Going to grad school is extremely rewarding, but juggling classes, hours of homework, work, and a social life can be exhausting. Chicago is a beautiful city with over 70 neighborhoods and a never-ending list of things to do. When you’re in graduate school, sometimes the only thing you want to do when you have a moment is find a quiet place to take a break from it all. Below is a list of seven free places in Chicago you can retreat to for a study break, meditate, or just clear your head!
- The 606: Technically called the Bloomingdale Trail; The 606 is a converted elevated rail line turned into a serene hiking, biking, or walking trail. It is 2.7 miles long and features street-level parks, scenic look-out points, an observatory, and public art installations. The 606 has access points in Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Bucktown, and Wicker Park. Certain days can get busier than others, especially on the weekends, but there are separate areas to walk and bike, and the elevated rail line offers plenty of benches to take a seat and relax.
- Garfield Park Conservatory: Located in Garfield Park (obviously), it is a stunning conservatory free to visit with a suggested donation, a game-changer for broke graduate students. This space is one of the largest greenhouse conservatories in the United States, occupying two acres of public greenhouse space and 10 acres of outdoor gardens. It is open year-round and is a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- The Lincoln Park Conservatory: The Lincoln Park Conservatory is smaller than the Garfield Park Conservatory, but it is still beautiful. It is one of the oldest public gardens in Chicago and is also free with a suggested donation. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, the conservatory promises to be lush and green all year long and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature.
- Chicago’s Lakefront Trail: Only a mile from the Lincoln Park Conservatory is the picturesque lakefront trail. Located next to Lake Michigan, you can enjoy a bike ride, a run, or a walk on the 18.5-mile-long path. The trail passes several beaches, parks, and recreational amenities for Chicago residents to enjoy. This may not be the best place to go if you’re looking for a quiet moment to yourself, since on busy summer days, up to 70,000 people may be putting the trail to good use; however there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the breathtaking views of the city.
- The River Walk: The Chicago Riverwalk is a scenic 1.25-mile path filled with restaurants, bars, and lookout points in the heart of downtown. The Riverwalk is surrounded by stunning views of Chicago’s skyline and the Chicago River. The path is a little over a mile from Columbia College Chicago’s campus and is the perfect place to go on a walk and clear your head.
- Labagh Woods: Located on the northwest side of Chicago is Labagh Woods. A tranquil wooded area known for bird watching, picnics, hiking, and 80 acres of green space. This gorgeous stretch of land is also home to the North Branch of the Chicago River.
- Henry Palmisano Nature Park: Located on the southside of Chicago in the Bridgeport neighborhood is Henry Palmisano Nature Park. This park is a hidden gem and includes over 26 acres, a fishing pond, and a quarry. The best part about this park are the breathtaking views of downtown Chicago from the top of the hill.
Did I miss your favorite spot to clear your head in Chicago? Let me know in the comments.