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The 25 most beautiful Chicago parks

Find a place to get away from the urban hustle and bustle with our guide to the most indispensable Chicago parks

Written by
Lindsay Eanet
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Chicago's motto is "City in a Garden," and our public green spaces live up to such a lofty name. With more than 600 facilities throughout the city, the Chicago Parks District boasts something for everyone, whether you're looking for a tiny neighborhood playlot for the kids or a vast swath of green space. Chicago parks are more than just places to work out, ride your bike or play tennis—they also offer plenty of cultural programming, such as the Millennium Park summer concert series or outdoor movies. Most importantly, these Chicago attractions provide a space to relax and momentarily forget that you're in the middle of a large city filled with people, buildings and cars. Not sure which Chicago parks you should visit? Leaving aside Chicago beaches (unfair advantage, honestly), these are some of our favorite parks in the city.

Best Chicago parks

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  • Parks and gardens
  • Millennium Park

Since its completion in 2004, this 24.5-acre park across from Michigan Avenue has been a favorite Midwest tourist destination, and you can still catch crowds of people from all over the world marveling at their reflections in Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture ("The Bean") and frolicking in the Jaume Plensa-designed Crown Fountain. Tourists and locals alike enjoy Millennium Park in all seasons, whether taking in a diverse lineup of concerts and outdoor movies on the lawn of the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion in the summer or ice skating in the winter. 

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  • Millennium Park

Spanning 319 acres of lakefront property, Chicago's “front yard” serves as a gateway to Lake Michigan and the home base for many behemoth summer festivals, including Taste of Chicago and Lollapalooza. When there's not an event going on, there's still plenty to do in this massive green space, like admiring the gardens and public art installations, grabbing a selfie at the iconic Buckingham Fountain, or shredding at the skate park. Kids and kids at heart will love playing on the whimsical equipment at Maggie Daley Park, too. Grant Park also has some significant history—it's where President Barack Obama celebrated his 2008 election victory, and everyone in Chicago will probably tell you they were there that night if you ask. 

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  • Humboldt Park

Formerly known as the Bloomingdale Trail, this converted railway track, renamed The 606, runs through Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown. Named after the first three digits in every Chicago zip code, the 2.7-mile path provides a quick way to travel east and west on the North Side, connecting several parks and public art installations. With more than a dozen entrance and exit points throughout the route, it's a fun and easy way to explore a new neighborhood. Prepare to dodge strollers, bicycles, dogs and residents out for a very slow jog on this popular throughway. 

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  • Lincoln Park

Named for Illinois’s favorite son shortly after his assassination in 1865, Lincoln Park stretches 6.5 miles along the lakeshore from Ohio Street Beach to Hollywood Beach. Inside the boundaries of the sprawling North Side park, visitors will also find attractions like the free Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. The park itself offers golf courses, baseball fields, a skate park and paths for walking, jogging or biking, plenty of green space for lounging and picnics in the summer, and easy access to the nearby Lakefront Trail.

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  • East Garfield Park

Identifiable by the iconic golden dome atop its fieldhouse, Garfield Park on Chicago's West Side offers facilities for baseball, boxing, basketball, tennis and swimming, and also playground, fitness center, a fishing area, a lagoon and paths for jogging, walking and biking, or just admiring the park's public art. No matter what the weather is like outside, the Garfield Park Conservatory (located in the northwest corner of the park) is a major draw, with about 120,000 plants representing some 600 species occupying 1.6 indoor acres, and 12 acres of outdoor gardens in the summer, along with a nature play area for the kids.

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  • Woodlawn

Designed by famous landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Jackson Park became the chosen site for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 (it even contains a scale replica of the event's iconic golden Statue of the Republic). Nowadays, the sprawling park is home to the Museum of Science and Industry, and plenty of activities, including an 18-hole golf course and driving range, disc golf, athletic fields for a variety of sports and a community farm, and furry friends will love the doggy playground at Jackson Bark. The crown jewel of the park, though, is the Wooded Island, a peaceful site for birdwatching, and home to the stunning Osaka Japanese Gardens and the city's blink-and-you-miss-them cherry blossoms.

