Beaches and Parks, Chicago
Under development since a 1990s road building project allowed for the development of a pedestrian walkway along the Chicago River, the Chicago Riverwalk is still an effort under development. The walkway is a popular place, even in winter, for those to jog and ride their bikes as it offers relatively unobstructed passage compared to city streets and intersections. As seen in photo 3, it is a great place to enjoy Chicago's architecture.
The main walkway today is on the south side of the Chicago River. As seen in photograph 2, there are a few bridges where the walkway on the north side does not go around some of the bridges (the north side, on the left, note lacks a walkway around the bridge). There are also other parts of the walkway that are not exactly 100% complete, and it reality it will probably always be a work in progress in order to expand and improve what is there.
There are a number of restaurants and food carts along the walkway, as well as a small museum or two, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and a few other features.
As you can see on the far right of photo 2, there are a lot of places on the Riverwalk that connect to city streets only by staircases. Development of alternatives is underway. Also underway is a cove for human powered watercraft, and various other developments.
During a 1920s gangster bus tour of Chicago two years ago, I caught a quick glimpse of a statue of the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" standing on a pedestal in a park. His shiny armour looked so completely out of place against the greenery and it seemed so random at the time, I muttered, "What the...?," and dashed quickly to the window to take a photo. But it was already too late--our bus had turned a corner and I missed the shot.
Well, that image of the Tin Man (also known as Nick Chopper, The Tin Woodman, Emperor of the Winkies) standing frozen in a park, stayed in my mind, brewing over the next two years. I vowed that if I ever went back to Chicago I'd find out exactly what it was all about. ...And maybe bring an oil-can with me in case the poor guy was rusted stiff.
I've always had a bit of a soft-spot in my heart for "The Wizard of Oz"--the movie as well as the original books by L. Frank Baum. As a child, the film's vivid Technicolor story of a young girl travelling alone to a far away land to befriend wondrous creatures and go on epic adventures likely spawned my initial desire to travel and see the world. As an adult, I can still appreciate the stories as they're even more demented than my own imagination (trust me, mine's far out there) without being too preachy or overtly religious.
Before this second visit to Chicago, I'd researched in advance to find out why there'd be a statue of the Tin Man there in the first place. I discovered that Lyman Frank Baum, the writer of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and its 13 sequels, wrote and published the very first of the books in this city in 1900. In 1974, the Chicago Park District honoured its famous former-resident by dedicating "Oz Park" in the name of his fictional fairyland. It has occasionally added statues to the park over the years. ...Wait! There are more statues besides the Tin Man?!
My favourite Chicagoans, Kristi and her husband David, have agreed to take me to Oz Park today and although I can't help but notice their occasional glances like I might be the one with a head full of straw to be so excited about this, I think curiosity might have the best of them as well. They've never been to Oz Park either.
It's a beautiful, sunny Saturday and we find Nick Chopper right away, standing on the corner just as I'd seen him two years earlier. The park is larger than I imagined; adding to its charm are kids frolicking happily on playground equipment and oiled women in bikinis sunbathing here and there on the grassy lawns. ...Can't say I really expected that last perk of the visit.
Over course of the next twenty minutes we find statues of the Scarecrow, Dorothy with Toto, and finally the Cowardly Lion. They really should interconnect the statues with a path of yellow brick--that would be fun! The paint used for Dorothy's bright, red slippers is very impressive, but the Scarecrow could use with a good scrubbing and some polish because he looks like a scary hobo. The Wizard, Glinda, and the Wicked Witch of the West (only recently given the proper name "Elphaba Thropp") are glaringly absent, but hopefully they'll be added to the collection eventually. My favourite of Baum's Oz characters, Jack Pumpkinhead, is likely centuries off from being here but if they ever dedicate one to him, I'd rush to Chicago just to watch the ceremony and laugh my head off.
Overall, it's a nice park... Made even nicer with the Oz crew!
See my "Oz Park" video.
This small beach is situated on North Lake Shore Drive near to the Navy Pier. My hotel was on East Ohio Street & every morning after breakfast I'd walk the short distance to the beach. It was a joy to start the day with spectacular views of the city skyline in the morning sunshine.
