Wicker Park / Bucktown - A Chicago Neighborhood Guide

Sunset over Wicker Park/Bucktown

The History of Wicker Park and Bucktown

Wicker Park Art Fest Chicago

Wicker Park Art Fest Chicago

The Wicker Park/Bucktown area became part of Chicago in 1837; since then, it has undergone major changes to become the popular, lively neighborhood it is today.

In 1870, brothers Charles G. Wicker and Joel H. Wicker, both developers, bought 80 acres of land and began to build a neighborhood by constructing a drainage system and building streets. They donated 4 acres to the city as a Chicago public park. The city created a lake in the center of the park and added landscaping; this 4-acre park is called Wicker Park and gives the neighborhood its name.

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, many residents in the area began to build new homes out of brick and stone, since they had experienced firsthand how easily wood burned. These homes were built in a variety of architectural styles and were centered around the 4-acre park, creating a serene, lovely residential area. Some of these residents were quite well-known for being at the forefront of Chicago growth; they included the Pritzkers, Saul Bellows and Nelson Algren.

Chicago's Wicker Park/Bucktown

Chicago's Wicker Park/Bucktown

What made Wicker Park/Bucktown unique from the beginning was that there was a varied mix of inhabitants living next to one another; alongside the wealthier families was a working class population, and everyone hailed from a different part of the world. There were Germans and Scandinavians, Poles and Jews, African Americans and Eastern Europeans. In the 1930’s, however, the wealthier residents left the area for more gentrified neighborhoods and their mansions became divided into apartments and boarding homes.

As recently as 1980, young professionals moved back into the neighborhood and began restoring these old mansions to their previous single-family status. While this displaced much of the working class, the 90’s brought some balance to the area. Chicago artists and students moved into the area, lured by its affordability and proximity to the Loop. Today, as more and more Chicago restaurants and shops open in the neighborhood, as well as health care centers, day care centers, schools and churches, the area caters to an increasingly diverse and balanced mix of people who proudly call Wicker Park-Bucktown home.

The neighborhood was designated a Chicago Landmark District in 1991. The boundaries of Wicker Park/Bucktown are as follows: Armitage Avenue to the north, Chicago Avenue to the south, I-90/94 to the east and Western Avenue to the west.

Wicker Park Neighborhood Video

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Polish Museum Chicago Located in Noble Square ArtsyCulturalFamily FriendlyHistoricMuseum



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The Wicker Park/Bucktown Chicago shopping scene is, simply stated, bustling. With Chicago boutiques and shops specializing in everything from apparel and jewelry to crafts and home furnishings, you can find paper goods handmade in Chicago or wooden masks hand carved in Africa. Stroll the sidewalks of this Chicago neighborhood and shop till you drop!

For women’s clothing, try Nanette Lepore, Tangerine, Jade or Clothes Minded for one-of-a-kind apparel. Untitled and Scoop NYC, both popular chain stores, can also be found in the area. For the fashionable future-mommy, try Belly Dance Maternity. Saffron is a good choice for clothing with a more exotic influence.

Of course, men will find stores that cater to them, as well. Try Him, Detail by Akira and Apartment Number 9, all boutiques with fashionable, upscale men’s clothing.

If you are looking for other wares, Wicker Park/Bucktown certainly delivers. Silver Room carries jewelry while Stitch is the perfect destination for leather goods. Try Renegade Handmade and Virtu for handmade crafts or Paper Doll for paper goods and trinkets. Furnish your home in exotic finds from faraway lands at Fenway Gallery, or hunt for one-of-a-kind antiques at Embelezar. Discover the latest underground music at Reckless Records and end your shopping experience by customizing your own t-shirt at T-Shirt Deli.


Crossing at Wicker Park Chicago

Crossing at Wicker Park Chicago

With nearly 150 Chicago restaurants studding the streets of Wicker Park/Bucktown, even the most discerning palate is easy to please. There are several Thai and Asian choices, such as Rodan, Spring, Pot Pan, Su-Ra and Thai Lagoon. For noodles try Zen or Penny’s Noodle Shop. The increasing fascination with sushi can be witnessed by the number of Chicago sushi bars opening up all over the area; some good ones are Papajin, Aki Sushi, Mirai Sushi, Blu Coral and Bob San.

If you are in the mood for something less exotic, try Piece or Crust; both serve up excellent pizza. Mexican food is also abundant in the area: 2 Amigos and Adobo Grill are good options. For Middle Eastern food, the informal Sultan’s Market has delicious food at low prices, while La Brochette offers Moroccan fare with a French twist.

