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Chicago may not be an outdoorsman’s paradise during our long winter months, but come spring, the city transforms.
You step outside on the first nice day in this city, and you’ve never seen so many people eager to walk across town — sometimes with a destination, but many times, just to see where the road takes them. Here are a few gems that you should definitely consider the next time you're looking to take a walk through the windy city.
If you’re looking to really get a feel for the 9-to-5 hustle, there’s nothing like joining the ranks on Wacker Drive at 8am on Monday. The people-watching is stellar. However, if your goal is to really take in your surroundings — the Willis Tower, the Daley Plaza, the gold leaf-encrusted Carbide & Carbon building — then try going on Sunday morning. You’ll nearly have the whole place to yourself!
We know, we know. We’re not breaking news here. But when you’ve got 24.5 beautiful acres (complete with fountains, gardens, and the Bean) in the middle of the city, you can’t really leave it out. And now, you can extend the adventure by crossing the BP Bridge to get to Maggie Daley Park (a whopping .2 miles away). Walk the rolling hills of this awesome public space that looks like something out of Back to the Future. If you get tired of walking, you can skate on the skating ribbon, do some rock wall climbing climb, or play on the awesome playground complete with kid-powered light generation and nest swings. We think Marty McFly would approve.
This one’s going to take a little planning, but hear us out. Saturday morning wake up bright and early (8am-ish), and head over to 1817 N. Clark for the Green City Lincoln Park Farmers Market. Peruse the vendors and chitchat with the farmers before visiting River Valley Ranch for a mushroom tamale aka garlicky, peppery, and gluten-free goodness. If you head north for .3 miles, you'll find people enjoying the waves of Lake Michigan. Stop for a swim, or continue to Lincoln Park Zoo for their 10am opening, and you have another 1,208 acres to explore.
Chicagoans have long-awaited the arrival of the Riverwalk, a path that now extends from Lake Michigan to Wolf Point (about 1.25 miles). It boasts a continuous path of floating wetlands, fountains, and, most importantly, wining and dining. Fitt tip: Walk by City Winery around 5pm on a Friday for a tasting and some great music.
City dwellers were starving for greenery, flowers, and a place to walk their dog without exhaust fumes in their face. Enter the 606 — a welcome newcomer to the Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown, and Wicker Park hoods. Make a day of it, and treat yourself to a well-earned catfish taco at HandleBar in Bucktown.
Randolph Street, known unofficially as restaurant row, is West Loop’s claim to fame. On summer nights, some of the city’s best restaurants turn inside-out and spill on to the sidewalks for one big patio party. We suggest restaurant hopping for appetizers at Girl and the Goat, drinks at Maude’s Liquor Bar, and, a big scoop of buttery gelato at BamboBar.
The iconic Lakefront Trail: The mac daddy of walks in Chicago. With an 18-mile long stretch, this one isn’t for the faint of heart. It is home to runners, bikers, rollerbladers, and even the occasional unicyclist. If you want to do the whole thing (it’s doable in a day), start up North at Ardmore Street and hike all the way down to 71st Street. In one sweep, you’ll pass through seven neighborhoods, over 150 volleyball courts, at least four soccer fields, and one breathtaking skyline view that will make you damn proud to be a Chicagoan.
Yes, essentially this is part of the lakefront. But if you don’t have 18 miles worth of time, then this is a worthy shortcut. You’ve got Lake Michigan on the east side, and the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field on the west. Fitt tip: Check out the semi-circle that juts out into the lake around the Planetarium — it's primed for some pretty sweet waves.
It's hard to believe that this nature oasis is only 20 minutes from downtown. With its woodland creatures (frogs, beavers, salamanders) and charming wetlands, you’d think you entered Snow White’s backyard. There are 372 acres of nature preserve for hikers, skiers, and even horseback riders to enjoy.
Tucked away in Chicago’s south side is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. This 217-acre campus is home to ivy-covered neo-gothic buildings, a Frank Lloyd Wright home, the medieval-like Rockefeller Chapel, and the officially-designated Botanic Garden Quad (or Quadrangle, since we’re being scholarly). You'll feel like a student for the day as you wander around taking it all in.