Best Outdoor Activities for Chicago Locals

Spending time in nature is vital to our well-being no matter the season. For those of us living in urban areas, finding open spaces filled with grass and trees can be tricky.

I put together a selection of top-rated, nature-focused locations in and around Chicago. These sights are perfect for practicing environmental wellness and breathing in some fresh air!

The Chicago Botanic Garden

unsplash-logoLina Angelov

If you’re an old soul who enjoys gardening or bird-watching, The Chicago Botanic Garden is the perfect place for you. It features stylized landscapes including an English Walled Garden, a Japanese Garden— complete with a shoin house—and a Water Garden.

I found both The Dwarf Conifer Garden and The Rose Garden beautiful areas for noteworthy Instagram pics.

You can escape urban-life further by participating in any of the numerous classes that allow you to explore a more personal relationship with plants and the environment.

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

unsplash-logoJacky Watt

The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is located on a small river in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Conservancy. Designed to resemble a Midwestern prairie where nearby waterfalls drown out the chaotic city noise, it’s an ideal location for self-reflection and quiet relaxation.

Looking for somewhere to enjoy a leisurely stroll? The stone walkway— surrounding the lily pool and park grounds—is great for finding deeper connection to nature.

The Garfield Park Conservatory

unsplash-logoDavid Sager

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest botanical conservatories in the nation. Their mission is to change lives through the power of nature, so we shouldn’t be surprised when locals call the exhibits landscape art under glass. Indoor and outdoor gardens allow visitors to enjoy the park in any weather.

No matter what season of life you’re in, The Garfield Park Conservatory has something for everyone: students, yogis, and entrepreneurs too. Similar to The Chicago Botanic Garden, they offer numerous events and programs for all ages.

The Morton Arboretum

unsplash-logoDulcey Lima

The Morton Arboretum is located outside of Chicago-proper in a little village called Lisle. It’s the perfect destination for anyone who wants to enjoy a hike without booking a flight out of O’Hare.

Spanning nearly 2,000 acres of land, Morton Arboretum calls itself an “outdoor museum for trees”. Make the most of your visit by enjoying a guided tour of the grounds for optimal relaxation.

The Baháʼí House of Worship

Chicago Architecture Center

The Baháʼí House of Worship is the hidden gem on my list. This is the ideal location to visit if you enjoy both the serenity of gardens and want to see some of the most beautiful architecture in Chicago. The temple is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, but the true beauty is in the extensive grounds surrounding the building.

With elegantly designed gardens and fountains built around secluded paths, it’s my favorite place for quiet walks and contemplation.

These devotional spaces are designated to be utilized by people of all beliefs, so there is no need to worry about interrupting any religious services during your visit. I find the best time to drop by is at dusk when the temple is beautifully lit and provides the perfect outdoor backdrop for a moment with a loved one.

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