GUIDES | August 22, 2014

Destination guide: Chicago, IL

Eco-friendly sites in Chicago

Carrie, Founder & Chief Wanderer

Chicago is a great city and had many great historical events that shape the city we see today. One of the distinct periods that influenced Chicago was the 1893 World’s Fair. During the Fair, the city built iconic white buildings, developed the waterfront and invented the Ferris Wheel. You can see the homage to the original today at the Navy Pier.

The mobster era of Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s also played a role in forming the current city of Chicago. There are several tours you can take to see Al Capone’s old stomping grounds and locations of some of the bloody turf wars that occurred during the Prohibition era. You can still visit some of their favorite hangouts such as Green Mill Cocktail Lounge.

But how can you even say Chicago without thinking about that cheesy, gooey, delicious, pizza?! I like to consider myself a pizza connoisseur and pizza lover— and believe it would be a crime to visit Chicago without having its famous deep dish pizza. The first time I flew through Chicago I even had pizza in the airport – although I don’t recommend this to anyone. Not. Good. Pizza.  As for actual Chicago pizza, the three most famous deep dish pizza spots are Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and Gino’s East. You owe it to yourself to have deep dish at least once.

While the previously mentioned activities are not the most sustainable , there are plenty more must-see eco-friendly spots.  Here are Ecowander’s top picks of tourist sites that work to have a positive impact on our environment and, or, have a positive social impact.

2430 N. Cannon Dr. Chicago, IL 60614

The nature museum is both kid and adult friendly, with only a $9 admission for adults and $6 for kids 3-12. The museum has a range of exhibits: Heritage of Chicago, a 1/3 mile outdoor nature walk, and an amazing butterfly haven. Visiting the butterfly haven is fun for every age, enjoy seeing over a thousand butterflies while walking through the greenhouse. Not only is the principle of the museum focused on the environment, but the building also has green features such as solar panels, a green roof with native plants and water conservation measures installed such as storm water management.

5404 N Clark St. Chicago, IL 60640

Like second hand stores with great vintage finds? Then this is for you. Not only is shopping at resale stores good for the environment (reuse!) but it is also good for your wallet. Brown Elephant takes the benefits to the next level, with sales and donations helping 50% of Howard Brown Health Center clients who are under or uninsured and AIDS research. *Note: Recent reviews state the prices have inflated heavily.

1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.

The Shedd aquarium is a great aquarium that hosts over 32,000 sea creatures and takes great care for those animals. They are involved in conservation and research in the nearby Great Lakes and around the globe. The aquarium itself also focuses on sustainability in a number of ways: using rainwater capture to use in their air chillers, conserving water in the aquariums, and has 913 solar panels on the facility.

Enjoy the Beaches of Lake Michigan

Popular beaches include: North Avenue Beach, 63rd Street Beach, Loyola Beach, and Montrose Beach.

Chicago has over 26 miles of coastline and that means plenty of beaches for you to enjoy. If you are there in the summer or fall months, you should definitely spend some time on the beach. In typical Chicago style, several of the beaches nearby have a rich history that date back to 1871 during the City development for the World’s Fair. The largest beach, Montrose Beach, is dog friendly with a fenced off section in the North for your pup to roam.

Visit a Nature Center

Depending on where you are staying in the city and the amount of time you have, Chicago has two great Nature Centers to offer. Eden Place Nature Center was redeveloped from a previous dump site to improve the health and wellbeing of the neighbors. Today it houses urban gardens, wetlands, forests and an Educational Center. North Park Village Nature Center, originally a tree nursery in the late 1800s, is now home to a 46-acre nature preserve and education center with several hiking trails to enjoy.

Visit Millennium Park

Millenium Park consists of nearly 25 acres, including several green spaces, beautiful fountains, The Bean, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Enjoy walking through the green space and flower beds during a nice day and know it is both good for you and the environment. I must also note that unfortunately no dogs are allowed. If you’re lucky, you can also catch a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. If there isn’t a concert series, you can still enjoy the great lawn— perfect for picnics!

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

951 Chicago Avenue in Oak Park

Organic buildings are the strength and lightness of the spiders’ spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground.


― Frank Lloyd Wright 

Why would you not want to visit the home of the man who said that, let alone designed over 1,000 structures? Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes and structures that were in harmony with nature and the environment, which he termed organic architecture. Wright lived in this house from 1889 to 1909, the first 20 years of his career.

If you visited any other eco-friendly sites, feel free to share in the comments!  Enjoy Chicago.