunity to play around.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is located just south of Millennium Park. It is accessible from Michigan Avenue. The Art Institute of Chicago houses a large collection of artwork from across the world and spans over 5,000 years of artistic expressions. This is currently the second largest art museum in the United States of America.

Buckingham Fountain

The Buckingham Fountain is located in the east central section of Grant Park just west of Lake Shore Drive. This is a large, breathtaking fountain that is built in the style of a wedding cake. From April to October, there are regular water shows. During the evening, there are colorful fountain displays. The fountain is decorated with festival lights during the winter.

Museum Campus

The Museum Campus is located in the southeastern section of Grant Park right next to Lake Michigan. The Museum Campus is beautifully designed to bring together not just one or two, but three (!) beautiful museums together in one area for convenience.

These museums are the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. In addition to the three museums, there are a network of path for you to walk, run, or bike on while soaking in the beauty of the area.

Lincoln Park

(Photo courtesy of Choose Chicago)

Lincoln Park is a nature lover’s paradise in Chicago. The park, as a whole, technically extends from Ohio Street Beach in the Streeterville neighborhood all the way up to the Edgewater neighborhood where Lake Shore Drive ends.

However, it is the southern part of Lincoln Park north of the Gold Coast neighborhood and east of the Lincoln Park neighborhood that is the most packed as far as attractions and features are concerned.

Lincoln Park Zoo

By far the biggest attraction in Lincoln Park is the Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo is located to the northwest of the interchange of Lake Shore Drive and LaSalle Drive. Admission to the zoo is free. In fact, the zoo is one of the few free zoos in the United States.

The zoo is home to over 1,000 animals from more than 200 species. Perhaps the most compelling feature of this zoo is the Nature Boardwalk where you can go for a walk around a pond and get close and personal with native wildlife including birds, frogs, fish, turtles, insects, and more. At the same time, you can take in breathtaking views of the north section of the Chicago skyline.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

To the northwest of the Lincoln Park Zoo lies the Lincoln Park Conservatory. The conservatory is an artistic glass building built in the Victorian Era style. There are four rooms in the conservatory housing many different exotic plants from all over the world.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Look directly to the east of the Lincoln Park Conservatory and you can find the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. This scenic gem is home to a variety of native plantings throughout its garden and lily pool. The Fullerton Gate is your access point for visiting the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is across Fullerton Parkway from the Lincoln Park Conservatory. There, you can check out the wildlife from the Chicago region. One notable feature here is the butterfly house where you can observe the different butterflies that lives there.

Chicago History Museum

Lincoln Park is also the home of the Chicago History Museum. The museum is located south of the Lincoln Park Zoo on LaSalle Drive. Here, you can explore the history of Chicago and the United States.

These are the two best parks in Chicago for you to spend time at. While there are other scenic parks in Chicago for you to check out, these two parks in particular will give you the most comprehensive experiences that you can get. These parks speaks to the natural beauty that Chicago has to offer.

Chicago for Museums – CityPASS Is the Way to Go

Chicago is an excellent destination for many things. One of the things that Chicago is renowned for is its collection of world class museums available for you to experience. If your time in Chicago will involve multiple museums, then rejoice! For I have something exciting to share with you about this. There is a thing called the CityPASS. The CityPASS is your ticket to Chicago for museums.

In addition to visiting multiple museums, you can visit at least one tower observation deck with CityPASS. By buying the CityPASS, you can earn a saving of around 50 percent for these attractions. The CityPASS will also grant you express access to the attractions, which would allow you to avoid potentially long lines upon your arrival. There are a total of five attractions that you can go to using the CityPASS.

(Photo courtesy of CBS Chicago)

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium offers breathtaking encounters with all kind of animals from aquatic environments. These animals range from sea otters to penguins to alligators to monkeys. The permanent exhibits here include Waters of the World, Caribbean Reef, Amazon Rising, Wild Reef, and the Abbott Oceanarium.

With the CityPass, you get access to all the permanent exhibits, animal presentations, special exhibit, stingray touching (seasonal) and a 4-D experience. The Shedd Aquarium is located east of Lake Shore Drive directly to the northeast of the Field Museum of Natural History in a beautiful, landscaped area known as the Museum Campus.

