Living in a big city like Chicago doesn’t always lend itself to exploring the outdoors but that’s only the case if you don’t know where to look. Sure, it’s more concrete jungle than lush forests and weeping willows but nature exists all around us. Even better, Discover The Forest, recently launched so it’s easier to find new outdoor spots to explore.
One of my favorite features available online is Where To Go. Simply enter your zip code and the map will pin outdoor areas based on your interests. For example, my kids and I love to hike so I entered hiking, state or national parks as part of my query and added zip code and, viola, instantly I received a list of places to hike. Granted, none of them is in Chicago (which is to be expected because Chicago proper doesn’t really have hiking trails) but what I did learn is that there are several spots I hadn’t thought of visiting for some time or haven’t visited at all since my kids were born. Now I have a new list of places to explore!
Prefer biking, fishing or camping? Those options exist, too, and you can find them using the Where To Go feature. There’s even an app for it: NatureFind!
Spending time outdoors has become an obsession with me personally because my husband and I have decided to raise our kids in Chicago. While the city affords us wonderful culturally-rich experiences from museums to art performances, we crave breathing fresh air, being surrounded by huge trees and soaking in our natural surroundings. It’s not unusual for us to spend our weekends in a nearby forest preserve or park. I think it’s how we stay sane during the cold winter months, frankly.
Wondering what there is to do or need some ideas of things to do while exploring the outdoors? Discover The Forest has a handy What To Do section on its website that provides activity ideas to do outdoors for the whole family that can be printed in advance or accessed on your phone.
One of the things we’re going to learn this summer is how to use a compass as well as how to be good stewards of the earth (leave no trace behind). We’ve already camped once and our goal is to get more camping trips under our belt before summer ends but more importantly, for us, is to make the time to explore every weekend even if it’s just a day trip. I can see the excitement in my kids’ eyes when I tell them we’re going to go hiking or biking.
Even if you don’t live in a big city, you can enjoy the outdoors and now with Discover The Forest, it’s easier than ever to find places to explore!
Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food. She’s also a regular contributor to USA Today Travel, 10best.com, TravelingMom.com as Foodie TravelingMom and writes for several other print magazines and online media outlets.