Where to Get Outdoors and Enjoy Spring and Summer in Chicago

Sure, Chicago may be a concrete jungle, but there’s plenty of wide-open parks, greenspaces, and scenic spots to enjoy the great outdoors. Now that the weather is starting to break, it’s time to put away the down parka—we hope for good—and trade it in for some sunglasses and SPF. All of Chicago’s neighborhoods have their own unique outdoor recreation resources, giving locals an abundance of places where they can get a little closer to nature. 

Lincoln Park

Aerial of Lincoln Park and its free zoo

Lincoln Park is much more than just a park—in fact, it covers the entire area of land along the lakefront from Ohio Street Beach in Streeterville to Ardmore Avenue in Edgewater. The American Planning Association named the 1,208-acre park one of the greatest public spaces in America in 2010, and it’s easy to see why. The park is the largest of the 552 parks in the city, and includes the zoo, conservatory, Theater on the Lake, nature museum, and more. The Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool was named a National Historic Landmark in 2006, and the park as a whole was listed on the National Register for housing several architecturally significant structures.

Humboldt Park

Fieldhouse and pond in Humboldt PArk

Humboldt Park is in the heart of the neighborhood of the same name, spanning 218 acres. Humboldt Park is always bustling in the summertime, but there are still spots to venture to for some peace and quiet. The park has its own historic fieldhouse, an inland beach, lagoons, and a boathouse with a restaurant. A path winds through the entire park, leading to tennis courts, baseball fields, an artificial turf soccer field, and a junior soccer field. The park is also home to the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture, which is the only museum completed dedicated to the history of Puerto Rican culture. 

Hollywood / Foster Beach Lakefront

Photo by Alanscottwalker / CC BY

Spending a day at the beach doesn’t have to mean being surrounded by college students and tourists. While North Avenue Beach may be the prime lakefront spot for out-of-towners, Hollywood Beach,or Kathy Osterman beach, is purely locals. Located just east of the Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, the northernmost point of the lakefront path is edged by both Hollywood and Foster beaches. 

Hollywood Beach is resort-like, and the skyline of downtown is out of reach, making it feel even more removed from the city. Rent a paddleboard and get out on the water here. 

Foster Beach is just a bit south of Hollywood Beach and is typically visited by families and big groups taking advantage of the abundance of grass where barbecuing is allowed. There’s parking at this beach, a small concession area, and volleyball courts.

Promontory Point

Photo by Tonythetiger / CC BY-SA

Originally made from landfill, Promontory Point is a man-made peninsula near Hyde Park that is a part of the larger 600-acre Burnham Park. Burnham Park extends six miles between Grant Park and Jackson Park, and it was named for the architect and planner who envisioned a lakefront park on the south end of the city that would feature man-made islands, boating harbors, beaches, and meadows. Today it’s known as a popular wedding venue and a perfect place to take in the entire city skyline. While there’s not a ton to do here, it’s a great place to sit back and relax with a book. 

Ping Tom Memorial Park

Ping Tom Memorial Park / Shutterstock

Located along the south branch of the Chicago River in Chinatown, the Ping Tom Memorial Park is 17 acres on a site that was originally a Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad yard. The land was transformed into a park by the Chicago Park District in 1998, and the park’s fieldhouse was completed in 2013. The park boasts sprawling river views, a children’s playground, gathering areas, and traditional Chinese landscape design. There are walking paths along the river as well as a state-of-the-art fitness center, indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, and second-story patio within the fieldhouse. The park often hosts Shakespeare in the Park, Movies in the Park, and other community events.

Grant Park

Concerts in the Park at Millennium Park

Grant Park is easily the most recognizable park in the city, since it’s home to iconic attractions like Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park, and Maggie Daley Park. Stretching from Roosevelt Road in the South Loop to Randolph Street in The Loop, Grant Park is considered to be “Chicago’s Front Yard.” The 319-acre park is host to many of the city’s biggest summertime festivals, like Lollapalooza, the Chicago Marathon, and the Taste of Chicago. While it’s certainly a spot for tourists to visit, it’s also teeming with spots for locals to play baseball, soccer, tennis, and more.

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