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  • Millennium Park

Millennium Park's neighbor to the east, Maggie Daley Park's most popular attraction is its quarter-mile skating ribbon (used for ice skating in the winter, or to rent rollerskates or scooters in the summer), which wraps around a 40-foot climbing wall on the northern end of the 20-acre plot. Nearby, kids can enjoy the park's Play Garden, a giant pirate ship play structure with enormous slides, rope bridges, whimsical climbing surfaces and nature-inspired sensory play areas like the Enchanted Forest. Don't forget to check out the park's Climbing Wall or the 18-hole mini golf course, which features tiny recreations of Chicago landmarks like Willis Tower and Daley Plaza's Picasso sculpture. 

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  • South Shore

Fans of The Blues Brothers may recognize the building as the exterior of the fictional Palace Hotel Ballroom, where Jake and Elwood performed a concert and eluded the police. But the very real South Shore Cultural Center, a former country club-turned-landmark, remains an important community hub for the South Shore neighborhood. In addition to the Center itself, you'll find a stunning formal garden, a lush nature sanctuary, a picnic grove and a golf course on the grounds.

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  • Humboldt Park

The lakefront isn't the only place in Chicago where you can spend a day at the beach—Humboldt Park's lagoon has its own inland beach. If you're not much of a swimmer, there's still plenty to explore throughout the 197-acre park, including playgrounds, nature areas, walking and biking trails, community gardens and even a replica of Wrigley Field known as "Little Cubs Field." When the weather is warm, picnics, barbecues and food carts line the green spaces around this iconic neighborhood park, and Humboldt Park is also home to Chicago's Latin Jazz Festival and the annual Puerto Rican Festival.

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  • North Lawndale

There's a lot more to this North Lawndale park than just being the home of Riot Fest. Douglass Park sports many unique features, including the community-led, youth-designed mini golf course, whose obstacles are inspired by the species of migratory birds that pass through the park; the Grateful Dead-inspired musical Sunshine Daydream playground; and the formal gardens and lily pool. In 2020, following a campaign from local organizers and community members, Douglass Park was renamed for abolitionist leaders Frederick and Anna Murray Douglass. 

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  • Things to do
  • Playgrounds
  • Lincoln Square

This 22-acre Lincoln Square park shares space with nearby Amundsen High School and Chappell Elementary School. In addition to the athletic fields and playground, don't miss the 2.7-acre natural area, home to a variety of birds and butterflies. When the weather is warm, you'll find plenty of groups relaxing on the expansive green space, and crowds flock to the park every year on the Fourth of July—it's a popular spot to sit and watch fireworks. 

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  • West Ridge

There's a natural whimsy to this Rogers Park space—kids can cool off in the summer in the spray park, dotted with dancing bears, play on the old-school wooden playground equipment or explore the nature play area. The Indian Boundary Cultural Center, which offers a variety of music, dance and art classes, is a residency site in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago's program, offering free music programming for families throughout the year.

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  • Bridgeport

The former limestone quarry known by locals as "Mount Bridgeport" is one of the newest parks on the list, having opened to the public in 2009, but its history is much older and grander. 400 million years ago, the park was the site of an ancient coral reef. The park today is a dramatic interplay of hills and wetlands, where visitors can fish in the ponds, traverse the recycled-timber boardwalks, fly a kite in the open green meadow or just take in the beautiful views of the Chicago skyline from the top of the hill.

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  • Armour Square

Take the Chicago Water Taxi from downtown and ride it to the end of the line to end up at this beautiful 17-acre riverside park in Chinatown built on a former railway yard. Named for Chinatown civic leader Ping Tom, the park features winding nature trails, a pagoda-style pavilion and an impressive fieldhouse, which sports a second-story patio and a green roof. The park's boathouse offers kayak rentals in the summer and is a popular starting point for adventurers looking to spend a day paddling down the Chicago River.

This 38-acre park is packed with history, from its gorgeous stonework crafted by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s to the pool, where the park hosted the 1972 U.S. Olympic swimming trials and gold medalist Mark Spitz set new world records. In addition to serene green space and the popular swimming pool and water play area, Portage Park offers a variety of activities for Chicagoans of all ages (and species!), including a dog park, an ADA-accessible playground and a boxing center.

