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Sanctuaries in the City: Eight Places to Unwind in Chicago

April 11, 2011 2:00 PM

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Lurie Garden

(credit: luriegarden.org)

luriegardenmain Sanctuaries in the City: Eight Places to Unwind in Chicago

(credit: luriegarden.org)

Even the most urbane of city dwellers needs the occasional respite from the psychic pressure of the concrete jungle. Cranking up the Debussy on the iPod is one way to massage the mind on the go, but in order to truly find a peaceful escape, it’s helpful to have a few special tranquility zones staked out around town. For those without a go-to chill spot, here’s a selection of relaxation stations to consider.

Caldwell Lilly

(credit: explorechicago.org)

Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (Lincoln Park)

Fullerton Pkwy. & Cannon Dr.
Chicago, IL
explorechicago.org

Located between Fullerton Avenue and the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool is an especially placid and reflective oasis of calm. Ten years ago, the pool was overgrown and somewhat neglected, but it has since been rehabbed. The pool is a stone’s throw from Lincoln Park highrises, but with its pathways, stonewalls, waterfall and native plants, the concrete canyon disappears and the experience is like a refreshing hike through the woods.

Cultural Center

(credit: explorechicago.org)

Chicago Cultural Center

78 East Washington
Chicago, IL
explorechicago.org

For those in the vicinity of Washington St. & Michigan Ave. looking to duck into a pleasingly peaceful space for a time out with a dose of culture, the Chicago Cultural Center is the place to go. The ornately-decorated upper floors tend to be less populated, and a visit to the 4th floor Sidney R. Yates Gallery could mean a free art exhibit all (or mostly) to yourself.

Chicago River Walk

(credit: cityofchicago.org)

Chicago Riverwalk

Michigan Avenue at the Chicago River
Chicago, IL
cityofchicago.org

The Riverwalk west of Michigan Avenue tends to be active with restaurants and retail, but the section east of the DuSable Bridge is a riverside stretch of relative calm. For those looking for a break from the milling masses along the Mag Mile, it can be found just a few steps down from the northeast corner of the Avenue and the river. Stop in at the Riverwalk Cafe for reasonably priced carryout and alfresco dining along the largely unpopulated pathway.

Graceland Cemetery

4001 N Clark St
Chicago, IL
gracelandcemetery.org

A stroll through Graceland Cemetery is peaceful way to spend a couple hours, with the added benefit of a firsthand lesson in Chicago history and the aesthetically impressive architecture of cemetery monuments. Perusing the grave markers and mausoleum etchings at Graceland is like looking at a Chicago street map, as seemingly half the city’s street namesakes are buried or entombed there.

Lurie Garden

(credit: luriegarden.org)

Lurie Garden

Southeastern end of Millennium Park
Chicago, IL

Lurie Garden is a five acre urban oasis within the often well-populated confines of Millennium Park. The garden is enclosed on two sides by a 15-foot tall hedge, providing visitors with a sense of enclosure away from the highrises and busy nearby streets.

Stearns Quarry

(credit: chicagoparkdistrict.com)

Palmisano (Stearns Quarry) Park

2700 S. Halsted
Chicago, IL
chicagoparkdistrict.com

When people think of Bridgeport, ducks, lagoons and wetlands are usually not the first things that spring to mind. But there they are, just a few blocks south of the Halsted Street Orange Line stop. Indeed, it is sometimes mistaken for a landfill from the outside (it was previously a site for construction dumping), but those in the know relish the seclusion of the “hidden park” nestled in the 27 acres of Stearns Quarry.

Promontory Point

5491 South Shore Drive
Chicago, IL
chicagoparkdistrict.com

Promontory Point also owes much of its appeal to designer Alfred Caldwell. It’s easy to see why it’s a popular wedding spot, as it’s a scenic respite from the crowds, with stellar views of the lake and skyline and a picturesque field house. Northsiders looking to get away from the bustle of their usual lakefront locales will find it’s worth the trip as well.

Space Time

(credit: chicagofloatationtanks.com)

Space Time Tanks

2526 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL
chicagofloatationtanks.com

For those who prefer a sanctuary of the inner peace kind, consider booking some floatation tank time. Space Time Tanks in Lincoln Park beckons the city-weary to “take a vacation in an hour.” It’s not exactly a nature setting, but nature is definitely at play as the tanks use salt water’s natural buoyancy effects to help suspend the body weightlessly for a couple of hours of peace and tranquility.

Greg Wahl, CBS Local Chicago

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