Top 12 Best Parks in Chicago

Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Chicago is known for its vast public park system, which includes over 600 parks located throughout the city. These green spaces provide residents and visitors with ample opportunities for recreation, events, and appreciating nature.

Park NameFeatures
Millennium ParkPublic art, architecture, cultural programs.
Grant ParkBuckingham Fountain, museums, festivals.
Lincoln ParkZoo, museums, nature areas.
Maggie Daley ParkPlaygrounds, ice skating, climbing walls.
Northerly Island ParkNatural areas, concerts, recreational activities.
Ping Tom Memorial ParkAthletic facilities, gardens, cultural events.
Humboldt ParkBoathouse, athletic fields, natural areas.
Jackson ParkMuseum of Science and Industry, gardens, beaches.
Calumet ParkBeach, fishing, sports facilities.
Harrison ParkSports fields, cultural events, nature areas.
Marquette ParkGolf course, cultural events, lagoons.
Burnham ParkBeaches, trails, harbor, recreational amenities.

From expansive parks with numerous amenities to quaint neighborhood green spaces, Chicago has a park to suit everyone’s needs. In this article, we will explore the top 12 best parks in Chicago that you must visit.

1: Millennium Park

Name and Location: Millennium Park spans 24.5 acres in the Loop area of downtown Chicago, bordered by Michigan Avenue, Randolph Street, Columbus Drive and Monroe Street.

History and Significance: Completed in 2004 on former rail yard space, Millennium Park has become a popular Chicago attraction and event venue, known for public artworks like Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate “Bean” sculpture, the facespouting Crown Fountain, and Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion bandshell.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy exploring Millennium Park’s contemporary monuments with free access to lawns hosting fitness classes, food trucks and rotating cultural festivals from May through September against the epic backdrop of Chicago’s skyline.

Visitor Information: As a public city park, Millennium Park is freely accessible 24/7 with family-friendly walking paths. Parking garages nearby; CTA trains/buses stop steps away.

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Millennium Park is one of the most popular and iconic parks in the city. Spread over 24.5 acres, the park is known for its stunning architecture, public art installations, landscapes, and entertainment venues. Some of the top attractions in Millennium Park include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden, and the Chase Promenade. Designed by renowned architects, the park seamlessly blends art, architecture and nature together in a beautiful public space. Millennium Park hosts over 300 free cultural programs throughout the year including musical performances, exhibitions and family events. Visitors love to have picnics on the great lawn, take photographs at Cloud Gate, and enjoy free concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion.

2: Grant Park

Name and Location: Grant Park spans 319 acres in the Chicago Loop along Lake Michigan downtown, known as “Chicago’s front yard” bordered by Michigan Ave, Roosevelt Rd, Columbus Dr and Randolph St.

History and Significance: Originally lakefront land, the mid-19th century saw Grant Park become the site of the World’s Columbian Exposition before evolving into a civic and recreational greenspace marrying culture, nature and Chicago’s skyline with attractions like Buckingham Fountain.

What to Expect: Visitors traverse landscaped trails past Chicago icons like the Art Institute, Maggie Daley Park and Soldier Field, often catching music festivals like Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago centered around the iconic Buckingham Fountain during Grant Park’s summer event season.

Visitor Information: Grant Park is free and publicly accessible year-round as Chicago’s prime gathering place. Parking garages border the park; CTA bus and train stops lie within walking distance.

Adjacent to Millennium Park, Grant Park spans over 319 acres and offers plenty of recreational activities for locals and tourists. Some of the top attractions include Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago, Maggie Daley Park, and the Museum Campus containing the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Grant Park hosts several festivals, concerts and sporting events, including Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago and Chicago Blues Festival. Visitors can walk, jog or bike on the Lakefront Trail with scenic views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. The park also contains beautiful gardens, public art installations, and paths for strolling. Whether you want to have a picnic, play sports, visit a museum or just enjoy nature, Grant Park is one of the best parks in Chicago.

