Navy Pier: NRHP

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Navy Pier is on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan and is 3300 feet long with 50 acres of attractions and restaurants. It is the top leisure destination in the Midwest, so on our weekend in Chicago, we had to visit.

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Navy Pier first opened in 1916 as the Municipal Pier and served multiple purposes. It was a freight dock, expositions were held there and later it served as a prison for WWI draft-dodgers. In honor of WWI Naval Veterans, it was renamed Navy Pier in 1927.

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The Navy used it as a training center during WWII, complete with living quarters, shops a theater, eateries and a hospital. After the war, the University of Illinois used it as a campus until they outgrew it.

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By 1989, the pier had fallen into disuse and begun to deteriorate. The city organized a redevelopment committee. In 1995, the pier had it’s grand re-opening as a modern retail and entertainment complex.  When we visited, it was undergoing another metamorphosis for the 2016 Centennial.

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Location: 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: 9/13/1979

Date of my visit: 5/23/2015

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Chicago Harbor Light: NHRP

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At the end of Chicago’s famous Navy Pier, you can see the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse in the Chicago Harbor in Lake Michigan. The light was built in 1893 for the Chicago World’s Fair and then moved to its current location in 1919. One of the Fresnel lenses on display at the Wold’s Fair was installed in the Chicago Light when the fair was over.

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The light is a modified spark plug design (it is taller) and a boathouse and fog signal room were added on later. It was added the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It is still an active navigational aid and is not open to visitors.

In 2005, the Coast Guard offered the lighthouse to the government. The Department of the Interior transferred ownership to the City of Chicago in 2009.

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Location: East of Navy Pier, Chicago, IL 60611

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: 7/19/1984

Date of my visit: 5/23/2015

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Millennium Park

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Millennium Park in Chicago was intended to help ring in the new millennium. Planning for it began in 1997, but it opened fours years behind schedule in 2004. Budgeted at $150 million, it cost the city and private donors $475 million to build.

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Constructed on top of rail yards and parking garages, Millennium park is actually a 25 acre rooftop garden. It is contained within Grant Park and features an outdoor concert space and pedestrian bridge designed by Frank Gehry.

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Another popular section of the park is the AT&T Plaza with its Cloud Gate sculpture, by artist Anish Kapoor. It’s three stories of polished steel and fondly known as ‘The Bean.’ Cloud Gate was completed two years after Millennium Park opened.

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Location: 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602

Designation: City Park

Date designation declared: 7/16/2004

Date of my visit: May 24, 2015

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Chicago Botanic Garden

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Chicago Botanic Garden is a 385-acre public garden and living plant museum in a suburb of Chicago. It is laid out across nine islands in the Cook County Forest Preserve.

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It is one of only 17 public gardens in the USA to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums due to its extensive horticultural library and its research laboratories. It has the largest membership of any US Public Garden with over 50,000 members.

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The Chicago Horticultural Society manages the garden, though it is on land owned by the forest preserve. The Society, which was founded in 1890, adopted the mission to create a public garden in 1962. It took ten years to realize this goal.

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My daughter and I flew into Chicago for Memorial Day weekend a few years ago. Upon landing, we picked up her friend and went right to the garden where we waited in a pretty long line to pay the entry fee. Once inside the gates, we had a surprisingly good lunch in the visitors center cafe and mapped out our plan.

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There are 27 distinct gardens in four natural habitats and with only half a day we couldn’t really see everything. It was early in the season and blooms were just beginning to emerge.

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There was tram tour, but we decided to just walk around the loop and enjoy the scenery.

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Location: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022

Designation: Public Garden

Date designated or established: 1972

Date of my visit: 5/23/2015

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The Carillon Bell Tower is a stand-out feature in the park. Constructed in 1986 with bells made in Holland, its summer concerts are a major attraction for the garden.