Top 10 Best Nature Spots and Parks in Chicago

nature, Thoughts, Travel

Originally posted by AG Digital Media Magazine. Written by Kimberly Anne

Michigan Avenue, mobsters, and more – There are many things for which Chicago is famous. However, the natural world is not considered one of them. Maybe I can change your mind! Some people may be unaware of the abundance of natural areas that are accessible within the city.  

Maybe some aren’t keen on the fact that there are more than 500 parks within the city limits alone. But the next time you are driving down the Kennedy Expressway in a fit of monstrous fury and about to flip off some jerk in a Jeep; try channeling that energy and finding inner peace at one of these 10 sites for a wilderness escape instead! 

Trust me, I know how terrible road rage can be in the city. Luckily, there are so many beautiful places that we can go and see to experience a nice and quiet moment away from the dreaded rush hour traffic. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Best Nature Spots in Chicago. 

  1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 
  2. The 606 
  3. The Emerald Necklace
  4. Lincoln Park 
  5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 
  6. Maggie Daley Park 
  7. The Garden of the Phoenix
  8. North Park Village Nature Center 
  9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
  10. Humboldt Park  

1. Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary 

The first on the list is my favorite because this was my go-to as a teen! The Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary serves as a stopover for several hundred different species of birds!

You will have the opportunity to see these birds as they travel through the area throughout the year. This majestic sanctuary home to wildlife, birds, and butterflies is a spot that you won’t want to miss. 

This portion of Montrose Beach is known for its laid-back atmosphere. Montrose Bird Sanctuary is home to a dune habitat as well. This is one of the best sites in the city for trail trekking. 

Therefore, you will also experience breathtaking views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan. And in addition to that, there’s a really great beach bar nearby. 

2. The 606 

What is The 606? The 606 is an old train track turned nature trail. The path, once forgotten – then nature took over. In the space between the train tracks, new vegetation and flowers sprouted, and animals settled back into their former homes. The narrative of the 606 picks up shortly after the devastating Great Chicago Fire.

As a part of its efforts to restore the city, the Chicago City Council authorized the Chicago & Pacific Railroad to lay tracks down the center of Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 North) on Chicago’s Northwest side. 

Almost a century ago, a railroad line offered service to a small manufacturing sector on the northwest side of the city. Trains passed overhead until the 1980s when activity dropped to a trickle. After that, they stopped.

By the middle of the 1990s, the rerouting of the few trains that still used the corridor and the entire cessation of freight operations had both taken place.

Above, the ancient rail line was recovered by nature, while below, the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square predominantly turned to residential use.

It was only a question of time before the neighboring communities found out about the location once more.

And in the early 2000s, people went up there informally and constructed an impromptu nature walk. They found a natural habitat with unrivaled views of the city.

3. The Emerald Necklace (Yes, the Boulevards!) 

It is quite well known that Chicago is home to epic parks including Grant Park and Millennium Park. Chicago is also home to an unprecedented network of eight parks. The Emerland Necklace area in Chicago is connected by a 26-mile boulevard system. 

Between the years 1869 and 1890, the city’s park system—also known as the Emerald Necklace—was built. The Emerald Necklace in Chicago continues to be regarded as a pioneering example of urban park architecture in the United States.

Large parks and green boulevards that presented naturalistic and formal landscapes provided residents with a place to get away from the rough edges of the city without actually leaving it. 

This allowed residents to find solace in the urban environment without having to leave the city. Within the boulevards, you will find plenty of streets and parks lined with trees. 

Starting at Logan Square, head south through a number of the city’s most beautiful parks, including Washington, Humboldt, Douglas, Garfield, and Jackson Parks.

After that, you should slap anyone who says Chicago isn’t a lovely city. It’s just not true.

4. Lincoln Park 

Let’s just start by featuring what kind of nature-y things you will find in, near, and around Lincoln Park in Chicago. By the way, these are all free of charge. 

  1. The Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo 
  2. Alfred Lily Caldwell Pool 
  3. Lincoln Park Conservatory (Right next to the zoo!) 
  4. Lincoln Park Zoo (Yes – it’s really free to get in still) 
  5. Oz Park (Oz yes, like The Wizard of Oz!) 
  6. Northpond Natural Area 
  7. Lincoln Park (the ACTUAL park) 

The world-famous Lincoln Park Zoo is located in Lincoln Park, which is also home to the renowned Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago History Museum, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 

Don’t forget the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, the North Pond Nature Sanctuary, and North Avenue Beach. Of course, there are also the important statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. 

My favorite has to be Oz Park though. It’s really great for kids! In the 1890s, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Lyman Frank Baum, who penned stories for children, resided in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago.

An annual Oz Festival was held at the park for the purpose of commemorating the former occupant of the park as well as paying homage to the groundbreaking book, film, and author who created The Wizard of Oz. Why are you still reading? Go and see the statues at Oz Park! 

