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One of Chicago’s best-kept secrets is its official motto: urbs in horto. It translates to “city in a garden.” We know. You’re rolling your eyes. On days when you have to elbow your way onto the Red Line so you can stand packed like a sardine for 25 minutes, the city seems nothing like an urbs in horto. But maybe that’s because you haven’t discovered these secret gardens yet. So next time you need a breather, find one of these little known spots of greenery.

alfred caldwell lily pool

Alfred Caldwell Lily Garden

Even if you know Lincoln Park like the back of your hand, you may be unfamiliar with this tucked-away cove. The tranquil pond teems with lily pads...now if only you had a rowboat.

125 W. Fullerton Pkwy.; 773-883-7275 or lincolnparkconservancy.org

chicago secret gardens plaza LIST

Cancer Survivors Plaza

The unmistakable wrought iron gazebo is the first thing you’ll notice about this quiet little spot at the far northeast corner of Grant Park. But the real eye candy is the allée of cherry trees that flank it—time your visit just right and you’ll catch them in full bloom.

337 E. Randolph St.; 312-552-3000

osaka garden

Osaka Garden

This South Side sanctuary dates all the way back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Today it’s home to an installation by none other than Yoko Ono and the next best thing to a vacation in Japan.

6401 S. Stony Island; 312-742-7529 or gardenofthephoenix.org

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Lake Shore East Park

It’s possible you’ve never heard of the Lake Shore East neighborhood, let alone this sunken park that sits at the center of it. At the far end of Randolph, a complex of condos rise up around the lush space, filled with fountains and (yessss) a dog park.

 450 E. Benton Pl.; 312-742-7529 or chicagoparkdistrict.com

Harold Washington Library Winter Garden

Chicago’s summer is just too short to satisfy our appetite for greenery. Come winter, we hole up on the ninth floor of Harold Washington Library, preferably with a copy of The Secret Garden.

400 S. State St.; 312-747-4300 or chipublib.org

riverbank neighbors park

Riverbank Neighbors Park

Just across the river sits the popular and sprawling Horner Park, but it’s this sleepy little sliver of public space that’s stolen our hearts. Whether you stroll the brief trail or grab a seat on the riverbank, you’ll be completely charmed.

Chicago River at Montrose Ave.; riverbankneighbors.org

chicago city hall

City Hall

Most visits to City Hall mean long lines and lots of waiting. Unless you stop by this rooftop oasis, home to 20,000 plants representing 150 species. Yeah, we’ll go with option two.

121 N. LaSalle Dr.; 312-744-5000 or cityofchicago.org 

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