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January 10, 2022 5 min read

Ahhh, the Second City! Known for its hot dogs, pizza and comedy, many people wouldn’t at first glance consider it a hot spot for vegan life or those more attuned to nature as opposed to “L” stops and all too enthusiastic pigeons fighting over fries. 

But Chicago is home to many vegans, many cultures and a wide variety of experiences to be had. People love the midwestern warmth of Chicago without forgoing the big, world class city experience.

Where to Explore:

You should definitely check out all the landmarks, shopping and bustling energy Chicago has to offer.  But one of the special things about this city is the juxtaposition of nature that if sprinkled throughout the skyscrapers and traffic.

So, this list will include many places for the nature lover and explorers that might not first come to mind when visiting Chicago.

Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park (Hyde Park Neighborhood)

The history of Chicago has largely influenced its landscapes. This city was put on the map while hosting the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Much of the beautiful plaster buildings erected to house the fair no longer exist, but one of the beautiful remnants is the Japanese Garden built south of the loop in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood.

This tranquil garden is complete with a Japanese Pavilion, moon bridge and Shinto gate gifted and shipped to Chicago from its sister city Osaka in 1893 in time for the World’s Fair. Nestled close to the Museum of Science and Industry and the University of Chicago Campus, visiting this area of city would be a dream for any peace loving vegan or non-vegan for that matter. Make an afternoon of it and explore all this portion of the city has to offer!

 A shot across a pond in the Garden of the Phoenix; there are large rocks in the foreground and a small red bridge in the background connecting to a manicured island.

The Garfield Park Conservatory (Garfield Park Neighborhood)

A true Chicago Gem, the Garfield Park Conservatory was founded in 1908 with goal of promoting the importance of nature and the environment. The sprawling grounds have beautiful outdoor spaces as well as their iconic glass conservatory with eight different environments filled with plants from all around the world.

This space holds a special place in many Chicagoan hearts and is open to everyone and admission is free (but donations a much appreciated). There are plenty of places to picnic on the lawns so you can have a yummy vegan meal while appreciating the beauty of nature. Sounds like a wonderful time!

An overhead shot of Garfield Park Conservatory; a large, open, circular green space leads up to a glass conservatory building. In the distance is the skyline of Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago

A must-visit if you come to this city is The Art Institute! This museum is one of the best in the world. Home to the largest Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections outside of the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, it also houses some of the most renowned pieces of American artwork such as American Gothic and many artifacts and art pieces from all over the world. This museum is a true gift to and from the city.

You can make a whole day of it there or just pop in for a while. Either way you’ll be in awe. Across the way Millennium Park awaits with its open outdoor space with a variety of activities to take part in for all ages. But more on that later.

 An interior shot of the Art Institute of Chicago. A large open set of stairwells in classical style. There are statues and other art pieces on the far walls of the upper balconies and in the center landing.

The Lakefront

When visiting, many people forget that Chicago isn’t a coastal city. This has to do with its massive 18-mile paved lakefront trail that hugs the easter boundary of the city. This trail runs north to south and can be walked for as long or as short as you like. There are beaches, Navy Pier, harbors and skate parks all along this trail. This is where Chicagoans workout, let off steam and enjoy fairly brief but beautiful summers.

This is another place that can be easily made vegan friendly by picnicking, getting takeout from one of many vegan restaurants and chilling out lakeside.

If you’re traveling with a dog, you can bring your loyal pal along. In the summer they can even enjoy Montrose dog beach up on the north side of the city.

An overhead shot of the Lakefront. A highway runs parallel to the shore of a lake, which is cordoned off by green space and walking paths. In the distance is the skyline of Chicago.

Lurie Garden at Millennium Park

This 2.5-acre garden in the heart of the city is a sight to behold. This garden was designed to be ecologically sensitive and natural to the flat marshland and prairie native to this area. The garden is a four-season experience that welcomes the natural cycles of nature and wildlife throughout the year.

This is another space that can offer a quiet, peaceful break from Chicago’s busy streets and attractions. There is a bridge over the park and garden that you can walk to get an alternate view. This bridge also connects to the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, which also allows for great views of the park from their galleries.

A garden filled with many kinds of pink flowers and foliage, surrounded by tall skyscrapers and other city buildings.

Where to Eat:

We know that a huge part of the vegan lifestyle is a vegan diet. Many restaurants in the city offer vegan options as we have a large vegan population. (That may be a surprise given the city’s history in meatpacking). But, here just a few of the restaurants in the city that dedicate their business to vegan food.

Urban Vegan Thai Cuisine ( Lakeview/Uptown Neighborhoods)

Situated on the border of the Lakeview and Uptown neighborhoods of Chicago, people rave about this completely vegan Thai restaurant. Many have described it as a vegan paradise with both healthy and yummy fried favorites. Whether you want to eat in, take out or get delivery this tried-and-true favorite won’t disappoint.

 A bowl of yellow soup with various vegetables on top of it,accompanied by red-tinted rice and a stack with a cucumber slice, tomato slice, and leaf of lettuce. There are two dipping sauces on the plate.

Althea (Magnificent Mile)

This restaurant is amongst Chicago’s main shopping districts. If you’re out and about in the area, check out Althea for some plant-based food. The menu is “chef-driven”, vegan takes. This menu feels gourmet in the best way. If you’re down for a delicious cocktail and a decadent dessert too, they have you covered.


Raw Chicago ( Near North Neighborhood)

This health food restaurant serves raw vegan food to-go. They have smoothies, bowls various entrees like an empanada platter (yum!), sandwiches, desserts and kosher options. This would be the perfect place to stock up on vegan treats and meals before heading on a day out of site seeing. Their menu would make for some perfect picnic options.



Fancy Plants Cafe (Lakeview East)

Who doesn’t love a 100% vegan cafe? Grab yourself a breakfast sandwich or a pastry and a latte and be on your merry way. This cafe also has a full restaurant at a different location called Fancy Plants Kitchen that has a lovely all vegan menu with a Japanese influence.


Enjoy the Journey!

Traveling while vegan in Chicago is totally doable and enjoyable! Chicago is a city full of life and diversity; in the food, the people and the experiences. There is never a dull moment and that is what makes it a great place for a vacations. It truly is a wonderful vegan vacation spot that merges vegan food, with nature and big city energy. Check out the Doshi blog to see more vegan travel guides and other vegan lifestyle tips.

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