500px Photo ID: 123458731 - Northerly Island Wildflowers, Chicago

Justin Miller / 500px

Northerly Island


This hilly, prairie-grassed park has a walking and cycling trail, bird-watching, fishing and an outdoor venue for big-name concerts. It's actually a peninsula, not an island, but the Chicago skyline views are tremendous no matter what you call it. Stop in at the field house, if it's open, for tour information. Bicycles are available at the Divvy bike-share station by the Adler Planetarium. Note that parts of the trail are closed at times due to weather damage.

Northerly Island was once the busy commuter airport known as Meigs Field. The shift from runway to willowy grasses has its root in a controversial incident that reads a little like a municipal spy thriller, complete with midnight operatives and surprise bulldozings. To sum it up: Mayor Richard M Daley wanted the land for a park; businesses wanted to keep it for their private planes. A standoff ensued. Then, one dark night in March 2003, Daley fired up the heavy machinery and razed the airfield while the city slept. His reasoning? Terrorists could attack Chicago with tiny planes launched from Meigs; the airfield was a security liability. Why it couldn't be jackhammered during daylight hours was never explained.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Chicago attractions

1. Copernicus Statue

0.38 MILES

In the front median of the Adler Planetarium, the bronze Copernicus statue shows 16th-century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus holding a compass and…

2. Adler Planetarium


Space enthusiasts will get a big bang (pun!) out of the Adler. There are public telescopes to view the stars (10am to 1pm daily, by the Galileo Cafe), 3-D…

3. Sundial

0.42 MILES

Henry Moore sculpted the 13ft bronze piece outside the Adler Planetarium in 1980. It does indeed mark the time of day by casting a shadow on the ground.

4. Shedd Aquarium

0.55 MILES

Top draws at the kiddie-mobbed Shedd Aquarium include the Wild Reef exhibit, where there's just 5in of Plexiglas between you and two-dozen fierce-looking…

5. Olmec Head No 8

0.56 MILES

Staring out from the Field Museum's lawn, Olmec Head No 8 is a replica of one of many sculptures the Olmec people carved in Veracruz, Mexico, c 1300 BC…

6. Field Museum of Natural History

0.59 MILES

The Field Museum houses some 30 million artifacts and includes everything but the kitchen sink – beetles, mummies, gemstones, Bushman the stuffed ape –…

7. Battle of Fort Dearborn Park


The Fort Dearborn battle, in which a group of local Native Americans rebelled against the incursion of white settlers, is thought to have occurred on this…

8. William K Kimball House

0.66 MILES

Modeled after a 15th-century French château, the William K Kimball House dates from 1892. It now houses the US Soccer Federation, along with next-door…