Chicago’s newest park, The 606, is a 2.7-mile long, 14-foot wide path that snakes along, connecting four neighborhoods. While comparisons to New York City’s High Line are sure to be made, The 606 is uniquely Chicago. It’s bold, yet fully grounded and built upon a freight rail track, just like the city itself. The park is envisioned as a resource for neighborhoods in need of green space, it is sure to become one of the cool things to do in Chicago for visitors.
Why Visit The 606?
The 606 will lie in the shadow of Chicago’s 60,000-pound gorilla of a park, Millennium Park downtown with its iconic Bean sculpture (taking a selfie reflected in the shiny metal Bean is a must-do for any visitor to Chicago).
But for intrepid visitors who want to see more than just the Loop, the Mag Mile and Museum Campus, The 606 is a great way to easily visit four of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
History of The 606
The $95 million park was more than 10 years in the making. It is built upon an elevated rail line that once carried freight from the city’s industrial Northwest Side to the Chicago River. After rail traffic slowed in the late 1980s and ceased in the mid-90s, the line was abandoned to weeds, neglect and the occasional unsavory character.
Today, that city eyesore has been transformed into The 606. The park, which takes its name from the first three digits of Chicago ZIP codes, has a 10-foot wide path for walkers, strollers, bikers and dogs on leashes. That path is bordered on either side by a 2-foot path for runners. It’s fully accessible by ramps every quarter mile and can be reached by public transit. (If you take the Blue Line train into the Loop from O’Hare, look out the window between the Western and Damen stops for a great view of the park in either direction.)
When you need a rest, make your way to the Damen Avenue section where you will be able to sit while you contemplate a rotating display of public art. Walk all the way to the western edge and you’ll find an observatory for watching the sunset.
Along the way, you’ll cross 37 bridges over some of Chicago’s busiest streets. Look south toward the Loop for a rare view of the city’s skyscraper might.
On a tour of the park while it was still under construction, Beth White, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Chicago Region, said the park is “a piece of our industrial heritage” and a rare opportunity for travelers to see a slice of the real Chicago.
The 606 winds through four unique Chicago neighborhoods:
- Bucktown, a tony residential area with edgy architecture and a few houses that are so close to The 606 that their balconies and bedroom windows are nearly within touching distance of the park.
- Wicker Park, a hipster enclave with store front theater, art galleries, vintage clothing shops and great eats.
- Logan Square, an up-and-coming area with beautifully rehabbed Chicago greystones that is home to part of Chicago’s “Emerald Necklace” system of wide boulevards and green space.
- Humboldt Park, a heavily Puerto Rican neighborhood on the verge of gentrification that is filled with street murals.
White says she can’t point tourists to one section or another. “That’s like asking which child is your favorite.”
Details on The 606
The 606 park is open from 6am to 11pm.
It has drinking fountains but no public bathrooms.
You can get there via the Blue Line—it’s a short walk south from the Western Avenue stop. Check out the interactive map of the park before you go. There are stations for Divvy Bikes, the city’s bike-sharing program, nearby.
The park is fully accessible by wheelchair every quarter mile.
It will be well-lit and regularly patrolled.
The 606 connects to four small city parks, with two more planned.
Ultimately, The 606 will be extended east as far as the Chicago River.