I’ve loved traveling my whole life. Ever since my mom and dad threw me into the back of the family station wagon and headed down the highway, I’ve wanted to go, go, go.
But lately, I’ve realized that I have traveled thousands of miles to see the sights, but haven’t really taken the time to explore my own backyard. Sure, we’ve schlepped the kids to the museums, parks and zoos, but we haven’t always made the effort to explore the 77 neighborhoods of the great city of Chicago. If your family is anything like ours, I’d say it’s time to hit the ‘hoods. (Well, maybe not all 77; that would be crazy.) Here are just a few of the neighborhood spots not to miss.
Multi-ethnic Sculpture Park and Healing Garden in Ronan Park
3000 W. Argyle St.
The sculptures in this park embrace the community’s many ethnicities and heritages—there’s a reason it’s called the “Gateway to the World.” Close by, you’ll find Korean, Colombian and Lebanese restaurants, to name just a few.
Broadway Antique Market
6130 N. Broadway; (773) 743-5444
No need to head to the country to find some antique treasures. With more than 75,000 square feet of hidden gems, you and the kids will have a great time just looking around this market (if you can manage to keep your wallet in your pocket). And if the kids need some convincing to go “shopping,” bribe them with a sweet treat from Lickity Split Frozen Custard just across the street.
Ed Paschke Art Center
5415 W. Higgins Road; (312) 533-4911
You can see the artwork and hear about the life of this northside artist, as well as see other rotating exhibits from Chicago artists. A great time to visit is the third Saturday of each month for Family Story Time. Best of all, it’s free—and open seven days a week.
El Milagro Store and Taqueria
1927 S. Blue Island Ave.; (312) 421-7443
You’ve probably been buying El Milagro’s tortillas and chips for years, but you might not know you can buy them direct from the source—and grab a bite to eat while you’re there. And for your viewing pleasure on your drive home, check out all of the glass mosaics and painted murals throughout the neighborhood.
Division and California
Celebrate Puerto Rican heritage with four days of arts and crafts, food, music and carnival rides. And don't miss the annual Puerto Rican People’s Parade steps off from the corner of Division and Western (arrive early to get a prime spot).
Home Run Inn Pizza
4254 W. 31st St.; (773) 247-9696
Sure, you can visit Home Run Inn at many different locations, or you can even pick one up and bake it yourself. But if you like your pizza topped with a bit of history (and maybe some pepperoni), eating at the original location from 1947 is something not to be missed.
Pullman Porter Museum
10406 S. Maryland Ave.; (773) 850-8580
This whole neighborhood is a National Historic District, thanks to all the cool old buildings. You can squeeze in some sneaky history lessons about the Pullman Porters and the neighborhood overall, just by visiting the museum (only open April-November). This is a must-stop for history buffs and train enthusiasts alike.
63rd Street Beach
6300 S. Lake Shore Drive
There’s nothing wrong with those super-busy beaches on the north side, but they don’t have a two-story, open-air beach house—with fun water feature—do they? Or Jamaican food like they sell at Belly Up, for that matter. Pack up the beach toys and the kids and plan on spending the day. You can even rent bikes from Bike Chicago and go for a ride.
William W. Powers State Recreation Area
12949 Avenue O; (773) 646-3270
Nearly 600 acres of outdoor fun await you here, including on Wolf Lake, where you can try to catch largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill and more off its six miles of shorelines. And you thought you had to leave the city to find the great outdoors!
Chris Thomas is a freelance writer and radio host who lives in Brookfield. He is also a very tired dad to three energetic boys.
See more of Chris's stories here.
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