Local Outdoor Activities

March 18, 2021

Spring weather in Chicago is finally here! After being cooped up all Winter, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some local outdoor activities. And while we know we’re not out of the cold weather just yet (hello, snow earlier this week!). After all, it’s March in Chicago and anything could happen. But on days when the sun is shining, or at least it’s not freezing rain, it feels great to get outside into the fresh air.

After spending far too many days stuck in inside, we’re all ready for some outdoor adventures. Some establishments and attractions had been closed this Winter due to the pandemic, but with Chicago now in Phase 4 of its reopening plan, we’ve got a lot more options. Read on for some ideas for local outdoor activities this Spring in the city and nearby suburbs.

Hang Out With The Animals

Lincoln Park Zoo

2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

Lincoln Park Zoo is reopen and taking reservations. Built in 1868, it is one of the oldest zoological gardens in the country. It is also the only free zoo in the nation. While admission is free, reservations are required to facilitate social distancing and to limit capacity.

Once you are there you can visit 200 unique animal species and enjoy 49 acres of gardens. The majority of indoor facilities will remain closed – check the website before going or inquire once you arrive for the most up to date information. The zoo is following city and state guidelines to ensure the safety of their guests and staff, as well as the animals in their care. Throughout the zoo, facial coverings will be required for those over the age of 2 who are medically able, and social distancing will be observed.

Brookfield Zoo

3300 Golf Road, Brookfield, IL 60513

Brookfield Zoo is also reopen and taking reservations for timed entry. The zoo is limiting guest capacity to ensure safe social distancing. While 450 species of animals are housed within the 216-acre park, only the outdoor exhibits are open at this time. All indoor spaces are currently closed. The zoo is featuring a special Dinos Everywhere exhibit through September 6, 2021 that features over 40 animatronic dinosaurs that will be fun for the whole family. Reservation times are available in 20-minute increments. Everyone must reserve and secure a ticket online before visiting Brookfield Zoo. 

All guests ages 2 and over must wear face coverings when entering the zoo. Once inside, face coverings should be worn if you are not able to maintain a social distance of at least six feet from staff and other guests who are not members of the same family.  This includes when making transactions at food, beverage, and merchandise kiosks and while inside bathrooms.

Go On A Nature Walk

Chicago Botanic Gardens

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022

Take a walk through 385 acres of beautiful gardens in their natural habitats and witness the first spring flowers in bloom. The Chicago Botanic Garden is home to 25 display gardens, including the bonsai collection, the green roof, and the aquatic garden. To help with social distancing, you must pre-register for a timed entry pass.

Morton Arboretum

4100 Lincoln Ave, Lisle, IL 60532

Like some other attractions, you’ll need advanced reservations for timed entry at the Morton Arboretum. Once you are inside the gates, grab a map and explore the trails. A living tree museum located in Lisle, the arboretum covers 1,700 acres with over 222,000 live plants. You can stick around the visitor’s center for dining, paved paths, and a children’s garden. Or head over to the less populated areas for a nature hike through the woodlands. (Bring bug spray if you head off into the woods, they can be full of mosquitos.)

Walk Or Bike The Trails

Chicago Lakefront Path

Lakefront, running from Ardmore Ave. on the north, to 71st St. on the south

Hit this 18-mile paved path for a scenic lake view on one side with the city landscape on the other. The trail is currently open to walking, running, biking, and rollerblading, and it connects to many popular restaurants, beaches, and parks.

The 606

The 606 runs along the Bloomingdale Trail (1800N) for 2.7 miles between Ashland (1600W) and Ridgeway (3750W)

A former elevated train track (the Bloomingdale Trail) was converted into a biking/walking trail, creating the 606. It connects four neighborhood parks. Rising above the city streets, this smooth path is a favorite of runners, walkers, and bike riders. The trail is within a 10-minute walk to approximately 80,000 Chicagoans, including 20,000 children, giving thousands of people a traffic-free oasis in the middle of the city.

Walking Tours

Frank Lloyd Wright Walking Tours

951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302

Photo by Zol87 from Chicago, IL USA. Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright began his career in Oak Park, where he built 25 iconic buildings. His home and studio are open on a limited basis to tours, but if you’d like to keep it outside, you can take a guided walking tour of some of his famous homes throughout the neighborhood. Or grab a map and take yourself on a self-guided tour.

Get Out Of Town (Literally!)

Starved Rock State Park

2668 East 875th Road, Oglesby, IL 61348

If you really want to get away from the city and enjoy nature, you can take a 90-minute drive to Utica and head over to Starved Rock State Park. Here you can enjoy 13 miles of hiking trails overlooking sandstone canyons that were formed thousands of years ago by glacial meltwater. Spring is a great time to view the seasonal waterfalls as they are active after heavy rainfalls.

We hope you enjoyed our list of fun local outdoor activities to get out and try this Spring! Do you have suggestions for places we should explore next? Drop us a line to let us know! We love staying healthy, whether through healthy snacks or exercise.

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