5. The Garfield Park Conservatory 

The Garfield Park Conservatory is widely considered to be among the nation’s finest and most impressive examples of its kind.  I’m not an expert, but my guesstimate is that the Garfield Park Conservatory is around 30,000 plus square feet.

The amazing edifice known as the conservatory is often referred to as “landscape art under glass.” This one-of-a-kind massive indoor greenhouse is a place that houses hundreds of different plant species. 

There are eight rooms and the interior area is almost two acres in size. The conservatory may be explored in around one to two hours at a leisurely pace.

6. Maggie Daley Park 

The Chicago Park District is in charge of maintaining the 20 acres of land that makeup Maggie Daley Park. The Maggie Daley park is located in the Loop neighborhood of Chicago.

Scott Fishman Photography

It sits in the northeastern part of Grant Park, close to the water’s edge of Lake Michigan. Previously, however, it was once known as Daley Bicentennial Plaza.

This park is home to so many gardens, playgrounds, and epic spots that you will most likely not be able to see them all in one day! Here’s a list of what is there: 

The long-serving first lady of Chicago, Maggie Daley was passionate about enhancing children’s lives. She was working to give the entire population of the city access to vibrant cultural life.

Gallery 37, a summer arts program for teenagers, was co-founded by Maggie Daley.

Likewise, After School Matters was founded. This is a nonprofit offering Chicago kids cutting-edge programs. Subjects include the humanities, communications, sciences, sports, and technology.

It is currently the biggest after-school program of its sort for teenagers in the country. So, it kind of makes sense that Maggie Daley Park is so incredibly massive (it matches her heart!). 

7. The Garden of the Phoenix 

On March 31, 1893, the United States of America and Japan collaborated to establish the Garden of the Phoenix as a symbol of their friendship. The garden also is symbolic of a permanent venue where tourists might learn about and experience the culture of Japan.

The area has endured the ups and downs of the relationship over the past 120 years, and it is today considered one of the most prominent spots in America that serve as a symbol of the relationship between the United States and Japan.

One of the most significant and intricate historic landscapes in Chicago and the whole of the country is Jackson Park which is home to The Garden of the Phoenix. This is also the location of the 1893 World’s Fair. 

One of the most beautiful features of the garden is when the cherry trees are in full bloom in the spring.

These trees have also been planted outside the garden, and during the latter half of April or the first week of May, you can typically see them in full bloom. They are close to the Columbia Basin in Jackson Park.

The traditional Japanese practice of appreciating the aesthetic value of flowers is known as hanami.

During the springtime, the blossoming trees in Jackson Park reach their peak blooming phase, which typically lasts between six and ten days.

Visit the park at this time of year to have your very own hanami experience; the timing couldn’t be better.

8. North Park Village Nature Center 

The 155-acre North Park Village location, which is located on the northwest side of Chicago, is where the Nature Center and the 46-acre nature preserve are situated.

Pathways can be found throughout and they can take you through savannas, prairies, wetlands, and forests. There is a discovery room, an interactive exhibit area, and a table with natural objects within the North Park Village Nature Center. 

These are the highlights of the Nature Center. In addition to the Nature Center and the preserve, guests have the opportunity to explore Walking Stick Woods, a wooded area that spans 12 acres and features Nature Play-themed pathways and nodes. 

9. Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park

A fishing pond, interpretive wetlands, preserved quarry walls, pathways, an athletic field, a running track, and a hill that gives dramatic views may all be found in this dynamic park. Palmisano Park was previously a quarry called Stearns Quarry. It is located on the southwest side of Chicago, in the middle of the Bridgeport neighborhood.

It has been everything from coral reefs to a quarry to a landfill to a park over the course of its history, therefore its story is one of progression.

It should not come as a surprise that each incarnation had a significant part in the creation of the next.

The park is traversed by over 1.7 miles of routes, some of which are recycled lumber boardwalks, others are concrete walks, yet others are crushed stone running paths, and still, others are metal grating walkways.

Along the quarry wall, down to the pond, and through the terracing wetlands, these pathways provide access to a variety of different environments and activities.

In addition to the breathtaking views of the city that can be seen from the mound, the scenic overlooks provide dramatic views of the pond and the marshes.

10. Humboldt Park 

The 197-acre park has a lot to offer tourists, even if swimming isn’t their thing. There are playgrounds, natural areas, walking and biking routes, and community gardens. There is even “Little Cubs Field,” a miniature recreation of Wrigley Field.

If you want to spend the day at the water’s edge, you don’t have to restrict yourself to the lakefront of Chicago. Instead, you can go to the lagoon in Humboldt Park, which has its very own inland beach.

During the warmer months, the grassy areas surrounding this well-known neighborhood park are filled with people having picnics, using grills, and purchasing food from vendors.

The Puerto Rican Festival and the Latin Jazz Festival of Chicago are two more annual events that take place in Humboldt Park.

And if you’re lucky you just might see a crocodile in the lagoon. Just kidding. But that was a thing once. But please, don’t put your pet croc in the lagoon. It gets way cold here in the winter! 

