Why should I visit Lincoln Park?
Dizzied by towering skyscrapers, shopping sprees, and great food, Chicago may feel overwhelming at times. Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier are the standard while visiting, but the city has much more to offer. Lincoln Park is one of the gems outside the downtown Loop. The park is a sweet retreat from the busy-ness of downtown. Stepping off the concrete, trees and ponds invite relaxation during a busy weekend of travel.
What’s the history?
Lincoln Park was originally a public burial ground for people with smallpox and cholera, but in the 1850s it was turned into a park. While eerie, the area has been revamped into a park for enjoyment. Nowadays, you’ll find people playing frisbee, volleyball, and baseball on the park’s green grass.
How do I get there?
Lincoln Park is easily accessible and doesn’t require much commuting.
Uber and Lyft are readily available in Chicago, but they are among the pricier options of getting to the park. If money isn’t an issue, go for it!
Assuming you’re downtown, taking the Red Line north up to North & Clybourn will get you on the right foot. From there, the North bus (Route 72) drives east towards Lincoln Park. Luckily for you, the bus is right outside the Red Line station. Passing through Old Town, a neighborhood with endless food options, you may want to stop for a bite along the way. If not, getting off the bus at LaSalle takes you right to the entrance of the park.
If you prefer less transfers, the 151 Bus – heading north on Michigan Avenue – will take you to Lincoln Park Zoo.
What should I do while there?
An activity for those of all ages, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a must. Juxtaposing rooms of creepy animal taxidermy (beware!), a colorful butterfly garden is the museum’s main draw. Saturated with the flying insects, you might be lucky enough to have one land on you. Taking a quick look at the Peggy Notebaert website, you’ll see museum offers yoga classes, nature hikes for kids, and other seasonal events. (In mentioning yoga classes, Michael George is a great local yoga instructor – if you’re visiting, check him out!)
Heading down to Lincoln Park Zoo, you’ll find all kinds of animals residing. Lions, tigers, bears, oh my! While they actually do have lions and bears, no tigers are to be found. The zoo won’t take long to get around – it’s relatively compact. Please note, it’s mostly outdoors so bring that sunscreen!
North Pond Nature Sanctuary
Entering North Pond Nature Sanctuary, you almost forget you’re in a city. Walking down the path, you’re engulfed with views of flora and fauna you would typically only see if you drove 20 miles outside a city. If you’re into birds, this is a great stop. Ducks and geese glide through the pond as camouflaged frogs sing to their lovers. Few nature spots in Chicago proper exist, and as a result, many critters seem to flock here. Surrounded by nature, you get the contrast of the city’s skyline along the horizon. It’s a calming getaway. Except for the bugs.
WATCH. OUT. FOR. MOSQUITOES.
Since it is a pond, they will devour you at dusk. While photographing my surroundings, I was unable to repel the masses of mosquitoes thirsty for blood. That’s my fault for not wearing bug repellent!
The structure above is called the Honeycomb – while I was here photographing, two sets of couples came by for engagement / wedding photographs. Being a hot spot for photography, you’ll want to mark your territory… and fast!
North Avenue Beach
If you want an incredible view of the sunrise, cross the bridge from Lincoln Park onto North Avenue Beach. Gazing off into Lake Michigan’s horizon, you might be deluded into thinking you’re on the cusp of the ocean.
Once at the beach, you can enjoy live music, tan, and watch Navy Pier’s fireworks from afar (every Wednesday & Saturday during summer).
There are plentiful activities at the beach, with yoga, kayaking, and volleyball to name a few. Considering all these activities, there is bound to be a surplus of people around. In saying that, it’s not nearly as congested as Oak St. Beach. If you’ve never been, Oak St. is packed in the summer months.
Walking south along the lake shore trail, you can see the skyline from yet another perspective. Sunset graces the skyscrapers with a unique glow.
I may be biased because I live in Chicago, but Lincoln Park is pretty phenomenal. Living here and visiting are two different things. As a local, it’s relatively simple to get stuck in a routine and forget to escape the busy at times. For me, it’s necessary. While downtown is captivating alone, with attractions like Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier, there is more to Chicago than steel skyscrapers. Butterflies, beaches, and bears give Lincoln Park its allure. It is a perfect place for a picnic, to get some sun, and to escape from the busy downtown grind.