(1) Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond
This lovely spot is one of the city's best kept secrets. Located on Fullerton just north of the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond is a true refuge. This one-and-half acre space is home to a water-lily covered pond, plus plenty of native birds, plants, and other wildlife. Kids will love strolling around the edge of the pond to get a good luck at the ducks. The best part of the experience is feeling like you've stumbled into a secluded spot that no one else knows about. Step inside and see what it feels like to step away from your day-to-day city life.
(2) Nature Boardwalk at the Lincoln Park Zoo
In June of 2010, the Lincoln Park Zoo debuted this innovative new space. The area where the dilapidated South Pond once stood is now a natural oasis that is home to native plants and animals. This urban ecosystem is an opportunity to learn more about wildlife conservation right here in Chicago – and trust me, you won't believe the views. Meander around the boardwalk at the water's edge and check out the birds, water fowl, and newly introduced turtles. The coolest part about this space is the fact that it is going to be constantly changing and evolving – so you can expect something new each time you stop by. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo website to learn more about the excellent children's programming taking place at the Nature Boardwalk.
(3) North Park Nature Center
This Chicago Park District space offers over 46 acres of nature preserve plus an educational facility. The many trails wind through woodlands, wetlands, prairie and savannas. The facility has naturalists on site who have tons of helpful information to share. Be sure to mark your calendar for the fabulous Maple Syrup Festival held at the North Park Nature Center each spring. The whole family will love learning more about how maple syrup is processed and then tasting the end result (yum!).
(4) Northerly Island
The former home of Meigs Field is now a natural conservation area. This 91-acre piece of land just south of the Adler Planetarium that juts out into lake Michigan is a great place to go exploring. Stoll the paths and behold the spectacular views! Northerly Island is home to many native Illinois plants. Next time you take the kids down to the Museum Campus, take a little walk to see what you can see on Northerly Island – and don't be shy about heading into the field house to chat up the knowledgeable staff.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a Chicago mom and freelance writer. She chronicles her adventures with the three little people in her life at Wee Windy City.
for more features.