Have you been to any of these amazing nature spots in Chicago? If so, let me know in the comments below!

The Mist of Skógar

Experiences, Poetry, Travel
I can taste the mist and sense the air beneath my skin.
Shadowed by the spirits who kiss me in the wind. 
When the cold air blows; I hear their stories told.

They tell me to close my eyes, and in the darkness I’ll see. 
Unseen cyphers and traditions they teach are boundless and bold. 
In exchange I left them my heart and they keep it for infinity; in the mist of Skógar.
Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland by KimberlyAnneInc.
Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland by KimberlyAnneInc.
For the Landvættir and my Best
Skógafoss Waterfall in Iceland by KimberlyAnneInc.

Places: How They Influence Us

Experiences, Thoughts, Travel

Within the last couple of years, I have transformed; mentally and emotionally. Some of the things I did before the pandemic were unhealthy and questionable. I mean very mentally and emotionally unhealthy. I was around people who were just not good for me and my mental and spiritual health was on a decline because of it. During the pandemic, and with tons of time to be alone I had an epiphany of sorts. After realizing I had almost wasted my life with an individual who was completely toxic for me, I realized that I truly wasn’t living my life the way that I should have been or could be doing. Realizing that, I decided to make the most out of my 2021, once many COVID restrictions started to lift. 

Last year I went on some truly amazing adventures and discovered so many new places and met some lovely new people. At this point, I’m not a stranger to traveling alone. I find that traveling alone is extremely beneficial and something that everyone should do at least once in their life. I don’t mean traveling for work either, or something tedious. I mean to go, across the country, or the world – completely by yourself and for only one purpose: leisure. 

Last year, by the power of fate I made it to Iceland twice, Omaha, Nebraska (Nebriowa), and St. Louis, Missouri. I feel like I’m forgetting something, but if I remember I’ll be sure to come back and write about it. I did go to Roswell, but that was for a family visit and something I’ll discuss later on. Traveling for me is all about exploration of the world and exploration of myself. It might not seem like a lot to some, but the places I went to and the things that I saw last year have given me memories that will last a lifetime. Traveling makes you realize just how tiny you are in this giant and overpopulated world. 

Seeing Mt. Esja, among many other beauties in Iceland for the first time, was breathtaking. I did, of course, see some epic waterfalls, ate fermented shark (and didn’t puke, haha Gordon Ramsay!), and even saw one of my favorite artists perform. On top of that, I even went to Álfaskólinn, the official Elf School of Iceland, and was lucky enough to sit with a historian and listen to stories of magic and folklore (my favorite!). 

Sitting on Mt. Esja, Iceland

When traveling to Nebraska, I stood in two states at the same time while on top of the Bob Kerry Pedestrian bridge where I witnessed a marriage proposal at sunset. It was so romantic, and I was thrilled to have captured photos of the moment. (The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge is a 3,000-foot footbridge across the Missouri River between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska.) I did send the photos I got to the couple after their special moment. I rode a bicycle up and down the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The feeling of connecting with nature and history brought me such pleasure and it’s a magical place I’ll never forget. On the trail, I slowed down so I could witness a musical performance taking place on the side of the river. I saw the Durham Museum and listened to stories of military men and the brave Standing Bear. I was shocked and heartbroken at learning things about Standing Bear and his people, that they never would teach us in school. At the Joslyn Art Museum, I discovered an epic Dutch painter, Maria Van Oosterwijck. I ate the best fish tacos I’ve ever had in my life at Voodoo Taco. I wish all of the time, they’d open one up in Chicago. 

I rode all over downtown Omaha by myself on those little stand-up electric scooters and let my hair blow in the wind as I cruised the streets, examining the architecture and statues of pioneers and buffalo. Somehow I managed to make my way to a concert of roughly 70,000 people in the middle of a field that looked more like a valley than anything. It was one of the hottest days of the year, and I had no idea how I’d get back to where I was lodging. Luckily, I met a beautiful Princess in the crowd who was from Lake Okoboji. She told me about where she was from, and how people always looked confused when she said “Lake Okoboji”. It is a glacier lake that was formed 14,000 years ago by the Wisconsin Glacier and has a maximum depth of 136 feet, making it Iowa’s deepest natural lake. Bri, or Bree, if you ever read this, just know that I think you are a genuine and beautiful human being. It’s mysterious that we never exchanged contact info after hanging out and demolishing curly fries after the concert. Thank you for helping me get back into town so safely. In my mind, I’d like to think it’s because we are both Midwestern chicks who were looking out for each other that night. She initially came up to me and started chatting because, for a moment, she too was in the crowd alone. 

