While many people think of gleaming skyscrapers and historic architecture when they think of Chicago, the city and the surrounding suburbs are also full of some of the most amazing natural sights you’ll find anywhere in the country. From beautiful walking trails to fragrant flower gardens, Chicagoland is home to some pretty remarkable destinations for nature lovers.
Whether you want to go birdwatching, enjoy a day in the woods, or experience the Midwest’s vibrant plants and wildlife up close, our area has a place that’s perfect for you. So, what Chicagoland communities should you explore if outdoor living and gorgeous parks are high on your “must-have” list?
Below, we count down five Chicagoland neighborhoods perfect for nature lovers — what spots would you add?
Elk Grove Village
Situated to the west of O’Hare International Airport, Elk Grove Village is renowned for its pleasant forests and scenic views. Most notably, Elk Grove Village is conveniently located beside the 3,558-acre Ned Brown Preserve, more commonly known as Busse Woods. This ample forest preserve is an incredible spot for fishing and boating, and also contains a spectacular elk pasture and 13 miles of hiking trails.
Beyond Busse Woods, Elk Grove Village is also home to the winding waters of Salt Creek, and the pretty parks that run along its banks, including Olmstead Park, Morton Park, and Burbank Park. Just a short distance away from the heart of Elk Grove, you’ll also find the Salt Creek Marsh Forest Preserve, Salt Creek Park Forest Preserve, and the truly gorgeous Songbird Slough Forest Preserve.
Located just north of downtown, Lincoln Park is one of Chicago’s most famous and historic neighborhoods. Today, this bustling areas is known for its endless options for things to see and do — including eclectic nightlife, dynamic entertainment, and plenty of amazing, nature-focused activities.
For starters, there’s Lincoln Park itself. One of the crown jewels of Chicago, this sprawling park has been called “one of the greatest public spaces in America” by the American Planning Association. This iconic planned space covers more than 1100 acres in total, and is home to a free zoo, a gorgeous conservatory, and many different lagoons and canals, including the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. For those who want to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Midwest, Lincoln Park is also the home of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the North Pond Nature Sanctuary.
The Lincoln Park neighborhood also provides visitors and residents with easy access to the incredible beaches that make up Chicago’s Lakefront. Lincoln Park includes the popular North Avenue Beach, and is just a short hop away from local favorites like Ohio Street Beach and Oak Street Beach.
In particular, Glencoe is notable for being home to the Chicago Botanic Garden, which features 27 gardens and four natural areas, spread out across 385 acres, nine islands, and six miles of shoreline. The meticulously designed Botanic Garden supports endless varieties of plant life from all around the world. The site also hosts special events throughout the year, ranging from holiday lightscapes to fall farmer’s markets.
In addition to the Botanic Garden, Glencoe is a prime place to jump on the Green Bay Trail, a pedestrian and biking path that passes through several different North Shore communities, running parallel to the Metra Union Pacific North commuter railway. The Green Bay Trail features native plants and dozens of varieties of birds, and is a great place to see Monarch butterflies in the wild.
Located in DuPage County, the Village of Lisle is a well-situated community with a unique local flavor. With access to many different parks and recreational activities, Lisle offers great quality of life, and ample opportunities to go out and enjoy the beauty of nature.
For one thing, this community is home to the world-famous Morton Arboretum, a living museum that contains more than 222,000 live plants, representing species from all across the globe. The Arboretum hosts special events, classes, and art displays throughout the year, and boasts fun features including 16 miles of trails, a maze garden, and a four-acre children’s garden.
Living in Lisle also puts you close to some of the most beautiful spots in DuPage County. Just a short drive away, the 887-acre Herrick Lake Forest Preserve features more than 254 types of wildlife, 470 different types of plants, 7 miles of trails, and an expansive, picturesque lake. Nearby, the Danada Forest Preserve boasts 797 acres of land, encompassing prairies, woods, wetlands, nature trails, and an equestrian center.
Ravenswood & Uptown
On the western edges of the Ravenswood neighborhood, you’ll find some truly beautiful and unique greenspaces. This area offers access to Winnemac Park, which runs more than 22.38 acres and boasts countless trees, open prairies, playing fields, and decorative paths. Nearby, the 15.84 acres of Welles Park feature an indoor pool, a stunning European-style gazebo, baseball diamonds, grass fields, and more.
Meanwhile, the eastern edge of Uptown puts you right on the Lakefront, with ample access to sprawling grassy areas and some of Chicago’s favorite beaches. Uptown is home to Montrose Beach, a pristine public beach that also boasts a popular dog-friendly area. Close by, you’ll find outdoor attractions including the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Cricket Hill, and the Wilson Skate Park, along with soccer fields, dog parks, and more.
Ready to Live In the Heart of It All?
Looking to find a home in one of Chicagoland’s most nature-focused communities? We get you. At Baird & Warner, our agents are hyperlocal experts who can help you find the spot that’s just right, while making the buying process easier, at every step of the way. And with mortgage and title services in-house, our one-stop-shopping approach takes the hassle out of closing on your new home, so you can get back to enjoying the sunshine and fresh air in no time.