The great state of Illinois has hundreds of parks for residents and tourists to enjoy. The state park land in Illinois may take up more space than city parks, but Illinois has city and community parks worth gawking at, too!
With over 200 to choose from, Illinois’ city parks range from recreational green fields with playground equipment, to veteran memorials, to amenity-rich amusement centers with athletic fields, archery ranges, and more!
Take a look below to discover the 15 largest city parks in Illinois.
The 15 Largest City Parks in Illinois
Many of the largest city parks in Illinois have acres of land open to the public for walking, biking, hiking, or playing. Some have community-sponsored programs while others have dozens of exciting amenities to enjoy.
Chicago Park District
With 8,800 acres to manage, the Chicago Park District remains one of the largest municipal park managers in the U.S. Its massive acres cover 600 parks, 28 indoor pools, 50 outdoor pools, and 23 swimming beaches.
In September 2023, the District put out a press release asking for public feedback on budget decisions. “The Chicago Park District values the opinions and suggestions of the community members,” said General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño. “We extend an invitation to all Chicago residents to join us at Fosco Park and provide the input that will help shape the future of our local parks.”
Chicago’s largest park welcomes over 20 million visitors a year. The park, which has 15,000 trees within its limits, provides essential habitats to native animals like mammals, birds, and amphibians. The Lincoln Park Conservancy works around the year to ensure the habitats within Lincoln Park remain pristine. However, it has a special day every September called Public Lands Day. For one day, the park promotes community stewardship.
The sprawling 500-acre former estate opened to the public in 1958. It includes amenities like Cantigny Gardens, the Visitors Center, the Education Center, walking trails, and Cantigny Golf. Once the home of longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, Cantigny Park has two historic museums. One is about the life and legacy of the past owner situated in a small homestead, and the other is about the First Division of the U.S. Army.
City residents can host special events, concerts, weddings, and more on the grounds of Cantigny.
Glen Ellyn Park District
The Glen Ellyn Park District, located just 23 miles away from Chicago, operates 29 different parks for the community, 21 playgrounds, and 300 acres of open space. As the community grows, so does the park portfolio of the managing district. Outside of the great parks (like Ackerman, Marie Ulhorb Presidents, and Newton), the most-loved facilities of the district include Holes & Knolls, Sunset Pool, and the Lake Ellyn Boathouse.
Located along the serene Rock River, Lowell Park’s 200-acre woodland provides city residents with scenic hikes, meandering trails, a protected nature area, and a nature center to immerse themselves in the beauty of their backyard. Families, couples, and Dixon locals with dogs will appreciate the park’s picnic shelters, playground with a zipline, and fishing spots for a relaxing day outside of the house.
The park promotes inclusivity and diversity, offering ADA-compliant boat access and a parking lot for anglers of all abilities to enjoy an afternoon on the water.
During the summer, one of Illinois’ biggest parks becomes a spotlight for musical talent. Wing Park Bandshell hosts dozens of talented musicians over the summer months for concert series, special musical appearances, and even kid-friendly summer camps. Wing park also includes a playground, and athletic spaces for basketball, baseball, golf, volleyball, skating, and tennis. Finally, the tree-lined avenues provide a perfect, shady spot for picnickers to enjoy in the spring.
First created in 1893 by the illustrious Lord family of Elgin, the 108-mile park that bears their name has a variety of amenities and attractions to keep families entertained for a weekend afternoon. Visit the Elgin Public Museum or the Lords Park Zoo for a dash of knowledge, or try your hand at one of the many different sports available on the athletic fields and courts.
Finally, on the hottest summer days, Elgin residents can take a dip to cool off in the community swimming pool.
When discussing city parks in Illinois that set the curve for inclusivity, you have to consider Southwind Park. Perhaps Springfield’s most inclusive space, the 80-acre park exceeds ADA accessibility and compliance at every turn. Every amenity in the park was designed with all residents in mind. The equipment in the park especially caters to those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Just some of the activities families can engage in include:
- Barrier-free playgrounds.
