Just because you’re in the city doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the world outdoors and get your fingers green at innovative city parks and community farms. In fact, many of the current fashions in outdoor living are happening in the heart of urban dynamos like Chicago.
One of the Windy City’s crowning glories is City Hall’s Rooftop Garden, a green space of more than 20,000 plants that was completed in 2001 and envisioned by Mayor Richard M. Daley and a team of architects, engineers, and ecologists. The lofty garden is filled with herbaceous beds and wildflower meadows; although the beautiful arrangement is extremely well thought-out, it almost looks like a design done by nature. And as a special and significant bonus, it also improves the area’s air quality. On the other hand, if you prefer your Chicago rooftop gardens with a touch of alcohol, we recommend the inventive cocktails, courtesy of Craig Schoettler, at the tree-fringed Drumbar.
Grant Park must be one of the liveliest public parks in the country. The Petrillo Music Shell hosts everything from the Chicago Jazz Festival to Lollapalooza; add to that the “Bark Park” for dogs, the lively marinas, and the resplendent Buckingham Fountain—you could come here and do something different every day of the year.
Meanwhile, Jackson Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux—the two urban park geniuses behind New York’s Central Park—is a sprawling green space of diversity and ingenuity. The newly rejuvenated Garden of the Phoenix paints an idyllic picture with its koi pond spanned by a traditional Japanese bridge, while elsewhere, among the 1,055 acres of trees and flower beds, you can go boating on one of the lakes or admire the resplendent Statue of the Republic.
And if you’re wondering what Chicago did with 2.7 miles of disused railroad lines set high above the city’s streets? In true 21st-century urban fashion, the city transformed this space into a sprawling garden. Running from Logan Square and Humboldt Park, through Bucktown and Wicker Park, there’s never a dull moment along the Bloomingdale Trail, the elevated section that connects all of the parks in “The 606.” One moment you’re strolling through wildflower meadows; the next you’re at a lively dog park; and the next you’re gazing at amazing public art displays.
Chicago’s City Farm is a different kind of haven in the midst of the skyscrapers: a green scene that grows tomatoes, kale, beets, herbs, garlic, and more. To taste the fruits (and vegetables) of the farmers’ labor, head to participating farmers markets throughout Chicago.
Another innovative place that grows organic produce in Chicago is The Edible Gardens at Lincoln Park Zoo. Schools and community organizations take tours of the gardens, learning tricks of the trade such as planting, watering, pollination, and turning compost. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, and you can taste The Edible Gardens’ produce at Green City Market, while chatting with one of the farmers from the project.
Those friends of yours who live out in the country can’t be anything but envious of you and all of these green options!