Discover the Windy City’s small pockets of Eden.
Chicago is no far friend from nature. With its lush parks, riverside excursions, the Lakefront, and incredible hiking trails, the city abound with opportunities to get back in touch with Mother Nature. For a more intimate experience, Chicago has numerous secret gardens hidden across the city. Read on to find where you can stop and smell the roses.
1. Art Institute of Chicago, South Garden
South of the Art Institute of Chicago, you can find this garden perched atop a parking garage. From 1962 to 1967, Dan Kiley designed AIOC’s South Garden with a simple composition in mind. It remains today as a tranquil hideaway from the city, with a rectangular pool bordered by rows of honey locust trees and flowering bulbs up to the brimming Taft Fountain.
2. Garden of the Phoenix
In 1893, Japan gifted a pavilion to Chicago as a symbol of prosperity. Its namesake comes from the Japanese belief that a new era of peace would arise were a phoenix to descend from the heavens. For over a century, the City of Chicago maintained the area, using it as a place where people could come to learn about Japan. 120 years after receiving the pavilion, the park planted 120 cherry trees, thus creating the Garden of the Phoenix.
3. Promontory Point
On the edge of the city you can find this little oasis along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. This relaxing, naturalistic meadow designed by Alfred Caldwell overflows with hundreds of trees and flowering shrubs. Grazing through these flowering fields, you can also treat yourself to a magnificent view of the city skyline.
4. Cancer Survivors Garden At Maggie Daley Park
Nestled on the east side of Maggie Daley Park in the heart of the city is the Cancer Survivors’ Garden. The garden, finished in 1996, is a vivid celebration of life. With three garden areas as well as rows of blooming flowers lining a grand pavilion, the area is designed to invoke contemplation and ultimately, self-healing.
5. City Hall, Rooftop Garden
While it might hide out atop an 11-story building, the 20,300-square-foot garden touted as Chicago’s “most famous rooftop garden” might not be such a secret after all. That said, it isn’t exactly in plain sight. Planted first in 2000, the garden features over 20,000 plants with over 150 different species. Like other rooftop gardens, this one functions to conserve energy, improve air quality, and mitigates the urban heat island effect. It also functions to delight the eyes.
6. Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
The original titular Lily Pool was designed and built by Alfred Caldwell back in 1889 as a part of a Victorian garden. Originally abound with lilies and a variety of aquatic plants, the garden fell out of repair years later before it was adopted and restored by the Lincoln Park Conservancy. Now, the hidden area features a fantastic display of flora, with sounds with birdsong and purling waters off the gentle waterfall as those saunter over its stone path circling the Lily Pool. Per the Lincoln Park Conservancy:
“This is the vision of landscape architect Alfred Caldwell: a hidden garden for the people of Chicago designed to resemble a river meandering through a great Midwestern prairie.”
7. Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens
In 2000, the Women’s Park and Gardens opened in South Loop with 3.23 acres of greenery and gardens in honor of the women’s contributions to the City of Chicago. Tucked in between the Widow Clarke House and Glessner House museums, the garden offers an ornamental respite from the city. The path encircling the grounds’ perimeter represents a woman as she winds in and out of the traditional roles throughout her life.
8. Ping Tom Park
While not a garden per se, Ping Tom park offers a rolling, naturally resplendent green space to explore. The lush area features traditional Chinese landscape design elements with picturesque views of the river and skyline.
9. Grant Park Rose Garden
A dash away from Chicago’s famous Buckingham Fountain, lies a gorgeous rose garden worthy of a summer stroll — and maybe a few Instagram pics. The space blooms with dazzling red and pink roses punctuated by quaint white arches placed delicately on the grounds as if to welcome visitors for an afternoon reverie.
10. Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum
Graceland Cemetery, or “Cemetery of Architects”, in the Uptown neighborhood is another wonderfully tranquil place with a great deal of nature. It’s not just a cemetery so don’t be spooked by it appearing in this list. Thousands of trees cover the expansive area and offer lush secluded spaces to escape to for some peace of mind. Open to all to visit, architectural masterpieces, local history, and verdant beauty all provide plenty for the senses.
[Featured image from Shutterstock]