Connected to the Chicago mainland by a narrow isthmus on Solidarity Drive, Northerly Island spans 120 acres along the Lake Michigan waterfront. The picturesque location is part of Museum Campus, with Adler Planetarium on the north end. The man-made peninsula used to house Meigs Field Airport, where today visitors enjoy shows at the Huntington Bank Pavilion concert venue. Located just east of Soldier Field, Northerly Island is mostly dedicated to nature. Its paths and nature areas offer an ideal place to stroll, play and fish among spectacular views of the Chicago skyline.
Northerly Island Features
Northerly Island is the brainchild of famed Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham, who imagined a park full of lagoons, harbors, recreational areas, scenic views and expansive stretches of green space in the early 1900s. Today, his vision is a reality, as the island is home to wild prairie grasses, strolling paths and numerous play areas for children—all among stunning views of the Chicago skyline.
Built in 1930, the Adler Planetarium is a public museum on the park dedicated to astrophysics and astronomy. It features three full-size theaters, space science exhibitions, and a large collection of print materials and antique scientific instruments. The planetarium hosts the popular Adler After Dark event, which opens the museum to adults after hours to enjoy themed programs, sky shows and nighttime views of the skyline.
From the winter through early spring, the Northerly Island Fieldhouse offers indoor recreation on the weekends. For the rest of the year, it is open daily with staff present to offer a discovery tour through the park.
The park’s most notable attraction is the Huntington Bank Pavilion, which features a recently upgraded stage, seating and state-of-the-art light and sound systems. The lawn can hold up to 30,000 concertgoers to enjoy music along the Chicago lakefront. The venue opened in 2007 with Earth Wind and Fire, and has since hosted such prominent names as Counting Crows, Goo Goo Dolls, Phish, Jimmy Buffett, Jason Mraz and Pitbull, to name a few. Prominent comedy acts like Jim Gaffigan have also taken the stage here.
The southern part of the island, opened in 2015, is home to a 40-acre park featuring a concrete walking and bicycle trail, landscaped wildlife habitats and a lagoon. Find a Divvy bike station near the Adler Planetarium to take a cruise through the park. A nature preserve also lives in the park, home to many migratory birds and wildlife. Dogs are not allowed on the preserve to protect the delicate habitats there.
Visitors can also take in an array of public art and monuments throughout, like Spiral Galaxy, Man Enters the Cosmos, Thaddeus Kosciuszko Monument and Adler Planetarium Sculptural Relief Panels. The Daphne Garden (moved from Grant Park) features sculptures depicting Greek Mythology.
At 1200 S. Linn White Drive on the island, just south of Adler Planetarium, 12th Street Beach is a great place to take in some sun or go for a swim in warmer months. The beachhouse features restrooms, and Del Compos offers food and beverage options. There is also a non-motorized boat launch and distance swimming allowed parallel to the boat line. An accessible beach walk leads to the crystal clear lake. Guests who drive here can park in a paid lot.
Northerly Island Events
The Chicago Park District chooses Northerly Island and its beautiful views for many public events. Even in winter months, the park district hosts Polar Adventure Days here and offers free snow show rental, cross-country skiing and indoor activities in the park’s visitor center.
The Great Chicago Fire Festival has been held at the park as well, meant to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Guests enjoy musical performances, local food vendors and fireworks.
Of course, the Huntington Bank Pavilion hosts an array of performances throughout warmer months. Sponsored by Live Nation, festivals like Country Lake Shake, Nickelodeon Slimefest and North Coast at Northerly Island are held here in the summer. Other popular headliners frequent the stage, with acts like Florence and the Machine, Vampire Weekend, Sublime and Ben Harper scheduled for warmer months.