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Self-Guided Walking Tour of Chicago’s Northerly Island

June 29, 2024

Welcome to Northerly Island! This self-guided walking tour will take you through the scenic beauty and cultural landmarks of this unique urban oasis. From stunning lakefront views to fascinating historical landmarks, Northerly Island is the perfect destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you explore the best spots and enjoy an immersive experience.

Getting to the Starting Point

To begin your tour at the Field Museum, you can take public transportation via the CTA.

The #146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express and #130 Museum Campus buses stop nearby.

If you prefer to drive, metered parking is available in the East Museum Lot on East McFetridge Drive. Once you arrive, look for the entrance to the Field Museum at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605.

Museum Campus Section

Starting Point: Field Museum

Begin your journey at the Field Museum, a world-renowned natural history museum. Here are some must-see exhibits:

  • SUE the T. rex: One of the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever discovered.
  • Inside Ancient Egypt: Explore a recreation of a three-story tomb and learn about ancient Egyptian culture.
  • Evolving Planet: Discover the history of life on Earth, from the earliest organisms to the age of dinosaurs and beyond.
  • Hall of Gems: View an impressive collection of precious and semi-precious stones.
Field Museum

History and Description:

The Field Museum opened in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago. It was renamed in 1905 to honor Marshall Field, the museum’s first major benefactor. The museum’s collection includes over 24 million specimens, making it one of the largest natural history museums in the world.

Walk to the Shedd Aquarium

From the Field Museum, head east towards the Shedd Aquarium. This world-renowned aquarium features a diverse array of marine life and educational exhibits. Here are some highlights:

  • Wild Reef: An immersive exhibit showcasing the beauty and diversity of coral reefs.
  • Amazon Rising: Explore the ecosystem of the Amazon River, complete with piranhas, anacondas, and tropical birds.
  • Abbott Oceanarium: Watch dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters, and sea lions in a dynamic aquatic environment.
  • Stingray Touch: Get up close and personal with these gentle creatures in a touch pool.
Shedd Aquarium

History and Description:

The Shedd Aquarium opened in 1930 and was the largest indoor aquarium in the world at the time. It was a gift from John G. Shedd, a former president of Marshall Field & Company. The aquarium houses over 32,000 animals from around the globe.

Then go to Adler Planetarium

Next, head to the Adler Planetarium, located at the northern tip of Northerly Island. Take some time to admire the stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline from this vantage point. Explore the outdoor sculptures and art installations in front of the museum. Don’t miss these exhibits:

  • The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time: Experience the wonders of the cosmos through interactive exhibits and stunning visuals.
  • Historic Atwood Sphere: Step inside this century-old mechanical model of the night sky.
  • Planet Explorers: A hands-on exhibit designed for kids to learn about space and astronomy.
  • Doane Observatory: If you visit during public viewing hours, look through the largest publicly accessible telescope in the Chicago area.
Adler Planetarium

History and Description:

The Adler Planetarium, founded in 1930 by Chicago businessman Max Adler, was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. The building was designed by Ernest A. Grunsfeld Jr. and is a designated Chicago Landmark.

Northerly Island Walk Tour Section

Walk Around to the Adler to find 12th Street Beach

From the Adler Planetarium, walk around to the south side to find 12th Street Beach, a popular spot for sunbathing and picnicking. Take a break here to relax by the water or explore the nearby walking trails. Capture the picturesque views of the city skyline and the lakefront.

12th Street Beach

History and Description:

12th Street Beach is a small, sandy beach located on the eastern edge of Northerly Island. It offers stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. The beach is a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, and relaxing during the summer months.

Walk Along the Northerly Island Path

Follow the path that loops around Northerly Island. Enjoy the serene surroundings as you walk along the waterfront, with views of the lake and the lush greenery of the island. Along the way, you’ll encounter various points of interest and scenic spots perfect for capturing photos.

Northerly Island Walking Path

History and Description:

The walking path around Northerly Island offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. It provides stunning views of Lake Michigan and is lined with lush greenery, native plants, and opportunities for bird watching.

Reach Northerly Island Park

As you continue along the path, you’ll reach Northerly Island Park. This beautiful park offers walking trails, wildlife habitats, and stunning views of the city and lake. Take a moment to explore the natural surroundings, observe local wildlife, and enjoy the tranquility of this urban retreat. The park features a concrete trail for walking and bicycle riding, a lagoon, and landscaped wildlife habitats. Over 11,000 shrubs and 400 trees were planted to make the park as inviting as possible for its new inhabitants.

Northerly Island Park

History and Description:

Northerly Island Park is a 119.7-acre park situated along the Lake Michigan shoreline on Chicago’s beautiful Museum Campus. Originally the site of Meigs Field Airport, it has been transformed into an urban nature sanctuary, making it the ideal location to investigate the intersection of Chicago’s natural and built environments. The park features prairie and savanna habitats, a 5-acre pond, and a variety of native plants that attract migratory and local birds. It offers year-round outdoor and environmental programs, including youth nature programs, guided nature field trips, camping, fishing, paddling, and seasonal festivals such as the popular Polar Adventure Days.

Northerly Island Visitor Center

Next, visit the Northerly Island Visitor Center. This center provides information about the park and its various programs. The Visitor Center is open weekdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Check out the following activities and exhibits:

  • Interactive Displays: Learn about the history and ecology of Northerly Island.
  • Guided Nature Tours: Join a tour to discover the flora and fauna of the park.
  • Educational Programs: Participate in programs designed for children and adults alike.

Other things to see in the area:

Click here to see a list of other things to do in the area.
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Northerly Island Visitor Center

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Aerial view of 12th Street Beach with visitors and lifeguards
12th Street Beach

1200 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Northerly Island Visitor Center Lawn

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Adler Planetarium Sculptural Relief Panels
Adler Planetarium Sculptural Relief Panels | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Signal: Bon Voyage
Signal: Bon Voyage | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Americas Courtyard
Americas Courtyard | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Spiral Galaxy
Spiral Galaxy | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Daphne Garden
Daphne Garden | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Thaddeus Kosciuszko Monument
Thaddeus Kosciuszko Monument

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island

1300 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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    (312) 540-2668
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Northerly Island 12th Street Beach Natural Area
Northerly Island 12th Street Beach Dunes Natural Area

1200 S Linn White Dr
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Karel Havlicek Monument
Karel Havlicek Monument

1521 S. Linn White Dr
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Northerly Island Nature Play Space

1559 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Man Enters the Cosmos
Man Enters the Cosmos | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Heartwood Artwork at Northerly Island Park
Heartwood | Artwork

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Nicolaus Copernicus Monument
Nicolaus Copernicus Monument

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Northerly Island Nature Area
Northerly Island Natural Area

1400 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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Northerly Island Tent

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
United States

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