Lying next to Chicago’s West Side, find Oak Park, a sprawling populous that formerly housed Frank Lloyd Wright. The area was settled in the 1830s and saw rapid growth in the late-19th and 20th centuries. When railroads and street cars connected the village with neighboring Chicago, development boomed. Today, the charming village is known for its architecture and history, family fun, outdoor adventures, and bustling nightlife.
Oak Park Restaurants
Oak Park has an impressive foodie scene, reflective of its diverse population. Enjoy old-fashioned goods like Aunt Diana’s Old Fashioned Fudge or Benjamin’s Gourmet Popcorn. Of course, there’s also classic American grills, regional Italian, tapas joints, and relaxed diners. None are more classic perhaps than FitzGerald’s, a local gathering spot since the 1900s, when it was a roadhouse and hunting lodge turned tavern. Today, it offers live music and classic cocktails.
More local heritage comes at Sawa’s Old Warsaw. This classic joint has been serving the best Polish-American cuisine for more than 40 years. You can also enjoy some great fresh brews, at Kinslahger Brewing Company, Oak Park Brewing Company, and One Lake Brewing.
Oak Park Hotels
If you’re looking for a Best Western, you won’t find it here. Instead, Oak Park’s accommodations span charming bed-and-breakfast stays to historic hotels. The Write Inn was renovated to its original glory, as was the historic Carlton in Oak Park’s Pleasant District. For more intimate sleeps, stay at the Bishops Hal or Harvey House Bed & Breakfast.
Oak Park Attractions
Oak Park’s 18 community areas offer a wide array of family fun. There’s the world-famous Brookfield Zoo, home to more than 3,000 animals. Future scientists will love the Cernan Earth and Space Center, and naturists will love the Trailside Museum of Natural History or the Oak Park Conservatory. For youngsters, there’s also the Wonder Works Children’s Museum.
If you prefer entertainment of the gaming sort, test your skills at Escape Factor, Galloping Ghost Arcade, iCombat Laser Tag, or Vault Escape.
Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Museum is just around the corner from FL wright’s studio.
Oak Park Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright and his wife lived in Oak Park, so it’s no surprise the town is home to some impressive works of architecture. Several of Wright’s buildings stand here, including the Unity Temple, The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Avery Coonley House, The Arthur Heurtley House, and the F.F. Tomek House.
Along with Wright’s national landmarks, other Architectural gems here include Pleasant Home, Cheney Mansion, Maywood’s Historic Homes, Berwyn’s Bungalows, and Scoville Square. Many of these landmarks offer daily tours, and the Frederick Law Olmsted Society offers historic riverside walking tours.
Oak Park Shopping
The shopping here reflects Oak Park’s artistic spirit. You’ll find ample local art in public displays and for purchase in places like Higgins Glass, O’Connor Art Gallery, and Riverside Arts Center. There’s also Laura Atwood Studio Beads & Trading Company, if you’d like to take a hand at creating some wearable art of your own.
For mindful shopping, browse the natural-fiber clothing at Takara or fair trade accessories, coffee, tea, and chocolate at Ten Thousand Villages. Readers can also thumb through more than 60,000 new and used titles at The Book Table.
Oak Park Theater
If live entertainment is what you seek, you’ll find any kind you can desire in Oak Park. There’s the 16th Street Theater, Concordia University of Chicago’s The Collective, Oak Park Festival Theater, and Open Door Theater—all serving up an array of live stage performances. You can also enjoy some smooth jazz at Blue Note Jazz Club, enjoy cultural dances at the Dominican University Performing Arts Center, and catch a live music show at Wire.
Oak Park Festivals & Events
Downtown Oak Park hosts an array of alfresco community events throughout the year. There are weekly concerts at Thursday Night Out, the Uncork Illinois Wine Festival, and the Micro Brew Review for beer lovers. In the fall, celebrate Oaktoberfest with a musical lineup, seasonal food, microbrews, and a Kids’ Root Beer Garden. In the winter, come Home for the Holidays for old fashioned celebrations on Marion Street.
Want to get out into the great outdoors? Oak Park is a great place to do just that. Get adventurous at the GoApe Treetop Adventure & Zipline Course, or simply take a beautiful stroll along the Illinois Prairie Path. Stop by the mid-1870s Victorian mansion at the Hal Tyrell Trailside Museum to see live animals and wildflower gardens. There’s also an expanse of wildlife at the Wold Road Prairie Nature Reserve, home to savanna, prairie, and wetland ecosystems.