Somewhere, Iowa

For my son’s birthday, we drove to St. Louis. The first time we saw the Gateway Arch, it felt incredible. Seeing things in person that you’ve only read about in books or on the internet gives you this indescribable feeling! It’s like yes, we finally made it. My son particularly loved St. Louis and Missouri in general. Especially when we drove out to the Meremac Caverns and learned about the hideout spots of Jesse James. Seeing the caverns all lit up felt like being in a dream. We got to explore a part of the earth that so many other people haven’t been able to see. We also spent time at the City Museum, and it was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever seen. Everything constructed at the City Museum comes from old pieces, parts, and random works of art that were once part of the city of St. Louis. Inside the City Museum, which is both equally fun for adults and children, you can investigate the unthinkable.  I rescued a toddler while there who had apparently gotten lost. I found her crying in some loft (there are literally secret compartments all over that museum). Thankfully, her parents found her once I brought her back to the front desk! It was still wild though, considering each child gets a wristband and their parents are supposed to write their phone numbers on them! There was no phone number on hers, which made me super disappointed. My mom instincts kicked in super hard!

St. Louis, MO
Gateway Arch National Park

The City Museum is a hundred-year-old warehouse where artists have recycled the remains of the past to create miles of tunnels, slides, and climbers as well as bridges, castles, and other structures. There are secret caves inside, giant halls, and more tunnels than you can ever imagine. On top of the building, there is even a school bus on the roof and a Ferris wheel. Some of our time was also spent at the Magic House Museum in Kirkwood, MO. The Magic House is a non-profit organization that provides hands-on exhibitions and educational activities that are tailored to the specific interests and requirements of children and their families. In addition to field excursions, STEAM evenings for families, scout programs, and summer camps, the Museum provides a range of interactive learning opportunities that encourage and inspire kids of all ages toward becoming successful learners.

City Museum, St. Louis, MO

This is just a tiny snippet of what I’ve experienced last year in my “free time”. The point is, all of these places shape what I know, who I am, and how I see the world. Every time we discover a new place, we discover something about ourselves. We discover something about humanity. As much as humans seem impossible, experiencing new things and new places gives you a chance to discover the good that is left in humanity. In St. Louis, I was shocked at the hospitality we received at one restaurant. It was genuine, it was real. It wasn’t that fake smile or fake voice that many servers here in the city pull. 

In the city, when I was growing up one of my favorite hideout spots was the Montrose Bird Sanctuary. The Montrose Bird Sanctuary is a quiet preserve that is home to a diverse range of migrating songbirds and butterflies, and it also has a skyline view. When I was younger I thought it should have just been called the Butterfly Sanctuary. The last time I was there, sadly, I did not see so many butterflies. There were plenty of tall grasses and trees to hide in and around. Maybe I loved the spot due to my obsession with nature which I’m going to blame on books of my childhood like, “The Giving Tree”, for example. Or even “Goodnight Moon”. Growing up with books that taught about nature, the stars, and altruism – one shouldn’t be surprised that a favorite hiding spot of mine is just next to the shores of Lake Michigan where you can easily hide in trees. It looks much different now than it did back then. Even though it’s changed so much, it will always be one of my favorite spots. I went back and visited last year, and found a single rose floating in the lake. I considered it as a message from one of my most loved and missed friends. 

Near Montrose Harbor, Chicago IL (I promise you, I did not put that rose there!)

I’ve been incredibly lucky to experience so many things. This year, I can only imagine what else I will find. Taking none of this for granted is critical to the importance and the extent of my appreciation for all of the magical things in this world. 

Roswell, NM 2021

Adventures in Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – Experience and Mysteries

Experiences, History and Mystery, Travel

This was originally posted last winter when I was able to travel up to Wisconsin and visited Aztalan State Park. I found it to be a beautiful place even while it was 22°F/-5.56°C and covered in ice and snow. The opinions in my blog post are solely mine and not influenced by anyone or anything. I want to make clear that not everyone may feel the same way or believe in things that may seem otherworldly. Relating folkloric or mythological views to the current mounds of Aztalan may not be appreciated by all, but I am writing this post with good and honest intentions.

Topics like these are ones that I am highly interested in. There are organizations and people who do everything they can to protect the mounds and historic sites across North America, especially those specializing in preservation of sacred Indigenous lands. I applaud and appreciate them because preserving culture, history and nature is very important to me personally. Taking care of the planet is our responsibility and we owe it to the future generations. If you want to learn about Aztalan, and also different theories of giants – keep reading!

Disclaimer: Some things mentioned in my post are considered controversial and pseudoscience. You can decide for yourself.


Originally published by Kimberly Anne on February 2, 2021

My journey through Aztalan State Park was full of tranquility and magic! 

Aztalan State Park is not just a State Park; but also a National Historic Landmark. Aztalan is quite extraordinary and incredibly ancient. This beautiful area was once home to many early indigenous people in the state of Wisconsin. The native Aztalan people stemmed from a group known as the Mississippians, a tribe who lived around the Mississippi River Valley from approximately 900 C.E. to 1450 C.E. The most fascinating feature of Aztalan State Park is the ancient burial mounds. Before I get a little deeper into that, let me tell you what led me to this magnificent site. 

