The Perfect Chicago Sports & Leisure Weekend
Chicago is an active city. In fact the Chicago Tribune reported that it is the 3rd most active living city in the United States thanks to its wide range of bike paths, parks, and plenty of accessible walkways that make it ideal for leisure pursuits. The city is also steeped in sporting history. It has at least one major franchise in each of the 5 most popular American sports and the Chicago Field has been the host of FIFA World Cup matches, including the opening game of the 1994 World Cup. That’s why we’ve decided to take a look at the sports and leisure highlights of this great sporting mecca.
Know Your Chicago Sporting History
One way to start your sporting odyssey in the windy city is to head to the Chicago Sports Museum where you will find a treasure trove of sports memorabilia curated by Chicago sport fanatics. This immersive museum will give you a great overview of Chicago’s sporting past and may help guide you in your next move on your sports and leisure adventures in the city. The museum has an impressive range of skill challenges and simulated experience and you will also find thousands of pieces of unique sports memorabilia. Examples include the hoop from Michael Jordan’s Last Shot as a Chicago Bull which clinched the team’s sixth NBA championship, Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa’s Bat (infamously corked) and the final touchdown football of Hall of Famer and Chicago Bear Walter Payton.
For the complete experience, head to Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch, the museum’s neighboring restaurant which is a favorite for many Chicago sports fans and offers complimentary admission to the museum with a $10 minimum purchase.
Explore the Best Parks in Chicago
Whether you fancy a leisurely stroll, an intense run or simply a place to throw a frisbee or ball about, Chicago’s Grant Park will have the right spot for you. Millennium Park, which is the northern part of Grant Park, is a must-see for anybody visiting the city and is popular with locals too. It is a beautiful, large urban park with colorful floral displays, interesting artwork, a Ferris wheel, an outdoor music pavilion, and in the winter months you can find an ice skating rink. Dubbed Chicago’s front yard, Grant Park features a number of attractions including the Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum Campus. Throughout the year, various cultural events and festivals take place in the park occasionally including sport and leisure themed ones.
Situated in the north of the city you can find Lincoln Park which stretches for seven miles making it the biggest park in Chicago. It famously houses Lincoln Park Zoo and the area is also home to a number of museums and attractions. Sports wise, this park is a dream. The park’s recreational facilities include baseball/softball fields, basketball courts, beach volleyball courts, cricket pitches, football/soccer fields, a golf course, lacrosse fields, rugby pitches, tennis courts, volleyball courts, field houses, a target archery field, a skate park, and a driving range. Other leisure pursuits such as fishing, swimming, hunting and walking are also popular in the park and on its beaches. As it is situated along Lake Michigan there are also boating opportunities while in the lagoon you can find rowing and paddling with the Lincoln Park Boat Club.
Catch a Ball Game
In the spring and summer months, Baseball is in full swing and there isn’t a city in the world more steeped in baseball history and folklore than Chicago. With two major franchises in the city, the Cubs and White Sox, some visitors can find it tricky choosing between the two. MLB schedulers are kind in this respect and every season they throw up various opportunities to see both franchises on the same weekend or even on the same day at their respective grounds with day/night scheduling. Keep an eye on the MLB schedule here.
Wrigley Field is the home of the Chicago Cubs and is one of the most famous venues in American sports. The Chicago Cubs had an incredible 108-year-wait to win the World Series. The franchise is shrouded in myths and legends, which is why a trip to Wrigleyville and its various bars and restaurants is worth a visit as you’ll be sure to hear a story or two including the famous curse of the cubs. Before you leave, be sure to grab some merchandise at Wrigleyville Sports.
In the south of the city, you will find the home of the Chicago White Sox at the Guaranteed Rate Field. Despite being a baseball mad city, the White Sox held the second-longest drought in baseball history when they failed to win the World Series between 1917 and 2005. However, they can also boast a passionate following and plenty of legendary tales.
Go For A Drink
Your perfect sports weekend doesn’t have to be all outdoors activities because on a weekend morning from August to May you can always find fans of the English Premier League (and other major soccer competitions) in the Globe Pub. You’ll see fans enjoying the delights of the expansive beer selection and traditional British food fare in an often raucous yet friendly atmosphere. For many, this is the Chicago Soccer Pub.
If traditional American sports is more your thing, then there are many sports bars throughout the city. Murphy’s Bleachers in the aforementioned Wrigleyville is considered by many to be the best in the part of the city while Lincoln Station Bar & Grill in the north part of the city offers pool tables and darts if you fancy partaking in a bar game or two while watching the sport on its bay of televisions. Alternatively, if you want to do a bit of bowling while you drink then why not head to the Punch Bowl Social in the West Loop.
If you’re in town for an NFL game to watch the Chicago Bears, then you’ll find many fans eating and drinking before and after in the bars near Soldier Field such as Kroll’s South Loop or the DMK Burger Bar.
The United Center
The home of the most famous Basketball franchise of all time and the world’s most legendary player, the United Center is a world-renowned sporting arena full of history. Look to try and catch a legendary Bulls game in the NBA between December and July and get a photo with the Michael Jordan statue. Meanwhile, the NHL runs for a similar time period where you can see the Chicago Blackhawks in action, one of ice hockey’s most successful franchises when it comes to Stanley Cup titles (6).
Go on a Bike Ride
If you want to do some sporting activities yourself then why not get on a bike or go by foot and do the Lakefront Trail, which is a favorite for many locals and tourists alike and is open 24 hours a day ( the parks and beaches along the path close at 11 pm). The trail connects and goes through Chicago’s four major lakefront parks as well as featuring various beaches and recreational amenities on its various routes. Be sure to check it out and watch out for the skaters and rollerbladers!
Hit the Green
With the famous and very exclusive Chicago Golf Club being off-limits for the vast majority, the historic Downers Grove golf course is a must for golf lovers. Downers was the home of the first 18-hole golf course in the country when it was established in 1893 and you can easily reserve a slot to play the current 9 holes on the site at any time. Open hours are dependent on the weather so if in doubt check with the course before visiting.
So whether you decide to do something indoors or outdoors, visit a stadium or a park, museum or bar, there truly is something for everyone when it comes to sports and leisure in Chicago.