It’s all right here in Oak Park
Just 10 miles from downtown Chicago, the village of Oak Park, Illinois, has history, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and events to enjoy, for a day or a week. It’s a gateway to the vibrant western suburbs of Chicago in central Cook County. When it comes to celebrity, Oak Park has played home to not just one—but two—20th century superstars: architect Frank Lloyd Wright and writer Ernest Hemingway. Oak Park has 25 Wright buildings, more than any other place in the world. But there’s so much more.
The annual calendar of upcoming events is amazing: from the Jazz Thaw, which brings everyone out in frigid temps to enjoy steamy riffs in local haunts, to the always-sold-out Wright Plus House Walk every May, to the longtime Micro Brew Review in August. There’s also What’s Blooming, a family-oriented May celebration in the Oak Park Arts District blending an art fair, children’s carnival, music stage, food, beer garden and makers’ booths.
Oak Park has multiple shopping areas, each with distinctive features. Downtown Oak Park is its bustling hub along Lake and Marion Streets near the Metra and Harlem Green Line stations. Immediately south is the Pleasant District. The Hemingway District is a short walk east along Oak Park Avenue, while the Oak Park Arts District on Harrison Street anchors a fun, colorful collection of galleries, coffee houses, fun bistros, and unique retail providers further south.
It’s easy, fast and direct to visit Oak Park – by car or by train. Taking Interstate 290 to either the Austin or Harlem Avenue exits offers the quickest path by car. Green Line CTA trains from the Loop offer four convenient stops along Oak Park’s bustling Lake Street corridor. Blue Line trains will get you closer to the Arts District. The Metra station in Oak Park puts you in the heart of downtown and right next to the Pleasant District. And it’s less than a half hour from O’Hare Airport.
As for its hometown heroes, Frank Lloyd Wright built a New England Shingle-style home for his family at 951 Chicago Avenue in 1889. The beautifully restored Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, lets you experience all his spaces, light and signature touches. Wright’s nearby Unity Temple, completed in 1909, is often considered to be the first modern building in the world. Included as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can take a tour and enjoy the light and harmony of its magnificent sanctuary. Of the many other architectural gems and gorgeous residential real estate available to tour, don’t miss Pleasant Home and its adjacent Mills Park and the Cheney Mansion and its garden.
Hemingway, born in Oak Park in 1899, lived here until he left to engage the world after graduating from historic Oak Park and River Forest High School. You can visit the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace House at 339 N. Oak Park Ave. Even better, enjoy Oak Park’s colorful history by stopping by the Oak Park River Forest Museum at 129 Lake St.—or plan to join in one of the OPRF historical society’s of its many walking tours, like the Spring Housewalk or Forest Preserve Walking Tour.
Family-friendly activities are everywhere. Beautiful parks abound throughout the village, including central Scoville Park, and there are many special events offered by the local park district. The bright and airy Oak Park Public Library is just next door. The Oak Park Conservatory offers family-pleasing indoor botanical displays and greenery—for free—all year long. And of course the Wonder Works Children’s Museum, up at 6445 North Avenue, is ready to engage your kids with fun play sessions, everyday learning and events.
Be sure to plan some evenings in Oak Park. The village’s diverse eateries include Latin fusion at Maya Del Sol, French at Hemmingway’s Bistro, Greek at Papaspiros, and Italian at Cucina Paradiso. Or just grab a burger and brew at One Lake Brewing or some signature sushi and rolls at Mora Asian Kitchen. From June through August, downtown Oak Park’s Thursday Night Out offers discounted dining and live entertainment. You may want to catch a show at the Oak Park Festival Theatre or Madison Street Theatre. Then enjoy a craft cocktail at the new Kettlestrings Grove or some flights at Anfora Wine Merchants or Kinslahger. With so much to do, you might even want to book an overnight stay at the venerable Carleton Hotel, tucked away into the charm of downtown Oak Park.
Whether you’re on your own or with your family, Oak Park’s many walkable charms are perfect for escapes from the city – whatever time of year you visit.
Oak Park Arts District
This thriving artistic community is a hotspot for galleries, restaurants, and locally owned small businesses. This is the “artistic and cultural shopping destination in Chicago’s back yard.” Everything from theater to resale shops and coffee houses to fine art galleries have a home here.
Downtown Oak Park
Downtown Oak Park offers an exceptional array of shops, restaurants, a state of the art seven-screen movie theater and an exciting year-round schedule of promotions and special events.
The heart of the Hemingway District of Oak Park is Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Museum at 339 N. Oak Park Avenue. The close proximity of so many local landmarks in this area makes it a great place for walking or biking. And with a variety of local specialty shops and restaurants it is perfect for an afternoon of exploration.
Pleasant Home (217 Home Avenue) is the center of the Pleasant District. This area of the larger Ridgeland District is perfect for walking or biking to see many of Oak Park’s historic homes and neighborhoods or stop in for some shopping or dining.
This area is also the home to Oak Park’s Marvelous Mini Murals. This ongoing and ever expanding art installation runs along the South Boulevard and the train tracks. It’s a great place for viewing some great pieces done by local artists.