Did you know that the name Chicago comes from a Miami Indian word for the wild leeks that grew on the bank of the short Chicago River? Yup – and over the centuries the Miami, Sauk, Fox and Potawatomi tribes all lived in the area. But can we talk about Chicago’s gorgeous Lakefront? Near the end of the nineteenth century, concerns over cleaner water and environments and changing industrial patterns marked a move toward increased leisure use of Chicago’s waterways. And by the close of the 20th century, the shores of Lake Michigan and those of the river systems had become less polluted, providing increased recreational opportunities.
The parks that line the lake are something else. The Chicago Parks Department takes care of 26 miles of lakefront, including 23 public beaches. Also included is an 18-mile dedicated walking and biking path along the lakefront. As well, there are four major parks that line the lakeshore.
Lincoln Park is perhaps the crown jewel of Chicago parks. Originally Chicago’s first cemetery, it is a 1,208 acre park that stretches seven miles of lakefront, resting on the north side of the city. The park hosts a diverse range of sights, most notably the Chicago History Museum, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. With 20 million visitors per year it is the second most visited park in the United States, behind only Central Park in New York City.
Grant Park is in the heart of downtown Chicago. It is a 319 acre park, affectionately called Chicago’s “Front Yard”. Much of the land that Grant Park sits on today is landfill from the Great Chicago Fire.
Burnham Park is a slender, six mile long, 598-acre park that connects the southern end of Grant Park to the northern end of Jackson Park. It is named after urban planner and architect Daniel Burnham, a man extremely influential not only on Chicago’s design, but the City Beautiful movement as a whole.
Jackson Park occupies 500 acres on the southern end of the lakefront, and is perhaps mostly famous for holding the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Much like Grant Park, most of this park was made from landfill.
One of Chicago’s most beautiful assets, its expansive shoreline, is on display in its full glory from the Lakefront Trail. Run, walk, bike or rollerblade with the blue waters of Lake Michigan to one side and gorgeous, green parks to the other. There’s so much to soak in in addition to the skylines views — pass by peaceful boat harbors, serene nature sanctuaries, bustling boardwalks and more.