3: Lincoln Park

Name and Location: Lincoln Park spans 1,200 acres along Lake Michigan downtown, stretching from Ohio Street north to near Ardmore Avenue, featuring the Lincoln Park Zoo, Conservatory, beaches, a lagoon and recreational facilities.

History and Significance: Dating back to 1860 as one of Chicago’s original public parks, landmarks like the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Chicago History Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool grace these open grounds originally serving as the city’s “North Park.”

What to Expect: Visitors bike, jog or stroll across Lincoln Park’s sprawling paths and trails passing its Zoo, beaches, cultural attractions and nature areas that come alive with festivals, farmers markets and outdoor movies during summer months against Chicago’s incredible skyline vista.

Visitor Information: Lincoln Park is freely accessible 6am-11pm daily with lanes for walking, running and bicycling across its vast 1200 acres. Free street parking borders the park; pay lots nearby. CTA buses and the “L” train have stops along the park.

At over 1,200 acres, Lincoln Park is Chicago’s largest public park located along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. As one of the city’s most popular green spaces, the park offers many recreational activities including the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago History Museum, Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, North Pond Nature Sanctuary, beaches, bicycling paths, sports fields and more. Visitors can see a variety of wildlife including monarch butterflies, dragonflies, herons and egrets at the Nature Boardwalk. Some notable landmarks are the Standing Lincoln statue, Lincoln Monument, and Cafe Brauer. The park also hosts several events throughout the year such as music festivals, holiday celebrations and farmers markets. Families, friends, couples and outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty of amenities to enjoy at Chicago’s magnificent Lincoln Park.

4: Maggie Daley Park

Name and Location: Maggie Daley Park spans across 20 acres behind the northeast corner of Millennium Park in downtown Chicago bordered by Lake Shore Drive, Columbus Drive, Randolph Street and Monroe Street.

History and Significance: Opened in 2014 and named after Chicago’s former First Lady in honor of her dedication creating recreational spaces for children, Maggie Daley Park features vast lawns, an ice skating ribbon, rock climbing walls, playgrounds and more unique “playscapes”.

What to Expect: Families with kids enjoy the park’s imaginative landscape of Eastern inspiration including its magnetic Enchanted Rock mini-golf course, winding skating ribbon, rock climbing features, interactive Play Garden, picnic grounds and Chicago skyline views.

Visitor Information: Maggie Daley Park offers free general admission with amenities and programs welcoming all ages and abilities to play and move daily from 6am to 11pm. Parking garages surround the area. Nearby CTA trains and buses provide transport to/from the Loop location.

Named after former Chicago First Lady Maggie Daley, this park is a 20-acre recreation and entertainment venue located in the northeast corner of Grant Park. Maggie Daley Park is renowned for its playgrounds designed for kids of all ages and abilities, including the interactive Play Garden for young kids and the adventurous Climbing Walls for older kids. For adults, the park offers a rock climbing wall, ice skating ribbon, and mini golf during warm months. Fitness enthusiasts can exercise at the Fieldhouse fitness center and 47th Street walking path. Visitors can enjoy lovely views of the Chicago skyline while kids play in the playgrounds. The park hosts fun events on weekends and during the holidays, making it one of the best family-friendly parks in Chicago.

5: Northerly Island Park

Name and Location: Northerly Island Park inhabits a 91-acre peninsula off Chicago’s Lake Michigan Museum Campus southeast of the Loop, accessible via the scenic Northerly Island Bridge walking path.

History and Significance: Converted from the former Meigs Field airport site, Northerly Island Park opened in 2015 reimagining the manmade peninsula as a spacious nature area showcasing prairie, pond and lagoon ecosystems as well as scenic walking trails with spectacular skyline views.

What to Expect: Bicyclists, joggers and walkers traverse scenic paths watching sailboats drift across Burnham Harbor, while taking in wildflowers and city views from open lawn spaces that host music festivals and stargazing events, including a seasonal outdoor concert pavilion.