It was a typical evening in my home, one filled with curiosity and learning. My son and I were watching a documentary called, “A Race of Giants”. In this documentary we heard numerous stories and accounts of literal giant skeletons being found in various excavation sites all over the world, some being specifically located in the United States. If you are familiar with certain parts of mythology or cosmogony tales, you’d recognize that a common theme is giants. I wouldn’t be myself if I did not further investigate what I was hearing in this documentary!

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – 2021

According to “A Race of Giants”, many of the “giant” skeletons that were excavated were found near – you guessed it – ancient burial mounds. In the United States, there are at least over 20 major ancient burial mound sites most of which are focal points for archaeologists and students in North America. These mounds are also sometimes known as effigy mounds. Effigy mounds are large raised pieces of land that were used for ritual or spiritual purposes in Indigenous American/First Nations culture. Many of the mounds are in various shapes, including the form of animals or symbols. 

While watching the documentary, suddenly, one story caught my attention completely. That was the discovery of the “Princess Burial”, at Aztalan State Park. The Princess Burial was found in 1919 and consisted of the remains of a female skeleton in her early twenties. Some people suggest that the Princess was over 7 ft. tall, which indicates that she could have been a “giant”, (I have found no supporting evidence stating she was 7-8ft tall – this is a widely speculated theory). During the excavation, it was documented that the remains of the Princess were discovered with hundreds of beads and shells. Most of the shells that were found on-site in the grave were local clamshells, but some were marine shells that are native to the area of the Gulf coast! That is a clear indicator that the shells were imported at that time. The Mississippian nations scattered throughout North America, from Wisconsin down to Mexico, so this could be a reason why imported beads were found in the grave.

In total, the Princess Burial had over 1,900 shell beads. In ancient times, it is known that prominent figures in a society or culture were buried with such items. Emperors and pharaohs have been buried with similar items that would indicate them as important people of high status, so this discovery at Aztalan holds a major significance in the history of ancient America. Interestingly enough, there was a similar burial at another Mississippian site which is known as the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, IL. (The Cahokia Mounds are much larger than Aztalan. The Cahokia Mounds are classified as the largest archaeological site in the United States). The burial found at Cahokia also included beads, and they were placed in the shape of a bird.

Photo Credit: Cult of Weird Website


Before I get too carried away with the Princess mound, let’s discuss a little myth history! In many indigenous myths, there are stories of giants; who were much larger than an average-sized human. There are stories of giants from a variety of First Nations groups including the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and many, many more. One particular group that I’d like to mention is the Paiute. I won’t go too far into this one, but I highly recommend doing a little research on the giant skeletons found near Paiute territories. Have you ever heard of the Lovelock Cave? The Lovelock Cave in Nevada is full of ancient history and indigenous American legends according to the Paiute nation. Through oral traditions, the Paiute told stories of giants that roamed the earth thousands of years ago. It is said the giants were very tall, had red hair, and were cannibals who constantly attacked humans. This story is known as the tale of Si-Te-Cah. The Paiutes could no longer bear to see their people suffer at the hands of these cannibalistic giant creatures. So, as the legend goes, the Paiutes went to war with the giants. The Paiutes teamed up and led the giants into a cave where they would find their ultimate death. That cave is known as Lovelock Cave in Nevada. By the way, the skeletons found around that area are reportedly larger than any man or woman. The skeletons were reported to be 8-10 feet tall. 

Finding all of this information enchanting, you can see why it led me to Aztalan State Park. Being that I already have a tremendous love for native myths and culture I just could not resist taking a visit to some nearby mounds. I’m also marveled by many accounts of legends, sagas, and “mythical” creatures – so giants are “right up my alley”, so to speak. I won’t go too far off the deep end, but many people out there do believe that these gargantuan mounds found all over the U.S.A. were built to cover up skeletons of a substantial size. There have also been rumors that the Smithsonian Museum has destroyed and/or lost the skeletal remains of hundreds of giants. I am not in any position to say that is true or false. There have been books published on the matter, but many believe that to be a conspiracy. I suggest always doing your research and making your conclusions regarding such incidents. 

Whatever the case may be one key point to always remember is to respect land and culture no matter where it is you find yourself. So now that I’ve explained what led me to Aztalan, I’ll share what the experience was actually like. I’m a Chicago native and do live in the area, so the drive to Aztalan was only a couple of hours. Aztalan State Park is located in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Naturally, I would have visited the Cahokia Mounds in my home state but that site is currently closed due to COVID. I do plan on making a trip there in the future! Upon arriving at Aztalan State Park you will notice that the park is not very large, and the parking lot itself is incredibly small. I’d say it can fit about 20 cars at most. However, I don’t mind that because I hate being in crowded spaces. When I say this activity was great for social distancing, I’m not kidding! One of the first things I noticed was a sign that said, “Sledding on Mounds Prohibited by Law”. It was upsetting to read that as it shows how out of touch people can be with history, nature, and respect for spirituality as a whole. 

