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 He was a world-famous architect and urban planner who was responsible for the noted historical document called “Plan of Chicago” in the 1900s.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.

What are your thoughts? Does any of these two parks come to mind when you think of Chicago? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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