The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an excellent place to enjoy Lake Michigan's shoreline in the city. This 19-mile paved path runs along downtown Chicago and offers stunning water and dramatic skyline views. Along the trail, you'll find a few beaches, parks, and restaurants, making it a great place to enjoy a few hours or an entire day in the city.

    While many cities around the world have huge parks scattered around town, the lakefront trail sets Chicago apart. At almost 20 miles long, this trail runs parallel to downtown and offers plenty of outdoor activities for locals and tourists to enjoy. Because the trail is smooth, it’s easy to navigate and is always filled with bicyclists, runners, hikers, and even people on rollerblades looking for a place in the city to get some exercise.

    Chicago Lakefront Trail - one of the highlights of 10 Best Things to Do for Couples in Chicago and 10 Best Things to Do in Chicago in Winter (Read all about Chicago here)

    What are the best parks along Chicago Lakefront Trail?

    The Chicago Lakefront Trail has plenty of amenities scattered throughout, so you can grab a bite to eat, or explore a local park while out and about. While there are plenty of parks throughout the city, the 4 main lakefront parks are all connected on the Lakefront Trail. The southern tip begins at the South Shore Cultural Centre, where you can find Jackson Park. Highlights within the 500-acre park include the Museum of Science and Industry and the Japanese Garden.

    The quickest way to travel north along the trail is by bike, and the next park you’ll reach is Burnham Park. With over 650 acres to explore, you could spend a whole afternoon at Burnham. If you’re just passing through, make sure to stop by the Promontory Point, an ideal spot to catch your first glance of the Chicago skyline.

    As you head to the next park along the trail, you’ll pass by the Field Museum, Soldier Field, and the Shedd Aquarium. Next up is Grant Park, which is the busiest park in downtown Chicago. Just a few blocks west of Grant Park (between Monroe Street and East Randolph Street) sits the famous Cloud Gate known as The Bean.

    Back on the trail, head north a few blocks and you’ll run right into the entrance to the Navy Pier. This former Navy training centre is now home to a legendary Ferris wheel as well as plenty of shops, and restaurants.

    The final park you’ll discover along the trail is Lincoln Park. There are plenty of fun activities here, including a free zoo, a conservatory, and a nature museum. A few steps north of the park, you’ll find North Avenue Beach – it’s the city’s most popular beach and the first beach on the trail. 

    photo by Alanscottwalker (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    How to get to Chicago Lakefront Trail?

    Because the Chicago Lakefront Trail is so long, there are hundreds of entry points along the path by foot. If you’re coming by car, there are a few key entrances, especially at the trailheads where you can find plenty of parking in the nearby neighbourhoods. You’ll find the northern trailhead in the Edgewater Beach neighbourhood and the southern trailhead in the Jackson Park Highlands neighbourhood.

    Whether you’re looking to explore the entire trail or just want to kill a few hours in the city, the Chicago Lakefront Trail is a great way to gain an authentic experience in Chicago. Bring your camera to take breathtaking photos of the city skyline. If you're travelling by bike, don't forget your lock.

    Chicago Lakefront Trail

    Victoria Zelefsky | Contributing Writer

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