Public Parks in Chicago
Altogether, the Chicago Park District boasts more than “220 stunning facilities throughout the city… 7300 acres of parkland, 552 parks, 33 beaches, nine museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, 10 bird and wildlife gardens, thousands of special events, sports and entertaining programs.”
The options offered by the Chicago Park District are innumerable, from sports and leisure to programs and events. Wherever you find yourself in the city, there's a unique public park close to you. It might be simple, or it might be an acclaimed public space, but there is something for everyone offered by the Chicago Park District.
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the designers of Central Park in New York, this gem of a park was the actual site of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. It This Chicago Park District treasure packs a lot of punch within its 600 acres, including a fitness center and expansive gardens. Also visit the 18-hole Jackson Park Golf Course, or you can just hang on the beach. Visit the Museum of Science and Industry, housed in one of the buildings left over from the fair, and make time to see the “Golden Lady,” a statue set nearby.
Located in the southwestern portion of the city in its namesake neighborhood, Marquette Park was originally created as an antidote to overcrowding in certain areas of Chicago. It is one of the largest Chicago parks at 323 acres, and includes picnic shelters, walking and bike paths, a nursery, track, lagoon, horseshoe pits, a theater, ice rink, playgrounds, ball fields, and a golf course. Or, check out the 3.5-acre prairie remnant along the edge of the lagoon—the Ashburn Prairie. Many native plants still thrive here.
Take in a piece of literary history at this unique public park, Oz Park. Given its name in honor of Lyman Frank Baum, the author (who actually lived nearby) of ‘The Wondeful Wizard of Oz,' the park features endearing statues of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy & Toto. The kids will enjoy Dorothy's Playlot, or relax on a bench in the foliage-heavy Emerald Garden. To actually do something, hit the tennis courts or get busy on the athletic fields.
Best Unexpected Park Features
Many of Chicago's most active and intriguing institutions are affiliated with the Chicago Park District. In addition to the three featured here, the Lincoln Park Zoo, Soldier Field and the Adler Planetarium, also reside in Chicago public parks.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Grandiose and so simple all at the same time, the Garfield Conservatory represents landscaping taken to artistic heights. Featuring teeming plant life on 4.5 acres of indoor and outdoor space, and actually serves as a plant supplier to the city of Chicago . It is located in the Garfield Park neighborhood, and will celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2008. The kids will enjoy the Elizabeth Morse Genius Children's Garden at this gem of the Chicago parks.
DuSable Museum of African American History
This repository of African-American history was founded in 1961, and received its current moniker in 1968. The DuSable Museum of African American History was named for the French-Haitian Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, and its facilities have been upgraded steadily throughout the years. It is home to a wide range of historical items relating to the African-American experience in America , including special exhibits on the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as well as before and after.
As the birthplace of modern architecture, Chicago has plenty of historical buildings used by the public on a daily basis, including the Shedd Aquarium. Founder John G. Shedd got the ball rolling for a stand-alone aquarium in the 1920s, and the balls haven't quit rolling since—except now they roll off the noses of the talented cast of the dolphin show. See the sharks in the “Wild Reef” exhibit, or check out the latest addition to the pod of beluga whales here.