Stretching 20 acres within the Loop’s Grant Park, Maggie Daley Park is the place to play. It is connected to Millennium Park by the BP Pedestrian Bridge, situated on the former location of Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The park is named after Maggie Daley, Chicago’s former first lady who died of cancer in 2011. Designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, the park has been open since 2014. Today, it features lots to do for kids and kids at heart, including an ice skating ribbon, children’s playground, climbing walls and a new field house.
Maggie Daley Park Features
Although many of the park’s original components were removed or restructured, one stalwart is the Cancer Survivor’s Garden. Completed in 1996, the garden is considered one of Chicago’s hidden gems. It features views of the lake and the Field Museum of Natural History. At its north end, two 40-foot tall granite columns designated a large open pavilion lined by flowers. Inside, three garden rooms represent the three stages of healing: acceptance, support and celebration.
One of the shiny new additions is the popular climbing wall. Open seasonally, two rock-climbing structures reaching 40 feet tall form the city’s only climbing park. With difficulties for beginners and experts alike, the park offers three types of climbing: lead-harnessed, bouldering and top rope. Up to 100 climbers can use the wall at at time.
In cooler months, ice skating on the skating ribbon is an experience like no other. Instead of a traditional rink, the skating ribbon winds through a rolling landscape for a multisensory activity that lets visitors take in many views and landscapes along the way. Throughout, you’ll find several outposts to rent skates or grab a cup of cocoa. In the spring, summer and fall, the skating ribbon can be used for rollerblades and scooters, which can be rented for up to 30 minutes.
For children age 12 and under, the Play Garden is composed of a poured-in-place soft surface. The base and play elements meet ADA standards, so the playground is accessible to all. Found in the southeast section of the park, the Play Garden stretches three acres. Inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, children find immersive play structures and sculptures throughout. Within the Play Garden, there are several designated areas. The Sea is ideal for children ages 5 through 12, featuring 8,500 square feet of play. The highlight is a large-scale metal play ship situated along the Sea’s wavy topography. For tiny tots age 2 to 5, The Watering Hole is an animal-themed play space for water activities in the summer. Little ones can also use The Harbor, a boat themed play space with a raised boardwalk and covered central marina area.
Kids and adults of all ages can enjoy the Enchanted Forest, a large network of pathways and play zones that focus on play and exploring the sense. Find unique features like upside down trees that challenge normal conventions. The center of the Play Garden is cut by the Wave Lawn, where visitors of all ages can play lawn games along graded slopes. Kids ages 5 through 12 are welcome on the Slide Crater, which features spiral slides, rail slides, and wide slides connected by a central Play Pyramid.
Along with the Play Garden, grownups and kids alike can play on tennis courts or on an 18-hole mini golf course. Put underneath the six-foot tall Willis Tower and other recognizable Chicago landmarks. Need to wash up after all that activity? A central Fieldhouse offers washrooms, lockers, and rentals for the activities throughout the park.
Or, if you prefer just to relax and take in the scenery, there are four Picnic Groves located on the east side of the park, as well as many open spaces interspersed throughout the park.
Maggie Daley Park Events
Due to its kid-friendly aesthetic, Maggie Daley Park hosts many family-friendly events throughout the year. Annual events include a Valentine’s Day Dance, Egg Hunt and Skate with Santa. In the Summer, Night Out in the Parks includes many art and community events throughout the season. The park also hosts an array of programs like summer camps and youth programs as well as adult fitness classes.