I’m starting to understand the saying, “The thing critics hate most is themselves.” When tasked with the job of critiquing something—whether food, theater, or public spaces—you notice yourself finding the negative in even the most benign subjects. And that’s actually kinda fun for a minute. (Next time you’re in a bad mood, try criticizing a leaf for being too veiny or screaming at a stop sign for being too red. You’ll feel better, I promise.) But after that fleeting sense of power fades, you start to feel like a real jerk. Kind of like how I feel right now. Because I am about to provide a disapproving review of Warren Park, which is truly one of the most innocently delightful spaces in Chicago. Too bad it’s so lame.
Katie and I decided to check out Warren Park because it seems like a nice winter destination. Not only is it home to one of the city’s free outdoor skating rinks, but it also has a sledding hill. When we visited, the ice rink was healthily populated, and skaters of all abilities steadily glided in a smoothly flowing circle. Their skating was much more successful than the time my Girl Scout troop took our dads ice skating, and we all watched our dads awkwardly stomp halfway around the rink before stopping at the second corner to talk about That Current Sports Highlight whilst clinging to the guardrail. A warming hut also offers $6 skate rentals, and was mostly populated with weary parents begging their kids to take one more lap around the rink so Mommy can have just 3 minutes of peace and quiet. Nice strategy. Rat pack-era music echoed from loudspeakers, and I have to commend the Park for creating such a welcoming cold-weather space. But don’t come here expecting too much excitement. The people on the ice were all rather sullen, and most gave off the feeling that they were just lapping around the rink because someone told them to (hmm…). It was a nice enough time, but not necessarily worth a cross-city visit.
If it ever decides to snow in this town, the sledding hill could be a fun destination. Keep in mind, this is a Chicago version of a hill, meaning it only takes one flight of stairs to get to the top. Again, I don’t want to fault the park because they’ve clearly done the best they could with Chicago’s flat geography, but if you’re going to dedicate an entire space in a park to being a “hill,” adding a few more layers of dirt couldn’t hurt. But I’m sure it’s plenty exciting to little kids and I certainly can’t name any other better sledding alternatives nearby. Slightly tangential question: do kids still wear those full-body snowsuits like my peers and I did in the 80s and 90s? Or has global warming negated a need for that? And did everybody else wear those to walk to school on days when it wasn’t even snowy, or was that just me? Just me? OK.
The rest of the park is well maintained, but better suited for the warm weather. There are multiple playgrounds, batting cages, tennis courts, baseball fields and even a 9-hole golf course on the grounds, plus a path that circles the entire perimeter. And the best part: there’s a parking lot! Regardless of how bland the park might be, it is a nice complement to the dense neighborhood surrounding it. And that’s especially true considering that the land the park sits on was at one time zoned for housing developments, but a strong community push helped keep the land (one the Edgewater Golf Course) as open space. Well done, Warren Park. I look forward to returning in the summer, when hopefully you’ll be a little more exciting.
6601 North Western Avenue,
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