Five Free Locations for Chicago Family Portraits

the City of Chicago has a plethora of great locations for family portraits.

Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond’s Boardwalk

Finding a great place to take family photos in Chicago can be challenging. Weather can be fickle and hamper planning. And many indoor locations charge a site fee if you have photos being taken by a professional photographer. However, the City of Chicago has a plethora of great locations for family portraits.

There’s always a cost. Driving and parking can add to the cost of your family portraits, but not all things in life are free, right?

maternity portrait

Here are my top five locations for family portraits

5. Milton Lee Olive Park

Located in downtown Chicago, Milton L. Olive Park is a hidden gem beside Oak Street Beach. Just north of Navy Pier, Olive Park is a great location for engagement, pregnancy and family photos. With the picturesque John Hancock Tower in the background and its reflection captured on Lake Michigan, it’s a fantastic place for family photos.

Milton Lee Olive Park

View of Hancock Tower from Milton Lee Olive Park

Parking choices are limited. Street parking is almost non-existent, so public transportation may be the best option next to parking in one of the local lots. However, the view is worth it – especially during sundown.

Milton Lee Olive Park

4. Winnemac Park

Situated on the edge of Lincoln Square, Winnemac Park has a great playground and plenty of parking. The park offers great photo opportunities on its quiet nature walks amidst tall prairie grasses. A split-rail fence surrounds the prairie which makes for a great photography prop.

Winnemac Park Family POrtraits

Winnemac Park and it’s popular Weeping Willow Trees

The prairie features a woodchip trail through bright yellow black-eyed susans, pale blue asters, and other prairie plants, and I have used this for kids under four.

3. Indian Boundary Park

Indian Boundary Park is an urban park in the West Ridge neighborhood. There is ample free parking. You’ll find a lake with ducks, a field house, a splash pad with spitting bears and an awesome old school playground made entirely of wood (with the exception of the slides!)

Indian Boundary Park

Indian Boundary Park Wooden Playground

My favorite spot for family pictures is the part of the park that used to house a small zoo – the Goose House and Garden. Imagine Lilliputian homes made from stone and wood set in a beautiful Illinois prairie garden.

2. Montrose Beach and Harbor

Montrose Beach offers a variety of photo opportunities and views of the city. Depending on the time of year, Montrose Beach, Montrose Harbor, Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary and its connecting boardwalk between all three places offer limitless options from spring through fall.

There is plenty of parking depending on the time of day, but it tends to get crowded in summer or when there are soccer games on the weekends.

Speaking of time, Montrose Point is an excellent place in the city from which you can capture a great sunrise or – from the Montrose Harbor Point – a phenomenal sunset behind downtown Chicago.

Montrose Harbor family photography

1. Lincoln Park Zoo’s South Pond

Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond

Bridge over South Pond with Chicago’s Beautiful Skyline

Located at the southern most end of the zoo, South Pond has a myriad of spots to take family photos with the city, sundown or nature in the background.

Lincoln Park South Pond

Studio Gang’s Curvaceous Wood Pavilion at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo

The iconic spot everyone where everyone takes a picture is from the bridge over South Pond with the Chicago Skyline in the background. I like capturing images here slightly before sundown. I’s always crowded, but with a little bit of patience, it is well worth the trouble.

Studio Gang’s Curvaceous Wood Pavilion at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo

Depending on what other activities are going on the day and time of your shoot, you may find free parking along Stockton Ave. Otherwise, there is ample paid parking.

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond

Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond Nature Paths