Great America is the areas largest amusement park. You'll find a variety of roller coasters, go karts, thrill rides, musicals, shows, food, games and fun. Located north of Chicago, it offers a full day of family fun.
Nestled in the middle of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the Indiana Dunes State Park. With wide, sandy beach and miles of rolling dunes, you'll find a compact area of sand, water, wind, trails, and wetlands. They have over 20 miles (32 k) of trails, wandering through the nature preserve and several miles of beach front. The bathhouse and campground offer amenities for those less advernturous, while the 10 mile Beach front trail, traverses the entire park.
The southern shore of Lake Michigan is known for it's high dunes. Stretching from south Chicago, around through Indiana to the Michigan (state of Michigan) border, these dunes are some of the easiest to access. Sandy beaches spread out along the dunes offering wonderful places to spend a leisurely day. Visit my VT page for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Check out my other Chicago tips for Off the Beaten Path for more to do in the Indiana suburbs of Chicago.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, offers more than just sand and water:
- Bailly Homestead from 1834
-Chellberg Farm from 1880's
-Indiana Dunes Visitor Center (Porter, Indiana)
-Trails, [Succession Trail, Cowles Bog Trail, Inland Marsh Trail, Little Calumet River Trail, Miller Woods Trail, Ly-co-Ki-we Horse and Hiking Trail, Dune Ridge Trail]
-Dunes [West Beach, Mt Baldy]
and much, much more.
Just north of the frenzy of Navy Pier is a little gem called Olive Park, named for Milton L. Olive III. Olive was a soldier from Chicago who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 1996. I have read other reviews saying that this park is not well maintained, but I disagree. I think it's lovely and serene, perfect for strolling, relaxing under the trees, or taking great photos of the skyline.
I only visited the beach on one day. It was CROWDED! There was also a volleyball competition that day. It was such a pleasure to see so many happy people! I took the pictures to show how many people.
Click here to return to my VT CHICAGO HOMEPAGE.
Constructed for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, some of the originally planted trees remain on this wonderful park just south of Chicago. A very nice "quick" escape from the hustle of downtown Chicago. Great to walk around the paths as well as to check out the Japanese Garden. I am sure it is beautiful in the Spring (for Tina!)
It is just a quick 5 minute walk south of the Museum of Science and Industry, go there as well! To get to both from Downtown, take the Electric Line Metra (Commuter Train) From the underground station at Michigan Ave and Randoph. Get off on the 55th Ave Station and walk east (toward the lake - to your left leaving the doors Tina ;)
ps. don't take the green line L there, kinda sketchy "per bukuroshja pelqej ty" or "per goce: e bukur si ty"
Walking along the Lake Michigan between Shedd Aquarium and Navy Pier you can find artificial sand beaches. Since we were there in October, it was too cold for swimming, but it was great having a walk in the sand next to the great skyline of Chicago... If go go there earlier in the year it sure is great spend an afternoon on the beach swimming.
Lake Michigan is Chicago's natural wonder and its pride and joy. The vast shoreline provides a nice beachfront area for enjoying the brief spring and summer season. There is an 11 mile or so trail adjacent to the lake which is perfect for jogging, biking or rollerblading.
On a warm spring day in late May, it seemed as if the entire metropolitan population was enjoying the weather and the path. The sandy pseudo beach was practically empty except for pockets of sunbathers. From this vantage point, it appears as though the lakefront stretches on forever and it gives the appearance of a coastline.
Chicagoans take advantage of the Forest Preserves in and around the city. Autumn is an especially nice time to tromp through the woods. If you have some time to explore the outer "hoods" it would be well worth your time to visit these beautiful oasis!
Sure our beach season is really only two months long but nothing beats Lake Michigan in July or August in Chicago. Remember Lake Michigan is the size of the Adriatic Sea, this is no puddle. Fresh water (albeit a bit cold), loads of beaches, and great people watching make the lakefront a local treasure. Chicago's beaches won't make you forget Brazil, Morocco, or the South Pacific, but spend a day lakeside in August, with skyscrapers for a backdrop, and you will have no regrets..
An Oasis of quiet on the far Northwest side of Chicago. A great place to visit any time of the year but Autumn is the most colorful!