A friend of mine is going to Chicago on business, but will have just one day to do the town. It's a tough time of year to visit Chicago. Nice because the summer tourists are gone. A guessing game because of the weather. If we're in the midst of a nice Indian summer, it's fantastic. Otherwise, well, let's just say, the marathoner's are the only people who don't mind it when it's 40 degrees in October. My mother has been visiting me for years, and says she still hasn't seen all of the city. When you only have a day for "touring," what to do is entirely dependent on what you want to know about the City. For a slice of Chicago life, visit Lincoln Park.
Lincoln Park runs for several miles along the lakefront. There are beaches, harbors, lagoons, bike paths and lots of sports fields. Residents flock to the park whenever the weather is the least bit nice. There's something for everyone in Lincoln Park. Start your tour at the south end of the park at the Chicago History Museum. Home to the Chicago Historical Society, there is exhibition space, a research facility, and a variety of public programming, including tours. Chicago has a rich and vibrant history and the CHS tells the city's story from its founding as a small frontier outpost through the Great Fire of 1871 and the 1893 Columbian Exposition through the city's more recent cultural and economic evolution.
Head north to the Green City Market. The Green City Market operates year round. From May through October they have an outdoor venue. When the temperatures drop in November they'll move north and operate out of a space in the Nature Museum, also in Lincoln Park. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, dairy, beef, and even locally produced baked goods can be found here.
Next stop, the Lincoln Park Zoo. For years, I lived within walking distance of this little gem. The staff is friendly and some of the residents are real characters. There are usually a few babies around too. They have a "Farm-in-the-Zoo." Great for Chicago kids, who might not otherwise get to experience what goes on at a farm. A few years ago they built a new enclosure for their great apes. It's fantastic! Lots of a natural light, indoor and outdoor space, toys...it's nicer than my apartment. I was down there one day last winter after a snow and the chimps were going outside and making snow cones. When it first opened there were rumors that the gorillas had air guns that they could fire at visitors. I've never seen any evidence of those, but that tells you a little bit about their personalities. The zoo also offers seasonal programming, concerts in the summer, Halloween for the kids, and holiday programming between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Lincoln Park Conservatory consists of the conservatory, a lily pond, and outdoor formal gardens and sits next to the zoo. Artists flock to the gardens when the weather is nice and everything is in bloom. Locals hang out in the conservatory on weekend mornings in the winter when they need to "escape" from winter in Chicago.
Cross Fullerton Avenue and visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. This museum has always seemed geared to the younger set, but I've thoroughly enjoyed the couple of visits that I have made. Run by the Chicago Academy of Sciences, the Museum looks at natural history locally. My favorite part is the "Judy Istock Butterfly Haven." The Museum is also the winter home of the Green City Market.
The park continues north along lakefront for several miles and is more traditional park consisting of marinas, beaches, green space, tennis courts, ball fields, soccer fields, bike paths, even a driving range. Thanks for joining me.
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