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Jog Around an Abandoned Airport in Downtown Chicago

Where: 1400 S. Lynn White Drive [map], Chicago, IL, United States, 60605
April 27, 2010 at 9:00 AM | by | ()

One of the coolest, most unique things you can do in Chicago is to walk or bike or jog out onto the runways of a former airport situated downtown, right on Lake Michigan. The runways might be grass now, but it wasn't too long ago they were tarmac and landing jets, and the old control tower and 1960s terminal building still stand to prove it. This area is a park called Northerly Island, the former Meigs Field Airport, which has a dramatic historical past and a sunny future.

In 1933, this bit of land that jutted out from downtown Chicago was made the center of the World's Fair; if you've read Devil in the White City, you'll know where we're talking about. In 1948, the land became the single runway airport Meigs Field, which was controversially closed for good in 2003 when Chicago's mayor Daley tore up the runways in the middle of the night, with the aim of making it a park according to the 1909 plan of Chicago's city planner, Daniel Burnham.

Although Northerly Island's aviation days are over, its recreation days are just beginning. We walked out into the park on a sunny day recently, where the runways would have been, and noticed that it's easily accessible and it's right near the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. A long bike path winds around the park, and sculptures and the amazing city scenery keep walkers and joggers from getting too bored. There's even a beach!

If you're curious about what Northerly Island looked like as Meigs Field, here's a Google image of it.

How to get to Northerly Island: Take the 146 bus southbound down Michigan Avenue towards Museum Campus. The last stop of the 146 is Adler Planetarium, which is right at the entrance to the park. You can also walk down the lakefront path, or walk eastward from the Red Line El stop at Roosevelt.

What to do at Northerly Island: When there's not a concert happening at the open-air Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island, the park is a super quiet oasis just off of downtown. Go biking, jogging, walking, kite-flying...whatever. On hotter days there's swimming at 12th Street beach, and you can get snacks from the Adler Planetarium's cafeteria.

Related Stories:
· Northerly Island [Chicago Park District]
· Meigs Field [Wiki]
· Chicago Travel [Jaunted]

[All photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

I miss Meigs Field...

My memories of this airport started in the mid 1980's when Microsoft Flight Simulator used that as their default airport. Years later I actually got my pilots license and always wanted to visit Meigs since it was "virtually" the first airport I ever took off from.  

Years later a friend of mine and I secured an aviation world record as our wheels touched down on that runway late one night. The tower controller invited us up, gave us the brief tour, and signed off the paperwork for our world record.  

I suppose the only bright spot out of the destruction of the airport is that our record will exist forever... or at least until they start allowing aircraft to land on the grass at the park!

Stop lying about Meigs

Every so often I google "meigs field" to see how the phrase comes up in the news. This blurb about the park just fries me because the demolition of the airport by the crook Daley deprive the Chicago Park District of an opportunity to obtain between $600 million and a billion dollars from the sale of the airport. Visit www.friendsofmeigs.org and read the real history of the airfield and the best plan for it.