- Picnic shelters.
- An eight-acre grassy field.
- Athletic courts.
- Five sensory gardens.
Dogs are allowed to Southwind but must be leashed and well-behaved at all times.
Milky Way Park
If you’ve had friends or family’s children involved in sports in Harvard, Illinois, chances are that you’ve already been to the Milky Way Park. Its 55 acres host six different soccer fields, two football fields, and baseball and softball diamonds. It’s also the permanent location for Harvard Milk Days, an annual festival that dates back to 1942 celebrating the work of dairy farmers.
Created with the whole family in mind, Olney provides the space and structures for all of life’s celebrations. With covered picnic shelters, picnic spots, and an air-conditioned community building, the park has enough space for birthdays, anniversaries, wedding receptions, reunions, and more.
Olney Park also hosts exciting community events like a Christmas lights display, the Olney Arts Council’s Fall Festival in September, and the annual Richland County Fair in July.
City Park (Bolm-Schuhkraft Park)
The rural Bolm-Schuhkraft Park in Columbia has nearly 45 acres of rolling hills and picturesque fields dotted with trees and evergreens. Most of the park’s amenities focus on getting city residents closer to nature. They include nature stations, open play spaces, a one-mile paved trail, and a creek. In addition, there’s an ADA-accessible spinner, playgrounds, and athletic courts.
Elgin’s smallest park still tops the charts as one of the largest in the state. Chicagoans yearning for a break from the hustle and bustle of city life can spend a relaxing afternoon at Trout Park, located adjacent to the Fox River, which offers fishing, nature trails, playgrounds, baseball fields, and a boat launch to make the most of the weekend. Established as an Illinois Nature Preserve in 1972, Trout Park has a unique and rare cluster of white cedar trees in a fen environment locals can marvel at during their visit.
Located in Harvard, Lion’s Park spans for 35 acres near Harvard High School and the Harvard Diggins Library. In the sunny season, Lion’s Park offers picnicking, swimming, and playground fun. In the snowy season, it provides a lighted sledding hill and ice rink to enjoy the winter weather with all your neighborhood friends. The city has future plans to add cross-country skiing to Lion’s Park.
Admiral Trost Park
Located on nearly 34 acres in beautiful Columbia, Illinois, Admiral Trost Park currently has many winding miles of paved trails, as well as multi-use open spaces. The natural woodline and creek abuts the wetlands, making Admiral Trost Park a perfect picnic spot.
In the future, the city plans to add more ADA-compliant and inclusive amenities to the park. They include:
- A dog park.
- An interpretive center.
- A kid-friendly labyrinth.
- A nature-based play area.
- An accessible play area for children and adults of all abilities.
The urban Millennium Park — located in the heart of Chicago — is home to one of America’s most iconic art pieces: The Bean. Full of art galleries, exhibits, gardens, and foundations, Millennium Park has a multitude of eclectic spaces. The Lurie Garden fosters dozens of native plants and even shares on the website of Millenium Park what’s currently in bloom on any given week. The Chicago Cultural Center is located across the street from the Park and features exhibits, a Learning Lab, and more for the citizens of Chicago. Finally, Maggie Daley Park makes up most of the green spaces in Millennium Park with a Cancer Survivors’ Garden, mini golf, picnic groves, sports courts, and more.
Summary of the 14 Largest City Parks in Illinois
|Chicago Park District
|Glen Ellyn Park District
|Milky Way Park
|Admiral Trost Park
Illinois’ Largest Parks
The many parks of Illinois provide unique spaces for community members to gather — whether it be on their own for personal celebrations or as a neighborhood to enjoy special events. From Dixon to Olney, the cities in Illinois create sprawling, amenity-based parks for their locals and residents to enjoy.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © LevKPhoto/iStock via Getty Images
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