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Best Places to Live + Play: Chicago, Illinois
National Geographic Adventure announces this year's top 50 adventure towns, state-by-state.   Text by Dan Koeppel

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The Adventure Radius

In town: Paddle past the Sears and Tribune Towers along the Chicago River.

Within 50 miles (80 kilometers): Summit
Mount Baldy, a 126-foot (38-meter) sand dome in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Within 100 miles (161 kilometers): Climb the bluffs in Castle Rock State Park.

Where to sleep: Hotel Burnham ($279;

Where to eat: The classic Billy Goat Tavern has the quintessential cheeseburger, Coke (no Pepsi!), chips (no fries!), and sass.

Chicago, Illinois

Cruise the Wild Heart of Chicago

- Population: 2,842,518
- Median home price: $245,000

The second city gets top billing as a metropolis with great access: Nearly every type of outdoor activity is within a two-hour drive. Deer Grove, just north in Palatine, offers trail options ranging from wide, semi-paved paths to narrow, technical byways for trail runners, cyclists, and cross-country skiers. Right in town there are 569 parks and 32 beaches.

Where Chi-town really sets itself apart is in its architecturally influential city center. "There's no place else on Earth where the skyscrapers rise straight out of the water and form a downtown urban canyon," says local kayaker Gary Mechanic, a third-generation Chicagoan. Showing the usual bombast and bluster of Windy City politicians, Mayor Richard M. Daley has announced plans to make it the greenest city in the U.S. Already, the lakefront is immaculate, 25,000 trees are planted annually, wind and solar power are in abundance, and one million square feet (92,903 square kilometers) of sky-high gardens are within city limits—more green rooftops than in all other U.S. cities combined.

Wilderness  |  Small Towns  |  Mountains  |  Waterfront  |  Cities  |  Las Vegas 

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