Visitor Information: Northerly Island Park remains open daily from 6am to 11pm with free admission. Walking, cycling or taking the CTA bus from Museum Campus provides car-free access to the redesigned urban wild peninsula.

Situated on a 91-acre peninsula along Lake Michigan, Northerly Island Park provides visitors with scenic natural areas and an array of recreational activities. Bikers, joggers, and walkers can enjoy the 2.7 mile trail that encircles the peninsula and offers sweeping views of the city skyline. Some key features include a large prairie with walking paths, a pollinator garden, fishing areas, and picnic groves. The park also holds outdoor concerts at the Huntington Bank Pavilion and features an inflatable park during summer. Wildlife enthusiasts can see an array of birds and other animals throughout the park. Nature lovers, outdoor adventurers, and anyone looking for beautiful lake views will appreciate this unique urban oasis park.

6: Ping Tom Memorial Park

Name and Location: Ping Tom Memorial Park is an 18-acre public urban park spanning from 18th to 19th Streets along the Chicago River in the heart of Chinatown southeast of the Loop downtown.

History and Significance: Once a former rail yard, Ping Tom Park transformed an industrial eyesore into Chinatown’s recreational riverfront hub – named for a pioneering civic leader who aided Chinese Americans. Its opening restored safe public access and activities to neglected riverbank space.

What to Expect: Families fish from the riverwalk, play in the children’s playground and picnic grove, join tai chi classes or admire the Flower and Dragon Pagodas gracing Ping Tom’s landscape integrating the river and neighborhood culture via tree-lined paths under Chicago’s watchful skyline.

Visitor Information: Ping Tom Park remains freely open 6am–11pm daily with fieldhouses and public facilities providing amenities. CTA buses reach the park location downtown; limited street parking lines adjacent roads.

Situated in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, Ping Tom Memorial Park is an 18-acre riverfront park with athletic facilities, playgrounds, gardens and striking vistas of the Chicago skyline. Visitors can play basketball, tennis, soccer, volleyball on the park’s sports fields or walk along the serene riverbank. The park also features Chinese landscape elements including the Ming Hu garden with a pavilion, winding paths, and murals. Families enjoy spending time at the playground and water play area during summer. Ping Tom Park hosts cultural events celebrating Chinese performing arts, foods and crafts. The park offers a scenic place for strolling, picnicking, boating or appreciating Asian culture and architecture in a natural setting.

7: Humboldt Park

Name and Location: Humboldt Park spans 207 acres on Chicago’s West Side, bordered by North Ave, Division Street, California Avenue and Kedzie Boulevard surrounding the historic Humboldt Park Boathouse.

History and Significance: Laid out in 1869 as one of Chicago’s first large neighborhood parks, the sprawling green space provided recreation to surrounding German and Polish immigrant communities and now hosts Puerto Rican cultural events like Fiestas Puertorriqueñas showcasing ethnic traditions.

What to Expect: Outdoor fitness classes energize mornings by the lagoon and rose garden while cyclists circle its multi-use trail. Evening concerts and movie nights entertain at the inland beach during summers, all year-round locals play soccer across its open lawns.

Visitor Information: Free public admission 6am-11pm; park hours align with seasonal fieldhouse hours. Limited street parking; CTA California or Kedzie Brown Line stop nearby.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, Humboldt Park spans over 207 acres and is located on Chicago’s West Side. The park is home to the nationally renowned Humboldt Park Boathouse with fitness classes and boat rentals. Visitors can play soccer, baseball or tennis at the park’s athletic fields, go for a scenic run around the lagoon, or relax in the natural areas and gardens. Families with kids will love the playground, splash pad and winter ice rink at the Fieldhouse. The park is also known for the Humboldt Park Beach and elegant rose garden. Music and food festivals held at the park celebrate the Puerto Rican culture and community. Nature lovers, athletes, families and culture enthusiasts will find plenty to do in this vibrant community park.

