Chicago Tour: Lincoln Park
Victorian architecture gives way to nature in Lincoln Park.
Much of Lincoln Park was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and the neighborhood rebuilt its residences with stone and brick. Now Lincoln Park is an exhibition of Victorian architecture. Walk along Fullerton Parkway between Clark and Halsted, and you’ll see the gorgeous Victorian houses where Lincoln Parkers reside. The area surrounding DePaul University offers a collection of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and thrift stores. On Halsted, attend a production performed in one the distinguished theaters in the area. Close by, you’ll find some of the best restaurants in the country. Visit the neighborhood’s namesake park, home to many free attractions: Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Conservatory, and Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool. And check out North Avenue Beach, which is rumored to have some of the warmer swimming waters in Lake Michigan. Lincoln Park brims with impressive architecture and activities, making it one of the most coveted neighborhoods in the city.
At the forefront of the groundbreaking molecular gastronomy movement, Alinea offers meals that are quite simply unlike any others. Dedicated followers eagerly await chef Grant Achatz’s scrupulously deconstructed innovations, which are always as delicious as they are surprising: venison is served atop a pillow of scented air; tiny spheres explode with familiar flavors in the mouth; and bite-size courses of sweet potato and bacon are served on a spike. The staff, as expertly choreographed as the Bolshoi Ballet, instructs patrons on how to eat the exquisitely constructed and artfully presented concoctions (the serving ware is created by an accomplished sculptor), while offering hints as to ingredients. Although this is clearly a temple to experimental cuisine, the atmosphere in the elegantly converted, dramatically lit town house is decidedly laid-back. You won’t find starchy waiters or icy attitude here, where all that’s required is an interest in extraordinary dining and an open mind.
Bourgeois Pig Café
A block from DePaul University, The Pig, so-called by locals, offers baked goods, as well as large selection of sandwiches with names like The Catcher in the Rye (corned beef on rye), The Old Man and the Sea (tuna), and The Garden Party (veggie).
Shopping on Halsted is plentiful, but MOI Boutique stands out. Occupying a cozy space on the trendy street, the shop features feminine clothes at moderate prices. Pick up a flutter-sleeved dress and white blazer.
Touted as Chicago’s original tapas bar, Café Ba-Ba-Reba is as festive as it sounds. Enjoy tapas, pixtos (bite-sized tapas), paella, and five varieties of sangria in a lively atmosphere.
Chicago History Museum
Located at the south end of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, the Chicago History Museum features exhibitions about the city’s compelling past. A must-see for locals and visitors alike, spend the day in the city’s oldest cultural institution, shop in the museum store, and grab a snack in the café.
Started in the mid-seventies in a church basement by Jeff Perry, Terry Kinney, and Gary Sinise, the famed Steppenwolf Theater Company now has 43 ensemble members, including John Malkovich, Joan Allen, and John Mahoney, and puts on early 700 performances, annually. Check the websites for shows.
Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
Visit this urban ecosystem at Lincoln Park Zoo, where birds, fish, frogs, turtles, and insects frolic among native plants. Visitors enjoy free admission and a truly restful lull from the bustling city. For the curious, the park’s website offers a field guide.