With apologies to Tennyson, in spring our fancy turns to thoughts of...finally getting back outside. Three of Chicago's newer parks give us the outlets we need.
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Maggie Daley Park Chicago
Maggie Daley Park
| Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Park District

Maggie Daley Park for Hands-On Fun

As calls of "belay on" ring out, a group of harnessed climbers spider their way up two 40-foot-tall rock-climbing walls at Maggie Daley Park along Lake Michigan. Harnesses and ropes too limiting? Try bouldering (free-climbing near the wall's base). A Play Pyramid in the children's Play Garden caters to future climbers, who also wander among upside-down trees in an Enchanted Forest and unleash seafaring imaginations on a custom-built ship rigged with nets and the obligatory captain's wheel.

The 606
The 606
| Credit: Courtesy of Choose Chicago/Adam Alexander Photography

The 606 for Neighborhood Hopping

Twelve access points along 2.7 miles of trail clue you in that this path isn't about going the distance. It's about hopping on and off to see the four northwest Chicago neighborhoods the path passes over. Yes, over. The elevated path follows an abandoned rail line to link numerous parks—some with new play areas and gardens. Lingering at cafes further immerses you in the neighborhoods. Try chifrijo (fried pork topped with black beans, rice, pico de gallo and avocado) at Irazú Costa Rican restaurant in Bucktown, or kick your legs up and enjoy artisanal pastries at Mindy's Bakery in Wicker Park.

Northerly Island Chicago
Northerly Island
| Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Park District

Northerly Island Park for a Quiet Escape

The squawk of geese and slap of waves hitting boats heading out to Lake Michigan muffle downtown traffic for visitors exploring this 91-acre peninsula connected to the Museum Campus. A paved path loops low hills—inviting brisk rides (rent a bike from an automated station) or rolling in the grass—and its small lagoon, where fisherman alternate between watching bobbers and the skyscrapers across the harbor. Three bronze sculptures of fairylike women stand amid the expanse of plantings at this work-in-progress that has transitioned a former airstrip into an urban escape.