Le Bouchon is a fine French bistro and Club Lucky is a friendly place with traditional Italian fare. For vegetarians there is the Earwax Café; for meat-eaters there is the Boundary Grill. Other restaurants with simple yet satisfying American food include Feast, Chaise Lounge and Café Absinthe.

Since no meal is complete without dessert, Wicker Park/Bucktown has several places that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Try Margie’s Candies for a soda shop experience or Sweet Thang for French pastries. Visit Café Wicked or Hot Chocolate for some of the best cakes and tarts around!

After your sugar fix, you will have plenty of energy to stay out all night, and this is the place to do it. The Chicago nightlife in Wicker Park and Bucktown rivals that of other neighborhoods. With dozens of bars scattered throughout the neighborhood, you can find precisely the ambience you desire. Marie’s Rip-Tide Lounge is a throwback to the 60’s complete with a jukebox in the corner. Pint is an Irish sports bar, while Subterranean, Phyllis’ Musical Inn and Handlebar are good finds for those who want hear live music as they enjoy their drinks. The Wicker Well has dance parties on weekends, as well as open mic and karaoke during the week. Other popular nightspots include D’Vine, Swig, Small Bar and Plan B.


Wicker Park Street

Wicker Park Street

Wicker Park/Bucktown is full of architecturally interesting walkups and brownstones that have been renovated or restored to their original beauty. There are plenty of newly constructed walkups as well. With the combination of quiet residential streets and a dynamic commercial scene, the neighborhood attracts young professionals, yet is still affordable enough for families and students.

There is much to do in Wicker Park/Bucktown for visitors as well as locals. Art lovers, music aficionados, film buffs, theatergoers, children: this neighborhood has something for everyone.

There are two annual Chicago festivals held in the area. One of these, the Wicker Park Fest, is a music festival with an average of 28 bands performing on two stages. This festival lasts two days and is held in July. Food and drinks are available, provided by local restaurants and bars. The second annual festival centers on art; it is called Around the Coyote and was first held in 1989. Its mission is to give local artists and galleries a way of exposing their art to a wider audience and achieving more prominence. Usually held in autumn, it is one of Chicago’s most well-known art festivals.


Wicker Park/Bucktown has a large number of prominent Chicago art galleries. A few of these include the AllRise Gallery, which features contemporary art, and the David Leonardis Gallery, which has had several genres of art adorn its walls. The 4Art Inc creates a bond between the artist and the audience by letting each artist actually create art at his/her opening. Gallery 203 and the Heaven Gallery both encourage new artists by providing a place where their work can be exhibited. Art can also be viewed at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art; this displays works by Chicago artists and artists of Ukrainian descent.


If you are in the mood for a live performance, several Chicago theaters in Wicker Park-Bucktown vie for your attention. There is the Chicago Children’s Theater, which features music lessons for kids and adults. The Comedy Sportz Theater is the place to go for improvisational comedy sketches. The Chicago Dramatists Theatre is dedicated to developing new plays and encouraging playwrights, while the Chopin Theater hosts a variety of live performances, including dance and drama. For edgier performances, check out the Gorilla Tango Theater.

The Adventure Stage Theater, formerly known as the Vittum Theater, focuses on young audiences and strives to celebrate diversity and promote honest dialogue. Redmoon Central brings theater to non-traditional venues, such as the streets of Chicago. In doing so, they are able to bring their art to a much wider audience and make each performance much more integrated and interactive. Other theaters featuring live performance are the Keyhole Theater Company and the Wing & Groove Theater Company, both committed to bringing a fresh approach to classic dramas as well as introducing new and original works.

The Chicago music scene in Wicker Park/Bucktown is alive and well. The Double Door and the Empty Bottle, Chicago music venues that also serve bar food and drinks, are excellent places to discover new bands and enjoy tried-and-true favorites. Small and intimate, these venues allow the music lover to get up close and personal to the bands on stage. If you want to make a little music of your own, check out the Chicago Center School of Music, which offers lessons for adults and children in a variety of instruments.

If, after attending a festival, viewing some art, catching a show or catching some tunes, you are still looking for something to do, try a game of bowling at the Diversey-River Bowl. Or learn to point your toes and pirouette at the ARCC Ballet. For a different type of class, visit the Nature Yoga Sanctuary. Learn about the Polish population of Chicago at the Polish Museum of America. If you have children, check out Fantasy Kingdom, a large indoor playground. The Wicker Park District has endless activities for children and adults as well.

It is clear that Wicker Park/Bucktown is much more than simply a neighborhood; it is a dynamic, culturally-rich community that welcomes its inhabitants and its visitors to take hold of all that life has to offer.