Best Escape From Navy Pier

Milton Lee Olive Park

Critics' Picks

500 N. Lake Shore Dr.

Chicago native Milton Lee Olive III died in Vietnam in 1965 when he threw himself on a hand grenade to protect four of his compatriots. He was 18 years old, and after being flown home and buried in Mississippi, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. The park that bears Olive's name provides immense respite from my personal Chicago hell: Navy Pier. I've worked at the tourist trap every weekday for nearly five years, and when disappointed visitors ask me, "Is there, like, something we're missing?" I advise them to head north toward the James W. Jardine Water Filtration Plant—the largest of its kind in the world—and see what is arguably the best west-facing view of our skyline from a rolling field with butterflies fluttering around five enormous defunct water fountains. Here the crowds are thin, the grass is green, and the hum of Lake Shore Drive traffic is barely audible, so you can close your eyes and find calm just a few hundred yards from the pier's pervasive churro scent and all those screaming children.