Forest Park Blends Best of Urban and Suburban
For a village only 10 miles from Chicago’s downtown, Forest Park blends small-town charm and urban savvy in western Cook County. Come for the active events calendar and delightful eateries, then stay for vibrant nightlife. It’s easy to get to via the CTA Blue Line, or a quick drive on Interstate 290 west to either the Harlem Avenue or First Avenue exits.
But let’s start with the obvious: Forest Park has a long history with the deceased. Its cemeteries draw visitors from around the world to Illinois to connect with Chicago, national – and even Hollywood – history. Forest Park Historical Society’s Cemetery Tours can take you to the more celebrated gravesites, with behind-the-scenes stories to help understand the breadth of the past here:
Forest Home Cemetery (863 Des Plaines Ave) honors martyrs of the Haymarket Riot that gave birth to the modern labor movement. Here too are victims of mass disasters, including the horrific 1903 Iroquois Theater fire and the tragic 1915 Eastland ship sinking.
The Jewish Waldheim Cemetery (1400 Des Plaines Avenue) was Forest Park’s first cemetery in 1870. Film buffs will find Mike Todd, actress Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband and producer of Around the World in 80 Days, buried here.
Woodlawn Cemetery (7750 Cermak Road), is known for its Showman’s Rest section, dedicated following a circus train wreck, and the resting place for 50 circus performers – and five elephants.
At Concordia Cemetery (7900 Madison Street) music can often be heard as you stroll the grounds, coming from an old-time tube chime built by the J.C. Degan Co.
But Forest Park is so much more than graveyards. Located immediately south of historically “dry” suburbs of Oak Park and River Forest, its restaurant, bar, and nightlife scene has long been lively. The town’s yearly events calendar adds a whole other dimension to Madison Street, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade; a Wine Walk and Rib Fest in the Grove in September; the Zombie Pub Crawl in October (of course!) with Casket Race; and the family-friendly Holiday Walk & Festival of Windows. And don’t forget the annual No-Glove National 16-Inch Softball Tournament in summer.
Whether it’s a juicy steak at the Golden Steer or duck fat fries at Fatduck Tavern & Grill, you’ll enjoy amazing dining opportunities. The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, housed in a former burlesque theatre, has been raising local eyebrows even before US News named it America’s Best Ice Cream.
For shopping and fun, you can’t go wrong along Madison Street. Here you’ll find everything from Todd & Holland Tea Shop, with teas and accessories from all around the world, to antiques and old-timey stuff at Forest Park Emporium or Krenek’s Antiques. And the Ferrara Pan Candy Company, founded in Forest Park, offers a boutique for buying its famous Lemonhead candy at its factory site.
Forest Park is also home to the Chicago 16-Inch Softball Museum, at 7501 Harrison Street. The game was created during the Depression here so baseball could be played with only a stick and a ball. Chicago’s 16-inch softball is much larger than others due to the smaller parks and fields in which the game was originally played.
And the Forest Park Aquatic Center at 7501 Harrison Street, is literally the coolest place to be in the summer. The center features a zero-depth pool, slides, diving boards, a ‘spray ground,’ and sand-play area.
Come and play in Forest Park for the perfect blend of urban and suburban.