Best Outdoor Adventures in Chicago

Caitlin Murray Giles - Chicago
October 23, 2017

There's nothing quite like the great outdoors to quiet your children's squabbles, exhaust their seemingly endless reservoir of energy and get them thinking outside of the box. A trip to the zoo can become a safari as you search for animals. An outing to your neighborhood park can lead to the discovery of a bird's nest. If you are a mother of a boy, you know quite well that a stick can be transformed into dozens of other implements of imaginary play. So, what are you waiting for? Put on your walking shoes, grab your water bottle and sunscreen and get ready for an adventure!

Millennium Park

Enjoy a live performance. Splash in the Crown Fountain. Tour the Lurie Gardens. Get a game of Frisbee going on the expansive open, green space. The possibilities are endless!

The Brookfield Zoo

Sure, this well-known destination is a world-class zoo. But it is also so much more than that. The Brookfield Zoo's offerings are so wide and varied that you couldn't possibly take it all in on one visit. We love the fact that so much of the action takes place outdoors. Don't miss the Hamill Family Play Zoo on your next visit. This intimate, family-friendly space is a rare chance for kids to get up close and personal with live animals in an interactive setting. When they tire of the animal scene, my kids also love to ride the carousel or just hang out at one of the many playground areas. The Brookfield Zoo can definitely get crowded, but there is plenty of open space to spread out a blanket and dig into your picnic lunch. Definitely consider purchasing a family membership (it pays for itself in just two visits) because your kids are going to want to make a return trip.

Chicago Botanic Garden

This North Side destination is all about outdoor fun. In addition to the many fantastic summer camp offerings, the Chicago Botanic Garden has family-friendly programming that fits every family's schedule. We can't wait to check out their Nature Nights program this summer. On several different evenings throughout the summer, families with kids age 4 and up can enjoy a picnic dinner and then explore the garden under the cover of darkness. How cool is that? Each Nature Night also includes short tram ride, planting project, and s'mores (naturally). And no trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden is complete without a trip to the totally serene Japanese gardens. Even the most energetic toddler can find their zen in this peaceful spot.

The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum will wow any nature loveryoung or old. The Children's Garden is an excellent way to spend a few hours with your little explorers. Try to plan your visit soon if you canthe newly hatched crop of tadpoles in the Wonder Pond will hop off into the woods for their next adventure by early July. We are also excited to try the new "Family Explorer Backpack" offering. For only $5 ($4 for members), families can reserve a self-guided family backpack to enhance their experience in the Children's Garden. Backpack rental includes science tools, guides and fun props. This program is ideal for families with children ages 2-6.

The North Park Village Nature Center

The North Park Village Nature Center is truly an urban oasis. Amidst the high rises and traffic jams, this gem offers stroller friendly walking trails, woodlands, wetlands, prairie and savannas.  Be sure to check out the lily pad pond and glass-enclosed beehive. And don't be afraid to ask questions of the naturalists on staff—they love to share their expertise.

Take advantage of these suggestions—or hit up your own personal faves. But don't miss out the fleeting opportunity to bask in the warm sunshine here in Chicago! Go, go, go! The snow will be falling before you know it.


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