Top Outdoor Nature Destinations

Posted: June 06, 2017

It finally feels like summer, and this is a great time to explore some of the many beautiful and inspiring nature centers and locations throughout the Chicagoland area. Find out where you can take your little ones for hiking, bird watching, and flower and animal spotting.

Our top nature destinations include opportunities to see waterfalls, spot frogs and turtles, examine plants and flowers, and hike through woodland, wetland and prairie trails.

The 606
Along the Bloomingdale Trail (1800N) between Ashland (1600W) and Ridgeway (3750W), Chicago
Set above city streets, this 2.7 mile path offers trails for biking, running and strolling. The 606 also connects parks, people, and communities; what once physically separated four neighborhoods now will knit them together and attract visitors from throughout Chicago and beyond. Learn more.

Independence Grove
16400 W Buckley Rd., Libertyville
Independence Grove is an idyllic seting located on a 115-acre lake where you can easily spend an entire day with your family. Hike the trails and you may find owls, muskrats, beavers, raccoons, deer and more. Get active with hiking, biking, boat rentals, a swimming beach, huge children's playground, and a canoe launch. Learn more.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
These beautifully designed and landscaped gardens are blooming with plants and flowers, with multiple garden areas showcasing the best plants of the Midwest. Children can see flowers close up, and can check out the Model Railroad Garden, featuring trains running on 1,600 feet of track and handcrafted with natural materials, including twigs, bark, leaves, acorns, and pebbles. The "Butterflies and Blooms" exhibit is open in summer, where visitors can literally immerse themselves in a habitat filled with hundreds of live butterflies. Learn more.

Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanic Garden
7402 W. Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights
Lake Katherine is a 20-acre man-made lake that features several botanic gardens with a variety of flowers and plant life and a cascading waterfall. Kids can take in the scenery and, if they're lucky, they might spot turtles, frogs, muskrats, beavers and water birds. Learn more.

North Park Village Nature Center
5801 North Pulaski Road, Chicago
The North Park Village Nature Center is located on the northwest side of Chicago and includes a forty-six acre nature preserve and educational facility. This oasis in the city allows visitors the opportunity to interact with wildlife, plants and other natural resources through environmental education and access to improved natural landscapes. Hike the trails and see woodland, wetland, praire and savanna highlights, and spot animals like deer, frogs, turtles and more. Learn more.

Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
The Morton Arboretum offers 1,700 acres of beautiful gardens, world-renowned plant collections, and rare and unique natural areas. Kids will love taking a ride on the Acorn Express open-air tram for a guided tour of the grounds. In the Children's Garden, kids can splash through secret streams, climb colossal acorns, and slide down giant tree roots, and explore, learn, and play among trees and the natural world. Learn more.

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