Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Nature Lovers Guide to the Chicago Area

The Chicago area has many beautiful locations for the nature lover to visit. Here are a few of the best:
Keep Reading the Nature Lover's Guide

1. The Lake. Chicago sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes. Take a relaxing walk along the beach, a boat cruise, or just drive up Lake Shore Drive and enjoy the view. The city includes 33 public beaches and 9 harbors.

2. Millennium Park combines nature, and spectacular art and architecture. The 24.5 acre park in downtown Chicago has become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

3. The Chicago Botanical Garden is a wonderful place to visit. It contains 385 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, including 100 acres of woods and 15 acres of prairie. The 26 gardens include 3 native habitat areas, an English Walled Garden, a Japanese Garden and a Rose Garden.

4. The Morton Arboretum is a beautiful spot that will please every gardener and nature lover. Its 1700 acres are more than an arboretum. In addition to 3400 kinds of trees and plants from around the world, it includes a wetland and a collection of native plants. You can view several types of gardens, such as display, herb and perennial. There are miles of hiking trails, paved roads for auto access and an open air tram. A coffee shop is on site and there are many seasonal events. Check for the schedule if you plan to visit.

5. Brookfield Zoo. This spacious suburban zoo contains over 200 acres of exhibits and greenery. Favorites include the Seven Seas Dolphin Presentation, the Hamill Family Play Zoo and the Living Coast.

6. The Lincoln Park Zoo, founded in 1868, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, but also one of the most modern. It is open 365 days a year and admission is free. The state-of-the-art Regenstein Center for African Apes features three spacious habitats for chimpanzees and gorillas. The Robert R. McCormick Bear Habitat contains seven outdoor habitats for spectacled bears, sun bears and polar bears. A zoo favorite for more than 110 years, polar bears continue to enjoy their 266,000-gallon pool—one of the largest polar bear zoo exhibits in the world. The Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo offers children the chance to learn about animals’ lives and homes through play and discovery.

7. County Forest Preserves. The Hyatt Regency O’Hare is located in Cook County, near the borders of DuPage and Lake Counties. The 3 counties have a number of natural areas, managed by their respective forest preserve districts. See the following websites for details.
Forest Preserve District of Cook County:
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County:
Lake County Forest Preserve District:

8. Illinois State Parks. The following state parks in northern Illinois are worth a visit.

Starved Rock State Park. This park has 13 miles of hiking trails and 18 canyons. The park is located along the south side of the Illinois River. Visitors will appreciate the beauty of Starved Rock by hiking the trails and enjoying the park's many activities, which include boating, fishing, camping, horseback riding, and picnicking.

Illinois Beach State Park. The 4,160-acre park, consisting of two separate areas, offers ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and just appreciating nature. Stretching for over 6 miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan, Illinois Beach State Park encompasses the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state.

Volo Bog. If you're looking for a unique outdoor setting, visit the Volo Bog State Natural Area. Just 45 miles northwest of Chicago in Lake County, this natural area contains Volo Bog, the only quaking bog in Illinois with an open water center. There are 2 marked trails. A half-mile interpretive loop leads visitors through each stage of bog succession. It is constructed of wooden dock sections, boardwalks and a woodchip path. The Tamarack View Trail is a 2.75-mile trail through woods, wetlands, field and prairie.

So, come and enjoy the NGS conference and, if you have time, a little bit of nature too.


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