By Dan Morgridge

Plenty of people are exercise fiends. They bike everywhere, they know what a burpee is, they might even own kettleballs at home that aren’t collecting dust. For the rest of us, working out is something we have to trick ourselves to do – and that usually involves a pick-up game with friends. Whether you’re looking to burn some calories or just want to catch up with the crew, here’s a couple places in Chicago that should accommodate the occasional athlete.

Photo Credit: Jake Mohan


Wicker Park
1425 N. Damen Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 742 7553
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Although the area that people will claim to be Wicker Park is huge, the park itself is actually a pretty tiny triangle of land. But the park managed to fit quite a bit of sports into the space: two baseball diamonds, an open space for sunbathing/tossing a football around, and two half-size basketball courts. The outdoor courts are cement and don’t have fences, but the crowd is always steady. Even if both courts are full, new players can get in line to shoot for teams when its time for the next game.


Humboldt Park
1400 North Sacramento Avenue
Chicago, IL 60622
(312) 742 7549
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If you’re dying to use that polo shirt of yours for something other than ironically popping your collar, get yourself over to Humboldt Park. There are no less than 11 courts available, and 4 of them are lit. There are no fees, plenty of availability and a great lagoon for taking a post game walk around. And if you’re there on weekends, you can see uniform-level serious adult baseball leagues on the park’s many, many baseball diamonds, while enjoying some elotes or other snacks from the vendors usually near the parks. With a little practice, you’ll be copying Federer’s moves in no time.


Brands Park
3259 North Elston Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 478 2414
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Brands Park isn’t the biggest park, but that also lets it fly under the radar a little bit. With lights on at night, you and the guys can practice your night game home runs (although unlike U.S. Cellular, you’ll have to provide your own fireworks). The park also has an indoor basketball court if you’d rather work on your post-up game than swing for the fences. Whichever you choose, you can replenish afterwards at one of two nearby famous food stops – Kuma’s Corner and Hot Doug’s. Of course, both are subject to odd hours, and the lines can be huge, but if someone leaves a little early to grab a spot, you can have one of the best post-game meals to be found in the city.


Grant Park
337 E Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601

One of the quickest-growing sports in the country is Ultimate, which takes your usual college-campus disc-tossing and adds two parts soccer and one part football to make a fast-paced game that will get you running. Unlike other pickup games, Ultimate is designed to not have a referee, so solutions for disagreements on calls are built right into the game. Find a group of regulars who play on the south side of Grant Park near Columbus Ave. late on Sunday mornings – they can help you learn the game, or you can toss a disc on the sidelines while you pick up the rules from watching.

Photo Credit: Pequod's Pizza


St. Paul Woods
Caldwell Avenue and Waukegan Road
Morton Grove, IL

If you’d like to have a little mini-adventure, take the gang out for a field trip to St. Paul Woods in Morton Grove. Less than half an hour drive, the Woods are spacious, deep, and full of field space for those long touchdown bombs you’ve been waiting to throw to your favorite wide receiver. And just in case you thought there was nothing in the burbs to do after your game, think again – the legendary Burt’s Place is a stone’s throw away, and serves the famous caramelized crust pizza that has to be tasted to be believed. And if that sounds like Pequod’s (which also has a nearby location) it should – Burt founded it and ran it for ten years before selling the place (and the recipe) to its current owners.

Dan Morgridge is a writer from Chicago’s Ukranian Village. He enjoys socially-conscious hedonism and hungover brunches.