When I first moved to Chicago almost ten years ago (yikes), Lincoln Park was one of the few neighborhoods I knew of. I would take the red line from the loop up to Fullerton and wander around the area, visiting friends that went to DePaul and lived in the neighborhood. I always loved how many parks and green spaces there were in the area. I actually spent my 20th birthday at the Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoolights, which is a program they put on in the winter months, consisting of light shows and different winter activities. I hadn’t really been back since, up until last weekend when we met my family there to spend the day together.
The whole gang was there, mostly for the kids’ benefit, but I have to say, the grounds at the Lincoln Park Zoo are beautiful and made walking around all day a joy. My niece, who just turned two a couple of months ago, is newly obsessed with animals, especially zebras, so it was fun to walk around and discover with her. She was very excited to see each exhibit we passed and dutifully said hi to each animal.
It was really nice to spend some much needed quality-time with my family, especially in such a gorgeous setting. We got to talk and catch up between popping into each of the separate animal houses. The grounds of the zoo are beautifully landscaped, so we found ourselves stopping frequently to take in the scenery.
After walking around for awhile, we went across the street from the zoo to R.J. Grunts, the very first Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, for some lunch. It seemed we weren’t original in this plan, as there was a bit of a wait, but the food was delicious. It wasn’t anything fancy, we all ended up getting burgers and sandwiches, but it hit the spot after walking around in the heat. The restaurant has a pretty lively atmosphere and was playing all the Motown hits, which I loved.
After lunch, my sister and brother in law had to take the kids home for nap-time, so Mike, my parents and I walked over to the Lincoln Park Conservatory to check it out. I had never been inside, and the lawns outside the actual building were a beautiful hint of what was to come:
Inside the conservatory, besides being so dang hot, was perfect. It was like a little oasis, full of beautiful, blooming flowers and palms. I could have stayed in there all day just wandering around, admiring. There were ponds full of Koi fish and rare orchids, cacti and so much more.
We walked around the conservatory slowly so as to take it all in properly. My favorite room was the one with the totem poles intermixed with the plants (see above). It made me want to incorporate more greenery into our apartment. My mom could tell us what each of the plant were (and whether or not I could keep them alive – the answer was usually no).
Once we were finished walking through the Conservatory, Mike and I walked my parents back to their motorcycle (yes, they drove the bike all the way from Johnsburg to the city) and said goodbye before walking back through the parks one last time.
One of my favorite areas in this part of Lincoln Park is the nature boardwalk, which is situated between the zoo proper and the children’s petting zoo. It’s a complete little ecosystem for native wildlife and provides a beautiful juxtaposition to the bustling city around it. Mike and I walked through it on our way back to catch the bus back home and it’s just gorgeous. The view from the boardwalk of the skyline beyond is perfect.
It was a beautiful day with my favorite people. Now that I know these gorgeous parks are there, I’m excited to go back and visit again when I need some nature in my life.
Have you been to the Lincoln Park Zoo or Conservatory? Where can you find some nature within your own city?
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