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – 2021

Despite that though, I was very excited when I arrived. When you arrive you instantly notice the stockade and the trails leading to the mounds. There is also a ton of signage throughout that gives you insight into the history of Aztalan and the people who inhabited the area before settlers invaded. The main sign at the entrance of the park tells a short story of the people who lived there, and their way of life including information about their crops, hunting, and other activities. Aztalan State Park will forever be known as a major archaeological site that gives us a look into the ancient history of the Great Lakes region. Near the entrance you will also find a few signs, including one that shows a Site Map. According to the information found on the signs, “Aztalan itself has been recognized as one of only 2500 federally-designated National Historic Landmarks. Recognizing Cahokia’s status as a cultural heritage site of international significance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Cahokia a World Heritage Site in 1982, placing it on par with England’s Stonehenge, Peru’s Machu Picchu, Egypt’s Great Pyramids, and other remarkable places of the ancient world.” 

Wow! When I read that I was even more excited. I followed the trail to the first mound and stockade fence. The entire area was once completely guarded by a stockade fence, which at one point in time was a large wall of protection for the village now known as Aztalan State Park. Upon walking through the park, (even though the snow on a 22°F day) I could not help but feel a wave of peacefulness come over my entire being. As the snow was crunching under me with every step, it seemed to be the only sound I could hear for what felt like miles. The silence of Aztalan is remarkable in the wintertime, and hearing the nothingness felt ethereal! As the stockade towered over me I could not help but feel a sense of security and protection. I imagined what this village must have looked like so long ago. To be standing within the park gave me such a genuine sentiment of gratitude. I am convinced that as humans, it is part of our job on this planet to try and reconnect with nature and the people who lived before us. Aztalan State Park gives the perfect opportunity to achieve just that. As I ventured down the trail in at least a foot of snow I stopped and read every sign the park had in place that described the details and pastimes of the Mississippian peoples who once populated this area. They played games for fun; they made art, pottery and were deeply invested in their community. One of the most mysterious events to have ever happened at Aztalan was the disappearance of the entire village. To this day it is still a mystery why the people who lived in this specific area just up and left.

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – 2021

Curiously, I wondered and wandered and found myself headed toward the largest mound in the park. The Southwest Platform Mound is the largest principle mound and was not a burial mound. This mound is thought to have been used for communal ritual activities. The shape of this mound (and many others) is eerily similar to those of “Aztec pyramids” or Mesoamerican pyramids. Many believe that the Mississippians eventually migrated south and became what we know today as the Aztecs. There are a few theories on this, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is what. It’s possible there was contact from the Gulf region to the Mid-west region of the USA (and vice-versa) due to travel via rivers or on foot. The fact is that there are many similarities between ancient Mid-western and Mesoamerican art, culture, and religion.  

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – 2021

Once I got within about 10-15 feet of the Southwest Platform Mound, I could instantly feel an energy shift. I was able to pick up forceful and passionate energy once I got closer to the mound. It was almost overwhelming but in a good way. The energy change that I felt did not feel terrible, and the vibes that I was able to pick upheld a multitude of power. Some of you reading this may think this sounds a bit odd, but as a person who is incredibly in tune with nature and animals among many other things, I found that I was only experiencing a gift! What I felt there was only a stronger feeling of other places that I have been before. I believe that the earth does present us opportunities for healing, and it is no surprise to me that the specific mound that I stood upon and felt such magnified vibrancy on, was used for ritual purposes. The entire Aztalan State Park is beautiful, and carries its essence of magic – but if you do go there; let me know if the particular mound I mentioned calls you, or if you feel a force radiating from it. I’m curious to know others’ thoughts on this. 

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – 2021

Aztalan State Park, rich in ancient mystery and history also has another wonderful feature. Part of the Crawfish River borders this land, and the river is directly accessible from the park. At some point on my adventure, one of my friends met up with me to explore the park. We walked down near the river which was covered in ice and snow. I also slid down a nature-made icy slide (which was not on purpose by the way), and almost landed straight in the Crawfish River! Luckily I was layered properly with warm clothes and snow boots.

The Crawfish River is captivating and goes on as far as the eye can see. It is bordered by beautiful trees. Many animals inhabit the area surrounding the river. Once it got a little bit dark we even started to hear the sound of owls in the distance! My exploration of Aztalan was about 6 hours. I think a recommended trip would be much less than that, but I stopped and inspected almost every inch of the park. I also read every post in the park that had information or messages. I took my time that day so I was able to enjoy the true beauty of this ancient land and absorb as much of the natural energy as I could. 

Aztalan State Park, Wisconsin – 2021

Close to the park, a museum dedicated to Aztalan holds hundreds of artifacts unearthed at Aztalan State Park. The museum officially opened in 1942, and it would have been great to visit, but unfortunately, due to the building being so old (est. 1852), there aren’t any modern heating systems in place. The museum is only open during the spring and summer seasons due to that. Overall this trip was still one that was worth taking. To end the day, my friend and I visited a local restaurant, Crawfish Junction. Ending our adventure by eating local crawfish and even some alligator bites were another highlight of the Aztalan experience! I highly recommend visiting this area at least once. There are other notable sites nearby like the Glacial Drumlin State Trail and the Richard C. Smith House by Frank Lloyd Wright that may be worth checking out!

