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Chicago may not be an outdoorsman’s paradise during our long winter months, but come spring, the city transforms. Here are a few gems that you should definitely consider the next time you're looking to take a walk on a nice day in the Windy City.
If you’re looking to really get a feel for the nine-to-five hustle, there’s nothing like joining the ranks on Wacker Dr. 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). 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.
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 gluten-free garlic-mushroom tamale. If you head north for .3 miles, you'll find people enjoying the waves of Lake Michigan. Stop for a swim, or continue on to Lincoln Park Zoo for their 10am opening. That'll give you 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. Our advice? 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 neighborhoods. Make a day of it, and treat yourself to a well-earned 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 BomboBar.
The iconic Lakefront Trail: The mac daddy of walks in Chicago. With an 18-mile long stretch, this one 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. 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, this is technically 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. Want a cool vantage point? Check out the semi-circle that juts out into the lake around the planetarium.
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. Enjoy your time in the wild with a walk, hike, or bring your cross-country skis; there are 372 acres of nature preserve to explore.
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. You'll feel like a student for the day as you wander around taking it all in.
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