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  • Chicago Lawn

There's a lot to explore on this 315-acre green space in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Connect with nature with a leisurely stroll along the lagoon or through the rose garden and community garden. Recreational opportunities include fishing, tennis and basketball, or hitting a few golf balls on the 9-hole course or driving range. In 2016, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) sponsored the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. living memorial, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King and the Chicago Freedom Movement holding a march in Marquette Park to protest racist, discriminatory housing practices. 

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  • North Park

Named for labor union leader Samuel Gompers, this 42-acre oasis serves the Albany Park and Mayfair communities. Guests can wander the meandering trails and look for wildlife around the lagoon, or go fishing in multiple ponds. In addition to its natural features, the park offers an outdoor pool, a playground, several athletic fields, and basketball and tennis courts. Gompers Park is also the beginning of the 16-mile North Branch Trail, which leads north to the Skokie Lagoons.

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  • Lincoln Square

A popular hub for the North Center and Lincoln Square communities, Welles Park gives you a taste of Europe (or Stars Hollow) with its ornate wrought-iron gazebo, a site for concerts and other fun programming in the warmer months. The active fieldhouse houses an indoor pool, a fitness center and a variety of sports and arts programs. Outside, you'll find athletic fields, tennis courts and one of the city's coolest nature play areas for kids. Pro tip: From April 15 through September 1, enjoy a tasty treat from the Crepes in the Park kiosk. 

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  • Lincoln Park

Step into the Merry Old Land of Oz in one of Chicago's most unique parks, a tribute to "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" author L. Frank Baum, who was living in Chicago when he wrote his most famous work. The park's most distinctive features are the large whimsical statues of the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy (and Toto!) that greet you near the park's perimeter, but there are other references to the classic tale throughout the park, including "Dorothy's Playground" and the peaceful Emerald City gardens.

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  • Albany Park

There's truly something for everyone at this 57-acre green space in Irving Park. It's the perfect place to meet friends for a game, with nine softball fields, two night-baseball diamonds and areas for tennis, basketball, football and soccer. More leisurely park-goers can enjoy the river-adjacent nature trail or 13 picnic groves. Kids will love the playground, and pets will love the community-driven dog-friendly area, which is often buzzing with furry friends. What really makes Horner Park stand out, though, is its jam-packed recreational programming, including a woodcraft studio for all ages, the Horner Park Jazz Band, classes in two levels of American Sign Language and programs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. A popular Saturday farmers market with a variety of enticing vendors runs from June through October. 

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  • Little Italy, UIC

A short distance from the original site of her Hull House settlement house, this park named for social reformer Jane Addams offers green space to Near West Side neighbors, who can enjoy the park's amenities in all weathers thanks to the new fieldhouse, opened in 2020. Play football or soccer indoors or outdoors on two turf fields, set up a pickup softball or kickball game on the baseball diamond or go for a run on the three-lane indoor track.

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  • North Park

These two adjacent Park District facilities—which occupy a Northwest Side parcel of land that was once home to a sanitarium—offer a range of amenities. Explore a variety of ecosystems within the winding, peaceful nature preserve, and keep an eye out for birds and deer. The Nature Center offers a variety of hands-on activities and camps for kids. Peterson Park houses several sports fields, walking trails and an in-demand gymnastics center.

Make plans to visit this historic stretch of lakefront that connects Grant Park to Jackson Park, named for influential urban planner and architect Daniel Burnham. A historically and culturally significant location in the fight for "forever open, clear and free" public space in Chicago, Burnham Park is home to Chicago institutions past (the Century of Progress International Exposition) and present (Soldier Field).

Today, the 653-acre park is home to a wide variety of things to see and do, including swimming and relaxing on four beaches, fishing on Northerly Island, taking in nature at the McCormick Bird & Butterfly Sanctuary, trying new moves at the skate park or taking the kids to the massive playground at the 31st Street Harbor. But the real icing on the cake is the end of the park, the breathtaking Promontory Point, a favorite for photographers, nature lovers and wedding proposals. 

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It's truly a choose-your-own adventure at this 345-acre park in the Woodlawn/Washington Park neighborhood. Go for a peaceful stroll or jog among the tree-lined paths, enjoy a quiet morning fishing on the lagoon or take in the view of the water. If you're feeling more active, there's a pool and athletic fields for a variety of sports, from tennis to softball, from basketball to cricket. Or, you can gaze at Lorado Taft's eerie, intricate Fountain of Time sculpture and contemplate your own existence. You know, if you want. 

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