Skydeck Chicago

(Photo courtesy of Ken Lund via Wikimedia)

Skydeck Chicago is a tower observation deck located at the top of the Willis Tower which was formerly known as the Sears Tower. The Willis Tower is currently the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. When you are at Skydeck Chicago, you will be treated to a sweeping 360 degree views of not only the immediate surroundings of The Loop, but also as far as four states.

You will be standing on a floor made of glass, known as The Ledge, which offers heart pounding but amazing views far down below your feet. The Willis Tower is located in The Loop on Wacker Drive.

Field Museum of Natural History

(Photo courtesy of unknown via Wikimedia)

The Field Museum of Natural History offers a massive amount of displays showcasing all the amazing wonders of nature. The Field Museum’s signature display is SUE, which is the largest, most completed, and best preserved T-Rex ever discovered.

The permanent exhibits here at the museum are Animal Halls, Evolving Planet, Inside Ancient Egypt, The Ancient Americas, Cultural Halls, Geology Halls, Underground Adventure, Working Laboratories, and SUE, the T-Rex. With the CityPASS, you get the All Access Pass which will grant you access to all the permanent and regular priced ticketed exhibits along with your choice of one 3-D movie screening.

As is the case with the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum is located in the Museum Campus just east of Lake Shore Drive. The Field Museum is the first museum that you encounter when entering the Museum Campus from Lake Shore Drive.

Choose One: Adler Planetarium or Art Institute of Chicago

Option 1 – Adler Planetarium

Here, you have two options to choose from for this attraction slot. The first option is the Adler Planetarium while the second is the Art Institute of Chicago. The first option, the Adler Planetarium, offers exciting hands on experiences and displays showcasing the amazing science behind the space and planets.

The list of permanent exhibits here are Mission Moon, Our Solar System, Community Design Lab, Planet Explorers, Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass, Clark Family Welcome Gallery, and Astronomy in Culture. With the CityPASS, you get admission to all the permanent exhibits, the Atwood Sphere, and your choice of two sky shows.

As with the other two museums previously mentioned here, The Adler Planetarium is located in the Museum Campus just east of Lake Shore Drive. The Adler Planetarium is the museum located to the furthest right in the Museum Campus.

Option 2 – Art Institute of Chicago

The second option, the Art Institute of Chicago, is home to the greatest impressionist collection of art outside of Paris. This museum houses the galleries of art from ancient Greece, Japan, Africa, and the Americas. With the CityPASS, you will get access to all the permanent collection of art, non-ticketed special exhibits, and an audio tour. The museum is located off of Michigan Avenue inside of Grant Park.

Choose One: Museum of Science and Industry or 360 Chicago Observation Deck

(Photo courtesy of Knarfol via Wikimedia)

Option 1 – Museum of Science and Industry

For this attraction slot, you also have two choices. The first choice is the Museum of Science and Industry and the second choice is the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. The Museum of Science and Industry houses a massive collection of showcases in the field of science and technology. This is the largest museum of this kind in the United States.

There are a ton of immersive permanent exhibits housed here. Science Storms, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, and YOU The Experience are just a few of the many permanent exhibits here.

With the CityPASS, you get access to all the permanent exhibits along with one timed entry experience. The Museum of Science and Industry is located in Chicago’s Jackson Park overlooking a lagoon which is about 6.2 miles south of the Museum Campus on Lake Shore Drive.

Option 2 – 360 Chicago Observation Deck

The 360 Chicago Observation Deck is a tower observation deck in a tower that was once known as the John Hancock Center, high above the famed Magnificent Mile shopping district. It offers breathtaking 360 degree views of the area stretching as far as four states.

In addition to taking in the jaw-dropping views, there is a restaurant and bar along with an enclosed moving platform called TILT. The tower is located at the northern end of the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue.

All of these attractions are packed into one package with the CityPASS. The price for the CityPASS is about $108 per adult and about $89 per child. This ticket is valid for up to nine days. So, there is no need to rush. Just take as much time as you want.