Well, that’s a wrap! I have to mention again, the crawfish dinner from Crawfish Junction was so good! I would certainly go back. Please feel free to leave some comments below, and be sure to let me know if you have ever visited Aztalan or any other mounds or pyramids! 

Update: Since this was first written I have learned about geodetic systems of energy. This would explain the feelings I have described above in regards to the energy I felt at Aztalan that day. I plan to discuss this subject in detail in the future. Thank you for reading. 


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Traveling With Kids in St. Louis, MO


For my son’s 10th birthday, we decided to take a trip to St. Louis instead of spending a ton of money on a birthday party. We are all about having experiences, so naturally, traveling is frequently on our minds. The City Museum in St. Louis had been on my list for years. Once I told my birthday boy to be about the City Museum, we booked a trip without hesitation. He was just as excited as I was. Being the Midwesterners that we are, we decided to drive since Chicago is only a few hours away from St. Louis, Missouri.

I would like to also mention that I am a huge fan of Airbnb. I prefer Airbnb (most of the time) instead of staying at hotels. Many times they tend to be cheaper and more private. They are also extremely homey and cozy. During our St. Louis trip, we stayed at a lovely little Airbnb in a very old and historic house near downtown St. Louis. It was nothing fancy, but it was part of the experience.

On our quick weekend road trip, we had tons of fun! Here are some of the best things to do with kids in St. Louis, Missouri.

  1. The City Museum 

The City Museum is like one giant artifact full of other artifacts that have been repurposed to make a giant indoor/outdoor playground for kids (and adults if you’re up for it). There are so many fascinating exhibits inside of the City Museum, that you will be sure to spend an entire day there. The City Museum is ginormous and is very, very interactive for the entire family. We went in June, on a hot summer’s day. Despite the air conditioning throughout, we were still sweating from all of the running and playing – not to mention all the other humans creating their body heat and energy! If you go to the City Museum and plan to play in their multi-level indoor and outdoor exhibits, wear something that will keep you cool. Make sure to pack water, and snacks if you can! Note: At the entrance, the staff will ask you to put your phone number on your child’s wristband because if you don’t crawl and climb with them in every single nook and cranny of that building they will more than likely wander off and get lost. 

The City Museum is a museum that has tons of exhibits that consist of repurposed architectural and industrial objects. The International Shoe building in the St. Louis Loft District is where the City Museum and all of its glorious antique repurposed artifacts are currently located. The museum has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since it opened in 1997. When we first entered the “museum” (gigantic multi-level, indoor & outdoor play place), it felt like entering an urban madhouse that had similarities to a wild jungle. Art was everywhere. There were fish tanks. Octopus tentacles sticking out of the ceilings and walls. Mirrors were everywhere. Giant whales and bugs that you can play in and on. There was even a passageway that had a door of an old antique bank vault with massive gears on it. This place is WILD!

The art being incorporated all over the museum was exciting for my son and me. It was interesting to see how many old vintage and antique items were placed throughout the museum and repurposed into new things that were meant for kids to play on, in, or under. At some point, we were even crawling in underground caves (bring flashlights or wear a hard hat with a light) and made our way into a treehouse with a giant slide. After sliding down we found ourselves in a large hallway with a very old piano. I know this sounds crazy, but this is very real. We spent the entire day here. What I am describing is merely a small fraction of what the City Museum entails.

During our lunch break, we sat at a round table in the cafeteria and two preteen girls approached us asking if they could sit with us. Of course, I said yes, and the girls (very smart) told me they came prepared. They were wearing knee pads! Yes. Knee pads. They informed me that before their visit they saw reviews online stating to wear kneepads due to the amount of crawling, climbing, and adventurous exploring that would be done at the City Museum. Smart girls! This reiterates the point that I have made in some other posts. Always, always, read the reviews. If we visit the City Museum again we will be sure to bring knee pads. They do sell them in the gift shop, but no one at the entrance told us that so we found out only at the end of our visit!

The outdoor portion of the exhibits was closed until the rain finally let up. Once the storms stopped that day, and the burning hot sun dried everything up, the employees let us play outside. Here we climbed up towers, played in old fire trucks and airplanes, and even explored secret medieval-looking dungeons. The City Museum is a place that you must go to if you want to have fun with your family in St. Louis.

2. The Magic House 

During our trip, we also made our way to The Magic House in Kirkwood, Missouri. Kirkwood is only a 20-minute drive from St. Louis and is worth the trip. We again spent almost the entire day in this museum. The Magic House is extremely clean, well lit, and beautifully organized with a large variety of educational and interactive exhibits for children of all ages. It is a non-profit museum and has been operating since 1979. The location of the Magic House in Kirkwood is at an old Victorian mansion that is a large and well-maintained 5500 square foot building. The outside of The Magic House looks like a house. Once you walk up on the porch, it feels very homelike, but as soon as you enter the doors you are about to experience a new interactive play world!

