In summer, Maggie Daley Park shines, with its exotic assortment of plants, low hills of grass, multiple play areas for specific age levels, rock climbing, mini golf, picnic groves, tennis courts and a 20-foot wide, quarter-mile long inline skate ribbon that converts into an ice skating ribbon during winter. One of our colleagues visited it recently with family and friends to skate away the first Saturday of the new year.
In winter, ice skating is the main draw, but it’s an enchanting journey to get there. The multiple views in this park are spectacular: open skies and Lake Michigan; magnificent skyscrapers and tall buildings; the curvaceous, gleaming steel BP bridge and futuristic Pritzker Music Pavilion in Millennium Park. Visitors pass under fifty-foot tall, tubular light “teepees”, dotted along curving paths en route to their destination. Painted white, these massive light fixtures further enhance the beauty of snow.
The skating ribbon area is ingeniously planted with an “evergreen grove” to enjoy in winter. Lush, tall Arborvitae and Limber Pine trees soften the angular rock climbing structures situated inside the ribbon. Other noteworthy evergreens scattered throughout are bayberry, which hold their purplish fall leaves in milder winters, and Longstalk Holly, a unusual evergreen with glossy, green ficus-like leaves and bright orange-red berries (note, although many of these hollies are planted here, and they are looking fine in their second Chicago winter, this plant is typically not hardy in our area).
Dwarf Mugo Pines, planted in masses, resemble cute, puffy clouds. Taunton Yews, with their fountain-like branches, add a contrasting texture. The hardy leaves of Hellebores and Liriope peek through snow.
Admission is free to ice skate, with a capacity of 700 people. Bring your own ice skates for fast entry, or arrive at the fieldhouse to rent skates before it opens at 10 a.m. By noon, the line for skate rental can reach up to 90 minutes. Skate rental is $12 a person. The ice surface is kept smooth by a Zamboni, which runs for an hour at noon, 2:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
For more information on Maggie Daley Park and its various year-round events, visit www.maggiedaleypark.com.