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Park it here: Chicago’s parks and green spaces

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Did you know that the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural and Natural Resources manages over 8,100 acres of land? This includes two acres of conservatories, 25 acres of gardens, a forest of over 250,000 trees, 25 lagoons and 500 acres classified as nature areas. Approximately 8.5 percent of the land owned by the city, state and country in Chicago is made up of parks that are open, and mostly free, to the public.

We’re here to help you take advantage of that. This year, we challenge you to step outside of Millennium and Grant Park to explore areas of the city that you wouldn’t hear about or enjoy otherwise.

ping tomPing Tom Memorial Park – Chinatown

  • 1700 S. Wentworth Ave. Chicago, IL 60605
  • Fieldhouse Hours: Sun: 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Mon-Fri: 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m., Sat: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
  • Park Hours: 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.

Inside its recreational fieldhouse, Ping Tom Memorial Park features a multi-purpose gymnasium, 9–foot swimming pool, meeting rooms, a fitness center, a green rooftop and a full service kitchen. Outside, you can walk the lake path, rent a kayak from the boat house or use one of its numerous public docks.

Acquired by the city in 1991, Ping Tom Memorial Park is a tribute to one of Chinatown’s most predominant civic leaders and residents, Ping Tom. Before the park was transformed into the 12 acre green space and recreational facility it is today, generations of children grew up in Chinatown without access to a community park. Ping Tom was instrumental in lobbying the city and acted as the main leading force behind the acquisition of the land.

garfieldGarfield Park Conservatory 

  • 300 N. Central Park Ave. Chicago, IL 60624
  • Facility Hours: Sun, Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat: 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Wed: 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.

The Garfield Park Conservatory occupies 4.5 acres of land that are home to thousands of different plant species on display in its eight different rooms. The conservatory is renowned for its Fern Room, which features tropical plant species, an indoor lagoon and sits under the glass-vaulted ceiling that many know from photographs.

The conservatory was a groundbreaking revolution when it opened its doors in 1905. The pot-less plants, vaulted glass ceiling and the Fern Room’s indoor prairie waterfall caused visitors to refer to it as “landscape art under glass,” according to the Chicago Park District’s history on the building. Originally designed by Danish-American landscape architect Jens Jensen, the conservatory was modeled after a Midwestern haystack and has undergone several restoration projects since.

hyde parkHyde Park Osaka Garden

  • 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. Chicago, IL 60637
  • Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Japanese Osaka Garden is the surviving testament to a long history of Japanese structures and history on the Wooded Island of Jackson Park. According to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee, the original structures were built for the 1893 World Columbian Fair, and provided an alternative to the bustling atmosphere of the surrounding area.

Since then, the site has undergone numerous phases of deterioration and restoration. The full destruction of the original 1893 structures took place during World War II, when both the Tea House and the Ho-o-Den (Phoenix Temple) were mysteriously burned to the ground. Today stands the Japanese garden that was built in a restoration project of 1935. It has gone through its own challenges since, such as gang occupation and violence from the period of World War II until a second rebirth in 1973; this is the year that Chicago solidified its Sister City status with Osaka, Japan, and has gotten considerable support and donations from both cities since.

Today, the garden is home to inner and outer pools, a mood bridge, rock waterfall, a traditional Torii gate (built by hand using a traditional tongue and groove method) and various rare tree species. Due to the adjoining Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary, the Garden provides a great space for viewing local and migratory birds and insects.

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Park it here: Chicago’s parks and green spaces