Fun fact: Chicago's motto is "Urbs in Horto." Snap out of that
high-school Latin class flashback - it means "City in a Garden,"
and the city's founders of yore and citizens of today have taken
that message to heart, creating an emerald necklace that truly
dazzles. But horticulture isn't for everyone, especially in the
younger set, so we've picked our favorite kid-friendly urban oases.
These nature nooks are geared toward families with kids, from
stroller-friendly boardwalks to frequent benches, to information
written in language kids can grasp.
The newest addition to Lincoln Park's landscape is "Nature
Trails," a permanent exhibit that opened in June at Peggy Notebaert
Nature Museum. A one-third mile trail winds through prairies,
savannas, wetlands and woodlands, remodeled butterfly and bird
havens, and an herb garden. Stroller-friendly paths and free
admission - you don't have to enter through the museum - make this
a perfect option for low-key summer fun.
We miss the old swan paddle boats, too, but they couldn't have
made way for a worthier project. Nature Boardwalk, seven years in
the making, revamped the southern edge of the park to include 14
acres of natural shoreline and a winding boardwalk path, and it's
quickly becoming one of our favorite picnic spots in the
city. Keep an eye out for painted turtles, beavers and a
nesting colony of endangered black-crowned night herons that's
taken up on the pond's small islands.
You've probably been to Millennium Park dozens of times without
ever peeking behind those shoulder-height hedges. Take a look:
You'll find five acres of wild indigo, ginger, cherry trees, native
Midwestern grasses and thousands more species - plus a walking path
that's as kind-friendly as they come, with small steps and water
features along the way. Thursday and Sunday Tours run 10
a.m.-1:30 p.m. and start at the south end of garden on the
boardwalk. Pack a lunch and enjoy it after the tour to the sounds
of the park's Lunchbreak Concert series, held daily at
Garfield Park Conseravtory is one of Chicago's hidden treasures
- beautiful, historical and packed with free activities for the
budding horticulturalist (or bored kiddie). Click here for a full list of free
drop-in activities, or if you're making your own adventure, print
out the conservatory's
Eye Spy Hunt before you go.
Called the "Sanctuary in the City," this 46-acre nature
preserve, nestled in the northwest side of Chicago, is a welcome
oasis in this busy urban area and has the perfect balance of
hands-on activities and quiet reflection in the natural
surroundings. Start your visit at the nature center, where
you'll find a hands-on fossil collection, animal skeletons and
friendly satff. The path outside its doors is very manageable,
even if for double-wide strollers, and you'll often see deer,
turtles and various birds along the way.