Aside from the pigeons, squirrels and the occasionally small rabbit that manage to make themselves feel at home among the multi-unit buildings and concrete sidewalks, it can be difficult to find a place to relax and feel as if you’re taking in the wildlife if you live in the city. Here are a few places nearby where you can take a break and connect with nature.
Ned Brown Preserve Busse Woods
East Higgins Road and Golf Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
(708) 366-9420
www.fpdcc.com

Not only are there over seven miles of trail paved for enjoyment by cyclists, rollerbladers and walkers, but there are also elk at Ned Brown Preserve! Yes, a herd of elk make their home in the preserve and are viewed very often by those enjoying the woods. There are several shelters available for picnics or even large gatherings if you’d like to host a family outing. If you’re looking for some alone time, avoid the weekend, as the paths are usually crowded with cyclists, runners and walkers of all kinds. Even with the crowds, it’s still likely you’ll see an elk or two and maybe even a few deer.

Harold Washington Park
5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60615
(312) 747-6620
www.hydepark.org

The tropical monk parakeets that live and thrive in Harold Washington Park Playlot in the Hyde Park neighborhood are almost famous. Several articles have been writing about their inhabitation of the south side and there are even a few urban legends concerning how they came to live in the city. The birds live in their nests year round and have adapted to Chicago by changing their diets seasonally and constructing their nests on everything from hollowed out trees to utility poles (to the chagrin of ComEd). The best place to view them is Harold Washington Park, but you can hear them all over the south side.

Volo Bog State Natural Area
28478 W. Brandenburg Road
Ingleside, IL 60041

(815) 344-1294
www.dnr.state.il.us

It’s easier than you would think to visit the only so-called ‘quaking bog’ in the states to have an accessible open water area complete with trails that go right out over the marshy grasses. You’ll see turtles and frogs in addition to the other unique plant and flower life that enjoys bog living. And a barn on the land in the Natural Area is even home to a large community of brown bats! Thousands fly out at dusk every evening. Sandhill Cranes and herons also migrate through the bog and you may get lucky and see a coyote or beaver! Check the visitors center first for information about enjoying the bog to the fullest.

Related:  4 Best Places To Experience Nature Right Here In Chicago

River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Ave.
Northbrook, IL 60062
(847) 824-8360
www.fpdcc.com

You’re guaranteed to see wildlife at the River Trail Nature Center as it has several outdoor caged habitats for animals who are too injured to be fully released. You’ll see everything from owls to coyotes and even a bald eagle! There are indoor exhibits within the nature center as well, with turtles, snakes, fish and birds. Kids will enjoy the education center that is set up with fun information for them to learn about the animals they might encounter. With several trails to chose from, you’re guaranteed to have a nice, relaxing walk.

Sand Ridge Nature Center
15891 Paxton Ave.
South Holland, IL 60473
(708) 868-0606
www.fpdcc.com/nature-centers/sand-ridge-nature-center

How can you not enjoy a butterfly garden complete with flowers and a small fish pond? There’s also a center with hands-on activities for kids to explore and educate themselves on the nature in the area. Bird feeders are right outside of the classroom, so you can check out the birds feeding while your little one joins in on the activities. There’s a pioneer log cabin to explore and the trails have several benches to sit and take in the atmosphere around you. The staff is informative and helpful, so ask any questions you may have about the exhibits.

Related: Best Chicagoland Nature Trails

Meredith Lyons is an actor, competitive fighter and fitness instructor in Chicago who also owns an amazing cat named Jake. Meredith has been writing on Examiner as the Chicago Martial Arts Examiner since 2008. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.