8: Jackson Park

Name and Location: Jackson Park spans more than 500 acres stretching along Lake Michigan on Chicago’s South Side from E. 56th Street to E. 67th Street between S. Stony Island Ave & Lake Shore Drive.

History and Significance: Established to host the 1893 World’s Fair, recreational amenities were added like two golf courses as Jackson Park endured a site of civil rights milestones, from Obama’s presidential library breaking ground to hosting music festivals celebrating African-American culture today.

What to Expect: Visitors exercise along peaceful wooded walking trails and the park’s one-mile promenade facing the Museum of Science and Industry, row across bobbing boats by the tranquil Japanese Gardens, picnic by 63rd St Beach or tee off at the golf course.

Visitor Information: Jackson Park offers free admission from 6am-11pm daily; parking available along certain drives. The Metra Electric Line station sits adjacent.

As the site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Jackson Park has played a significant role in Chicago’s history. Today, the 543-acre park situated along Lake Michigan contains recreational facilities, sporting venues, cultural institutions and historic landmarks. Some noteworthy attractions are the Museum of Science and Industry, Osaka Garden, 63rd Street Beach, and the 18-hole Jackson Park Golf Course. The park provides plenty of green space for jogging, cycling, picnicking or taking a tranquil stroll. Visitors also come to view the Statue of the Republic, a golden replica of Daniel Chester’s French’s “Republic” that was the centerpiece at the 1893 World’s Fair. Jackson Park offers scenic natural areas, historic architecture, and diverse recreational amenities.

9: Calumet Park

Name and Location: Calumet Park is on Chicago’s far South Side, spanning 98 acres along Lake Michigan located at 9801 South Avenue G between 98th and 102nd Streets.

History and Significance: Acquired in 1913 as one of the city’s first three swimming beaches, Calumet Park was a catalyst for the environmental justice movement when community members rallied successfully for the polluted area’s restoration, ensuring safe recreational access.

What to Expect: Now recovered from industrial pollution darker days, Calumet welcomes families to play in clean sands along an arc of scenic beach against stunning skyline views, also offering fishing piers, sports fields and shady picnic spots near historic fieldhouse architecture.

Visitor Information: Free general admission 6am-11pm daily March-December; closed seasonally. Metered parking along Avenue G. CTA bus routes nearby with more limited transit access.

Occupying over 98 acres on Chicago’s far South side, Calumet Park is a popular spot for swimming, fishing, and outstanding lake views. The park contains nearly one mile of shoreline with a sandy beach, promenade, and stone revetments. Families enjoy the playground, sport courts, and picnic groves during summer. Anglers can fish in Lake Michigan from the park’s shoreline and pier. The park also features a historic fieldhouse, nature trails, and a monument marking where a sandbar once connected land to Michigan across the lake. With lovely scenery and waterfront access, Calumet Park is one of Chicago’s best kept secrets for outdoor adventures off the beaten path.

10: Harrison Park

Name and Location: Harrison Park stretches 18 acres across Chicago’s Pilsen community spanning Harrison Street, 18th Street, Wood Street and Ashland Avenue.

History and Significance: A former cemetery site from Chicago’s earliest days, Harrison Park has long served as recreational greenspace for the neighborhood from the late 19th century onward, also housing the National Museum for Mexican Art to uplift cultural arts.

What to Expect: Families and friend groups picnic under trees, exercise on sports fields and walk dogs, while enjoying the grassy park’s sculptures and amenities year-round in the heart of the Mexican-American dominated community.

Visitor Information: Harrison Park offers free general admission daily 5am-11pm. Street parking surrounds the area; the CTA Pink Line 18th Street Pilsen stop sits next door.

In Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, Harrison Park provides a hub for sports, cultural events and appreciating nature. Visitors can play baseball, soccer and basketball on the park’s athletic fields or take a calming stroll through the arboretum and gardens. The park offers an indoor aquatic center, fieldhouse with a gymnasium, and walking loop. Families enjoy spending time in the playground and splash pad on warm days. Harrison Park hosts festivals that celebrate Mexican culture and traditions through music, food and art. Nature lovers will enjoy strolling through the arboretum to see trees, flowers and public art. With scenic gardens, recreational facilities and cultural programs, Harrison Park has something to please everyone.

11: Marquette Park

Name and Location: Marquette Park spans hundreds of acres across Chicago’s Southwest Side, bordered between California Ave, Kedzie Ave, 67th St and 71st St surrounding the historic Marquette Park Fieldhouse.

History and Significance: Originally part of a Jesuit mission site named after French explorer Jacques Marquette from 1674-1675, Marquette Park was later developed for public recreation as the community transitioned during the early 20th century alongside pivotal civil rights events.

What to Expect: Shaded walking paths encircle lagoons passing Marquette’s golf course, baseball diamonds, cultural centers and landmarks from less tolerant times that now give way to open lawns welcoming neighborhood play and strolls under the sprawling city sky.

Visitor Information: Marquette Park offers free general admission daily from 6am-11pm; the fieldhouse aligns with Chicago Park District seasonal hours. Limited lot parking; CTA bus routes provide nearby transit.

Covering over 300 acres, Marquette Park is located on the Southwest side and contains many recreational facilities. Athletic amenities include basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, and a golf course designed by renowned architect Greg Martin. The park offers cultural events at the Clarence Darrow Bridge commemorating the civil rights movement. Visitors can enjoy gorgeous lagoons with fountains, walking paths and fishing spots. Marquette Park is also home to cultural institutions including the Fire Department Museum and Lithuanian Research Center Museum. Families have fun at the large playground, spray pool, and winter sledding hill. Whether you want to play sports, learn about history and culture, or enjoy scenic nature, Marquette Park is worth a visit.

12: Burnham Park

Name and Location: Burnham Park spans nearly 600 acres of Chicago lakefront parkland stretching along South Lake Shore Drive from McCormick Place to 56th Street at the south edge of Grant Park, named after renowned architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham.

History and Significance: Unifying visions for Chicago’s 1909 Burnham Plan and 1933’s A Century of Progress World’s Fair, Burnham Park continuously develops as a recreational strip welcoming sailboats along its harbors, cyclists over trails, and families to its beaches against the splendid skyline vista.

What to Expect: Runners enjoy miles of scenic lakefront paths past Buckingham Fountain to Burnham Skate Park and Harbor while kids splash in the sand at 31st Street Beach. Free activities occur at the glass-domed Burnham Wildlife Corridor.

Visitor Information: As public parkland, the Burnham Park stretch offers free admission daily 6am-11pm with convenient parking available along South Lake Shore Drive and nearby major CTA bus routes.

Stretched along Chicago’s lakefront, Burnham Park spans over 598 acres and draws visitors with its beaches, trails, harbor and recreational amenities. Some top features are the 57th Street and 63rd Street Beaches for swimming during summer. Visitors can go boating, fishing, and kayaking at the Burnham Harbor. The park also contains skate parks, playgrounds, basketball courts, and ballfields. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy walking, jogging or cycling on the lakefront trail with views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. Burnham Park offers access to Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears football team. Visitors will find beaches, watersports, trails and sports facilities to create an enjoyable lakefront park experience.

Conclusion

Chicago is certainly not lacking when it comes to public green spaces. The city’s sprawling park district provides endless options for recreation, relaxation, and fun. From the magnificent Grant and Millennium Parks located downtown to neighborhood gems like Ping Tom Memorial Park, there are parks and outdoor activities to suit all interests. Iconic parks like Lincoln Park and Jackson Park offer nature, public art, landmarks, and recreational facilities within their expansive grounds. And parks like Maggie Daley, Harrison, and Calumet connect visitors to important cultural events and communities. Whether you want to play sports, walk by the lakefront, or attend a festival, Chicago’s outstanding parks offer the perfect urban nature escape.

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