This year, you are determined to have the prettiest holiday card of anyone on your list. Or maybe you wish you could freeze your kids just as they are. Whatever your motivation, you want to find a great spot for some frame-worthy family photos. Fortunately, the Chicago area has some amazing settings that actually make picture-taking fun whether you like an urban backdrop or something more pastoral. — Emily Paster
Here are the top spots for family photos in Chicago:
Chicago Botanical Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd
Glencoe, IL 60022
You will not find a prettier outdoor spot for pictures than the Chicago Botanic Garden. This 385-acre oasis has over 20 different display gardens, including the English Walled Garden, the Rose Garden and the Heritage Garden, any of which would make a stunning backdrop for your family photos. The size and diversity of the Botanic Garden mean that you could take family photos here every year and never use the same spot twice. Kids will feel relaxed and comfortable with plenty of room to run around.
You don’t have to wait for a tropical vacation to take family pictures on the beach. There are 26 miles of open and accessible lakefront in Chicago perfect for your next photo shoot. Particularly early in the morning – when you will not have to contend with crowds — the natural light reflecting off the water is universally flattering. Several designated dog-friendly beaches mean that Fido can be in the pictures too. Worth seeking out are the lakefront natural areas with their beautiful dunes, including 63rd Street Beach, Montrose Beach, Kathy Osterman Beach, Loyola Park / Leone Beach, Rainbow Park and South Shore Beach.
Michigan Ave between Randolph and Monroe
Although it is less than ten years old, Millennium Park is already home to some of the most iconic structures in Chicago, including the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture – known locally as “the Bean” – the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Crown Fountain. If you want family photos that scream “Chicago,” Millennium Park is your best bet. During the summer, get great shots of your kids splashing in Crown Fountain or standing by the wildflowers in Lurie Garden. In the winter, go for some action shots on the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink.
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
The plaza in front of the Richard J. Daley Center is one of the busiest spots in Chicago’s Loop. This open air venue plays host to special events and festivals almost every week of the year. But Daley Plaza is particularly special during the month of December when it is home to the city’s official Christmas tree and a jolly visitor from the North Pole. Hello, photo op! No matter the time of year, kids love to climb on the plaza’s enormous Picasso sculpture, which is one of the greatest pieces of public art in the world, and that makes for some classic family pictures.
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N. Central Park Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
It can be challenging to find a picturesque spot for family photos during the long Chicago winter without turning your kids into miniature snowmen, but the Garfield Park Conservatory is warm and lush year-round. This historic building with free admission is home to six different greenhouses and two grand exhibition halls, all of which make stunning backdrops for your family photos. In the Fern Room, your kids can pretend to time-travel to the Jurassic period and don’t miss the elaborate tiled fountain in the Horticulture Hall — your friends will think you took a last-minute trip to Spain!
Emily Paster is lawyer, writer and mother of two living in the near west suburbs. Read more of her work on her blog West of the Loop.