Before the skyscrapers, the L, and the Bean, the land that would become Chicago belonged to the wild onion. Originally known as Shikaakwa, or “land of the stinking onion,” by the Native Americans, the European settlers later altered the name to Chicago, and built it into one of the world’s great cities. But a patch of the original Shikaakwa remains for you and your family to discover at the North Park Village Nature Center, a 46-acre nature preserve filled with the woodland, wetland, prairie, and savannah areas that the modern metropolis grew from. So for your next family day out, put on some comfy walking shoes and grab your cameras and binoculars, because there’s a lot to explore. Start in the discovery room, where you and the kids can find out what kind of creatures live in the park with a hands-on table of natural objects and a variety of interactive displays. Then let the little ones run freely along the meandering paths, where they’ll likely spot deer cavorting through the glades and songbirds alighting on high branches. Daily activities for human visitors include yoga, bird watching, and story time in the kids’ center, but watch the calendar for special events that you’ll only find here. Time your visit right and you might be able to gorge yourself with pancakes slathered in all-natural syrup at the Maple Syrup Festival in March, enjoy a professional theater production along the trails with Theatre Hikes throughout the summer, or even savor the flavors of roasted chestnuts at the Winter Solstice Celebration in December—a warm way to mark the shortest day of the year.