Burnham Park Conceptualized by architect Daniel Burnham in the mid-1890s and home to the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1933-’34, this six-mile-long lakefront park connects Grant Park to Jackson Park, encompassing McCormick Place, the Museum Campus, and Northerly Island. Accessible by the lakefront bike path, the stretch within Hyde Park includes Promontory Point (see separate entry), plus baseball fields, tennis courts, and several playgrounds.
Bessie Coleman Park Formerly known as Willow Park, it was renamed to commemorate the nation’s first female African-American pilot. It offers soft-surface playground areas, a spray pool, and curving planted areas.
Cornell Park This vest-pocket park developed in 1973 includes grassy play fields, a sledding hill, and a small soft-surface playground.
Houston Playground Park Named for Reverend Jessie “Ma” Houston, this well-shaded four-acre park features volleyball and basketball courts as well as a soft-surface playground.
Jackson Park The site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, this massive 600-acre park extends from the lake into the Hyde Park, Woodlawn, and South Shore community areas. Hyde Park’s chunk features the Museum of Science and Industry, the 59th Street Harbor, the Wooded Island nature sanctuary and Osaka Garden, and a number of tennis courts. The park hosts cricket matches and a croquet club, as well as summer all-ages lawn bowling leagues for $50 a person (call 708-366-8228 for more info on lawn bowling).
Kennicott Park Established in 1990 when the former Judd Elementary School site was turned over to the Park District, this park offers a fitness center and a wide range of programs, including basketball leagues, Pilates classes, and drum and piano lessons.
Kenwood Community Park Jointly run by the Park District and the Chicago Board of Education since 1961, this park features four baseball fields, horseshoe and tennis courts, a small recreation building, and a spray pool.
Midway Plaisance Park Initially envisioned as a canal connecting lagoon systems in Jackson and Washington parks, this narrow mile-long park was an auxiliary site for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, housing foreign villages and amusements including the world’s first Ferris wheel. The west end features the Allison Davis Garden and Loredo Taft’s Fountain of Time, a 126-foot-long 1922 monument that’s recently undergone a series of expensive restorations. The park also includes biking and jogging paths, soccer fields, and a skating rink (between Ellis and Woodlawn avenues, on the former site of the Ferris wheel).
Nichols Park In addition to tennis courts, a baseball field, and a reflecting pool, this park houses the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club, which offers youth basketball leagues, hip-hop dance classes, a youth soccer program, knitting classes, piano lessons, a branch school of Fitzgerald’s Martial Arts (see below), and more.
Promontory Point This later addition to Burnham Park, designed by landscape architect Alfred Caldwell in the mid-30s, features a “rock beach” for swimming and sunning, “council rings” (used as fire pits), and a field house that’s popular for weddings.
Other Small Parks and Playlots Bixler Playlot Park (5651 S. Kenwood), Butternut Playlot Park (5324 S. Woodlawn), Elm Playlot Park (5215 S. Woodlawn), Madison Park (1200 E. Madison Park), Spruce Playlot Park (5337 S. Blackstone), Stout Park (5446 S. Greenwood), Sycamore Playlot (5109 S. Greenwood), Harold Washington Playlot Park (5200 S. Hyde Park).
AYSO 751 This region of the American Youth Soccer Organization features eight-week fall and spring soccer seasons for ages 4 to 19, as well as winter indoor sessions.
Fitzgerald’s Martial Arts Specializing in Tang Soo Do (empty hand and foot fighting), this martial arts school offers Mon-Sat classes that range from beginner to adult, as well as a summer karate camp for ages 5 to 12, in a 2,200-square-foot training area. The first week of beginner classes is free.
Seven Ten Lanes This eight-lane bowling alley is within shouting distance of the university and also houses nine pool tables, dart boards, and a number of private party rooms for large groups.
XS Tennis Once known as XS Tennis & Golf (before losing the golf), this tennis club hosts 8-, 10-, and 11-week classes for juniors and adults, in addition to leagues and school programs. Nonmembers can participate in Friday-night doubles from 7-10 PM for $25. The pro shop sells and strings racquets.