HEALTHY LIVING

18 Places In Chicago To Go When You Need To Recharge & Feel Inspired

11/21/2013 10:25 am ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

We're all guilty of it.

Even in a city as jam-packed with architectural gems and cultural meccas as Chicago, when we're wrapped up in the day-to-day hustle it's easy to speed past all that when we're too busy scanning through our Facebook feeds for the fifth time in the same hour.

And that habit is probably not doing us any favors. Thanks largely to our traffic, unemployment rate and overall population density, Chicago ranks among the three most stressed-out cities in the U.S. and that sort of added stress -- especially if it becomes chronic -- has been found to play a role in health problems including asthma, depression, diabetes and even cancer and heart attacks.

So finding opportunities to unplug whenever possible is key.

Luckily, the city is home to a sprawling array of stunning museums, parks, conservatories and other landmarks that surround us with the space we need to recharge.

HuffPost Chicago recently reached out to our readers to learn where you like to go within city limits when a pick-me-up is in order.

Here are our favorite picks, plus a few of our own; all of which are fully accessible to the public. Best of all, most of them are 100% free!

Where in the city do you go to unwind? Let us know below in the comments below.

  • Chicago Cultural Center
    WikiMedia:
  • 78 E. Washington St.
    The Cultural Center offers free programming year round (including exhibits and a number of special events). We dare you to stand under the Tiffany dome and not feel inspired. Also, be sure to visit Chicago-based collective Luftwerk's "SHIFT" exhibit through Jan. 5, 2014.
  • Promontory Point
    WikiMedia:
  • 5491 S. Shore Dr.
    Part of the city's Burnham Park, the Promontory Point is a man-made peninsula designed by Alfred Caldwell and recognized as one of the city's most stunning locales. Early in the morning, it's "the most zen place in the whole world," one reader wrote.
  • Osaka Garden
  • 6401 S. South Stony Island Ave.
    The Osaka Garden was first built in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exposition and is a hidden gem located just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. It's basically paradise, resembling a traditional Japanese "stroll garden."
  • A ride on the Chicago Water Taxi
  • It'll cost you $3 and can take you from the Loop as far south as Chinatown along the Chicago River, offering a unique look at some of the city's most iconic architecture without the heftier price tag and large crowds of the architecture boat tour. Runs from May to September each year.
  • Montrose Harbor
    WikiMedia:
  • Just north of the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Montrose Harbor offers a stunning view of the skyline and a laid-back vibe.
  • The South Garden At The Art Institute
    AP Photo/Tom Harris, Cultural Landscape Foundation
  • 111 S. Michigan Ave.
    The Art Institute is, as should be expected, a favorite of many locals. Being so massive it offers plenty of nooks and crannies to escape to, including the Dan Kiley-designed South Garden. In winter months, other readers said they loved the museum's Baroque and Renaissance wings while another said they seek refuge in the Asian wing. Through Jan. 9, 2014, don't miss the "Violence and Virtue: Artemisia Gentileschi’s 'Judith Slaying Holofernes'" exhibit. Bonus: It's free after 5 p.m. on Thursdays.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • 300 N. Central Park Ave.
    Multiple readers recommended the Garfield Park Conservatory, which is one of the nation's largest conservatories. Sometimes referred to as "landscape art under glass," it will make you feel miles away from the city.
  • Miró's Chicago
    WikiMedia:
  • 69 W. Washington St.
    Joan Miró's sculpture was originally called "The Sun, the Moon and One Star" and was a favorite spot of one reader's. The sculpture was originally unveiled in 1981 and is just across the street from Daley Plaza, a perfect quick refuge for Loop office workers on a lunch break.
  • University of Chicago Law Quad
    WikiMedia:
  • 1111 E. 60th St.
    The U of C Law School's Quad is another tranquil space that's a favorite of students who've been spending too many hours in the library. And with good reason -- check out that reflecting pool!
  • The top floor of Harold Washington Library
    WikiMedia:
  • 400 S. State St.
    This stunning space atop the Harold Washington Library is also known as the "winter garden" and is an ideal spot to clear your head. It is considered to be the popular library's architectural center.
  • Caldwell Lily Pool
    WikiMedia:
  • Fullerton Pkwy. and Cannon Dr.
    Just like Promontory Point, the Caldwell Lily Pool was designed by Alfred Caldwell, a legendary Chicago landscape architect. It doesn't get more serene than this pond, which was designed to replicate the feeling of a river running through a Midwestern prairie. The pool is located just north of Lincoln Park Zoo.
  • North Park Nature Center
  • 5801 N. Pulaski Rd.
    Located in Peterson Park, the North Park Nature Center truly feels like you've left the city -- without actually doing so. The center encompasses a 46-acre nature preserve that allows its visitors to interact with and learn about wildlife and nature while still being in an urban environment.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
    WikiMedia:
  • 220 E. Chicago Ave.
    The Museum of Contemporary Art is well known for playing host to a wide variety of inspiring and sometimes challenging exhibitions. A current highlight is the "Warhol and Marisol" exhibit on display through June 15, 2014. And after that? The highly-anticipated North American debut of "David Bowie Is." Free every Tuesday (for Illinois residents)!
  • Lincoln Park Conservatory
  • 2391 N. Stockton Dr.
    The Lincoln Park Conservatory is another space that will easily transport you away. The space offers a tropical vibe that will come as a welcome escape to Chicagoans particularly in the dead of winter.
  • Osterman (Hollywood) Beach
    Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • 5800 N. Lake Shore Drive
    The Kathy Osterman Beach is known for being beautiful, peaceful and generally less busy than other city beaches. A great place to trade out the MacBook for your favorite book and lose track of time.
  • The 9th floor of the Fine Arts Building
  • 410 S. Michigan Ave.
    The historic Fine Arts Building just might be one of downtown Chicago's most overlooked gems. Considered to be the nation's oldest artist colony, the building is open to the public and features galleries and practice an audition space for musicians. Said one reader: "I walk amongst paper copies of the best music ever written in the world. It smells like Thanksgiving. And the view of the lake is undiscovered and unparalleled."
  • National Museum of Mexican Art
    National Museum of Mexican Art/Facebook
  • 1852 W. 19th St.
    The National Museum of Mexican Art is another revered but sometimes overlooked Chicago cultural institution. Not to be missed through Dec. 22 is "Outside In," a survey of local street artists' creations. Free admission every day!
  • Northerly Island
  • 1521 S. Linn White Dr.
    Located just off the Museum Campus, Northerly Island is another space of Loop-adjacent urban escape with killer views. A peninsula (rather than an island), it's "a sanctuary of natural beauty that removes you from the city while giving you a front row view," a reader wrote. Also, you can fish from here.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly noted the Caldwell Lily Pool's location.

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