After a long work week, it's easy (and tempting) to stay on the couch for a TV binge. But there's no better way to unplug and recharge from the week than with a great hike around one of the Chicago area's natural refuges, followed by a decadent brunch. Here are three places in and near the city where you can get in a scenic morning workout, then unwind with some good eats.
The hike: Extending from Ardmore Street (5800 N. Sheridan Road) on the North Side to 71st Street (7100 S. South Shore Drive), the massive Lakefront Trail runs the length of the city, offering 18 miles of hiking, biking, and inline skating paths, as well as volleyball and tennis courts along the route.
The brunch move: Near the center of the trail, at Ohio Street Beach, sits Mediterranean-inspired Caffe Oliva, which offers stunning views of the beach and the water. In the warm months, it's a great spot to enjoy a beachy drink (try the rum punch) and some chicken and waffles. And if you're hiking with a group, you can even rent a private cabana (for up to 10 people) to enjoy in exchange for spending $250 in food and drink.
North Park Village Nature Center
The hike: The largest city-owned nature preserve on the North Side, the North Park Village Nature Center spans 46 acres of woodlands, wetlands, and prairie. At just 1/2 mile, the main trail is great for families with kids, who can spot ducks, geese, rabbits, and deer; there are also some longer trails for those who prefer a more extensive hike through the various landscapes. One important note: it's only open from 10am-4pm each day, so arrive on the early side to avoid crowds.
The brunch move: Located about a half-mile from the Nature Center, the Bryn Mawr Breakfast Club earns strong reviews for its bread pudding French toast, chorizo breakfast skillets, and caprese omelet with walnut pesto. Wash it all down with a cup of Uncommon coffee or a fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Forest Glen Woods
The hike: Bikers, walkers, and joggers seeking a respite from crowds and cars should head to Forest Glen Woods in Jefferson Park, where a newly paved pathway begins by the botanical garden and ends on N. Forest Glen Ave., between Catalpa and Latham avenues. The area, which is open from sunrise to sunset, allows leashed dogs, and you'll be able to spot flowers in the spring and migratory songbirds in the warmer months.
The brunch move: After your walk in the woods, indulge in some Southern fare at Mother Cluckers Kitchen, a family-owned spot that's a three-minute drive or 17-minute stroll from the site. Soul-food favorites include the fried chicken, mac and cheese, biscuits, and ribs, with sweet potato pie for dessert.