10 free, peaceful Chicago locations to escape election nastiness

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year old daughter, Viva, who earned at least as many electoral votes as Jill Stein.

Tired of the election yet? Do you have your phone turned off? Do you have any friends left on Facebook? Is Thanksgiving canceled? This has been a nasty one, and we as a nation–on top of being largely a cluster of rubes with only a tenuous grasp of critical thinking–are tired and on edge. How do we talk to the kids about this? How do we let off some steam before our tense shoulders creep up the top of our heads?

Chicago isn’t usually thought of as a place to relax, but this rowdy berg is actually lousy with gorgeous, calm places where you can take this kids to escape the shouting and name-calling. Places with free admission, believe it or not. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to find an hour where no one sings that damned “Go, Cubs, Go” song, either. (And, hey, if they’re going to “win today,” why do you sing it after the game? I really need to get away.)

Turn off CNN! Stop checking 538 for a hot second! Pick up the kids from school and bring them. Enjoy them before the weather gets nasty, and go do some Tai Chi or something–you deserve it.

Promontory Point at Burnham Park

5491 S. Shore Drive

Burnham Park is the enormous set of parks south of Grant Park, and was named after Daniel Burnham, the man who made a plan to ensure the lakefront would forever stay free of Star Wars museums, but not Lake Point Towers or McCormick Place Easts. I’m not sure how that plan works, actually. Designer Alfred Caldwell designed this beautiful naturalistic promontory, near beaches, skate parks and a bird sanctuary.

Garden of the Phoenix at Wooded Island

This Jackson Park gem (just behind the Museum of Science and Industry) was built by the Japanese government and Burnham’s landscape guy, Frederick Law Olmsted, during the 1893 Columbian Exposition, when everything interesting about Chicago was built. (I know you know about it, I saw you reading that “Devil in the White City” book on the L years ago) It’s serenely beautiful, and features a landscape sculpture by Yoko Ono–but you should visit anyway.

Northerly Island

1521 S. Linn White Dr.

Now that the rich guy airport is out of the way, Burnham’s 91-acre peninsula is home to a concert stage, field house, fishing, skiing, play areas, paths and plenty of programming.

Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park

Moving north to the southeast corner of Millennium Park in view of that art museum they visit in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and near that diamond-topped skyscraper from “Adventures in Babysitting,” Lurie Garden is a lush and beautiful year-round plant and wildlife habitat with tours and programming.

The Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier

700 E Grand Ave

While most things at Navy Pier that are neither the Children’s Museum nor Chicago Shakespeare are a tourist swarmed nightmare, the Crystal Gardens are beautiful and often quiet. This six-story atrium holds a botanical garden, leapfrogging fountains and you can’t even smell Bubba Gump Shrimp Company from there.

Garfield Park Conservatory

300 N Central Park Ave

“Landscape art under glass.” This is one of the largest indoor conservatories in the country, and a place to find humidity and the color green on even the grayest Chicago day–and there are acres of outdoor gardens and pools and tennis courts outside.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

2391 N. Stockton Dr.

While we’re talking conservatories, you and the kids can get some photo ops or just play Indiana Jones in this jungly greenhouse near the zoo. Like everything on this list, you won’t believe it’s free.

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

125 W Fullerton Pkwy

Caldwell–there’s that name again. If it weren’t for this guy, Chicago would be nothing but road construction and John Barleycorn (shudder). Make like a frog and hop into this hidden lily pond featuring singing birds and waterfalls.

North Park Village Nature Center

5801 N. Pulaski Rd.

This 46-acre nature preserve used to be a sanitarium for tuberculosis victims, but by the ‘70s TB had been all but wiped out. People said, “Let’s tear it down and build someplace to smoke and listen to the Bee Gees,” but cooler heads prevailed, and now you can walk trails, spot rare birds or visit programs and hands-on activities inside the center.

West Ridge Nature Preserve

5801 N Western Ave

Located near a cemetery, this new far-north side nature preserve isn’t quite as peaceful as a dirt nap, but it’s close. Play, hike, fish, and wonder why Donald Trump thinks life in Chicago is a living hell, because it seems awfully pretty to me.

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