9 Places to Reconnect with Nature Around Campus

If you’re like me and can’t stop thinking I just spent all week inside studying and need to spend some time with plants, look no further! Here is your guide to places on or near campus to connect with nature this spring.

1. The Lakefill

Photo by Emma Belanger

Photo by Emma Belanger

Perfect spot for: lounging with a group of friends after a morning midterm, going for a late night walk, watching the sunrise

Where: Along the east side of campus from Bienen to Kellogg

Pros: trees for hammocking, beautiful views, lots of dogs being walked, well-lit at night, lots of space, has cool events sometimes, on campus

Cons: can be very crowded on a nice day, not very private2. Underground Deering Garden

Photo by Emma Belanger

Photo by Emma Belanger

Perfect spot for: eating your lunch outside, reading a book

Where: down stairs on the south side of Deering library, a little west of the entrance to Main

Pros: secluded; vines growing up the side of the building, plants, and a badass statue make you feel like you’re in a castle’s garden; benches; on campus

Cons: small, kind of scary at night

3. Shakespeare Garden

Perfect spot for: practicing mindfulness between classes, impressing a date with a picnic dinner

Where: walking from Annenberg to the observatory, follow the path to the left; behind Ford

Pros: has many flowers and fairy vibes, usually not very crowded, makes you appreciate at least one thing about north campus, usually bunnies running around,  on campus

Cons: a little harder to find

4. Weinberg Gardens

Photo by Jordan Villanueva

Photo by Jordan Villanueva

Perfect spot for: taking a break between classes, calling your mom

Where: just south of Deering meadow, can access from path near University

Pros: fairly secluded, usually shaded, big enough for a group, easy to get to and on campus

Cons: view of Sheridan Rd., noisy, feels as in the middle of campus as it is

5. Chicago Botanic Gardens

Photo by Emma Belanger

Photo by Emma Belanger

Perfect spot for: Saturday plans with friends or a date

Where: North of campus in Glencoe; take the 213 PACE Bus Northbound toward Highland Park from Howard Station and get off at the Gardens

Pros: absolutely beautiful, so many plants to admire, large campus/lots of gardens to see, admission free/relatively cheap depending on what you want to see, close to forest reserves if you feel like strolling in the woods after

Cons: kinda long bus ride, can be crowded on the weekends

6. Emily Oaks Nature Center

Perfect spot for: an adventure off campus on the weekend

Where: in Skokie off of Skokie Blvd and Howard St.; take the Yellow line to Oakton-Skokie and walk south down Skokie Blvd

Pros: large nature preserve, can really immerse yourself in a more natural landscape, trails for long walks, indoor nature center, bike trails

Cons: limited hours, off campus

7. Clark St Beach (South Beach) + Parks

Perfect spot for: bike rides, spending a day off with friends, enjoying the lake

Where: just South of campus

Pros: close to campus, lots of space, great views, good paths for walking or your other favorite mode of active transportation, can be a good spot for birding

Cons: kind of a far walk if you’re coming from North campus, can be crowded

8. Lighthouse Beach + North Beach

Perfect spot for: a thoughtful walk, swimming if the weather allows

Where: North Beach on north side of Ryan Fieldhouse; Lighthouse Beach located just north of campus behind the Water Department building on Lincoln St

Pros: can be a very peaceful place, makes you feel connected to the lake, not typically very crowded

Cons: near the construction behind Kemper so could be noisy during the day

9. Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

Perfect spot for: getting off campus, a long walk with your best friend

Where: 2 mile stretch along McCormick Blvd starting on Dempster; if walking, take Emerson west to McCormick and follow it south to walk on a trail along the river; or take the 250 O’Hare Kiss n Fly bus and get off at Dempster/McCormick

Pros: wonderful trail for walking or bike riding, cool sculptures to look at, path is along the river, picnic areas, good chance of meeting dogs

Cons: kind of far off campus, runs along the road so it can be noisy with traffic

Staying grounded in nature has many benefits including reducing stress, so visiting one of these places could make the perfect study break this midterm season. While this list is not comprehensive of every green nook and cranny on campus, it might be helpful when the urge to be outside this spring overtakes you. If your favorite place is not listed, share it with your friends to help pass good vibes along or keep it as somewhere just for you. And wherever you decide to connect in nature, remember to be present in the moment.🌱