The Magic House is a wonderful place, truly. There are exhibits where your child can be anything or anyone they want to be. At The Magic House, you can teach your children about archaeology, animals, insects, art, STEAM, and more. There is even a replica room of the Oval Office at The Magic House. Most of our day was spent analyzing rocks, bugs, and fossils and completing tasks throughout the exhibits, and creating projects. A memorable moment was also playing in the pretend library, restaurant, and grocery store. The Magic House is full of activities that place children in real-life scenarios, (like working at a veterinarian clinic equipped with x-ray machines for plushy stuffed animal cats and dogs) that help them learn and discover things about the real world that they live in.

The Poet Tree, Dinosaur Train Exhibit, and the 3D Art room were some of our favorites. The Magic House is well worth the ticket price and visit. You can never be bored inside of The Magic House. You may even lose track of time. There is also an outdoor play area with some sand for building sandcastles and sprinklers to play in on those hot Missouri summer days.

3. City Garden Sculpture Park 

Traveling on a budget also includes visiting free places. The City Garden Sculpture Park is free, and open year-round in downtown St. Louis. It’s a beautiful park surrounded by skyscrapers and urban landscape and is home to many peculiar and fascinating sculptures in St. Louis. It is located in the city’s “Gateway Mall” area. The park is well kept and maintained by the Gateway Foundation (which I find very inspiring). The Gateway Foundation is a non-profit program that operates treatment plans for people who have had issues with substance abuse and have been involved in the criminal justice system.

One of the first sculptures we noticed was a giant head laying in the middle of the walkway. The head was large enough for us to fit inside (not recommended) and appeared to have bandages over its face. It’s a very unique piece of art that seems to have a much deeper meaning than just what appears on the surface. This is a statue of the Greek god, Eros. Eros, the god of passion and love is practically a name that everyone can recognize being that he is so popular. According to Greek mythology, in the beginning, the world started with three ancient beings: Chaos, Eros (love), and Gaia (Earth). This sculpture represents Eros and was created by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj.

There are many other fascinating works of art throughout the park including bunny rabbit sculptures, beautiful gardens with precisely arranged gravel that displays a pattern, and even a giant horse on a hill made of metal. While you are there, don’t forget to take a picture near the giant Pinocchio statue! Being that my son and I love mythology, folklore, and tales of old, that was one of our favorites!

You can roam freely through the urban garden and sculpture park as long as the weather permits. The only downfall for my son and me was that the sculptures themselves had no direct information or tags stating the names of the works, or the artists.

4. National Blues Museum (Best for Big Kids & Adults) 

St. Louis is widely known for its music history and its BBQ. Before leaving the city, I highly suggest grabbing lunch from the Sugarfire restaurant that is conveniently located right near the St. Louis National Blues Museum. The smells coming out of the place were enticing and we floated straight into the restaurant as if we were on command!

If you are the type who loves history and likes to explore then the Blues Museum is the place for you (especially if you love music). The impact of the blues on the entire country will never be forgotten and is still alive and well in our world today. The Blues inspired countless artists over the years like Jimi Hendrix, Ma Rainey, and Jack White – all of whom we learned more about at the National Blues Museum. I was thrilled when my son told me he wanted to make a pit stop there.

The museum is a wonderful educational resource focusing primarily on the blues and has several interactive musical exhibits. The Jack White Experience was our favorite one! My son loved that exhibit near the end of our visit. The price to get in is relatively cheap, as the museum itself is not that large. However, it was still worth the visit in my nerdy opinion! The museum is a non-profit museum and its main intention is to inform all of its guests about how The Blues changed the world!

5. St. Louis Arch National Park

Naturally, our St. Louis, MO trip would not be complete until we went to the Arch! We did go twice. We visited the Arch on our first day in St. Louis, and we also went again on the last day of our 3-day mini weekend vacation. The Gateway Arch is about 630 feet tall and is made of stainless steel. It is the tallest man-made structure in the western hemisphere and is the tallest arch in the entire world. Built-in 1963 the Gateway Arch has been entertaining families for almost 60 years. The St. Louis Arch National Park is easily accessible and you can even go inside of the Arch and to the top which provides an incredible view of St. Louis, and Missouri. There is also a museum inside, and during the tram tour, you will learn about the history of this world-famous structure.

This “Gateway to the West” was designed in 1948 by the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. We felt incredibly lucky and in awe that we were able to see the Arch in person. At night, the Arch lights up the sky for all to see. If you plan on taking the tram to the top of the arch, you should purchase your tickets in advance. We made the mistake of not doing so, and therefore, the days we saw the arch, the tram tours were completely sold out!

There is still plenty to explore and many opportunities for photos near the arch and in the park itself. The Gateway Arch National Park is right near downtown and is within walking distance to many other fascinating little gems that St. Louis has to offer.