The Windy City: Hidden Gems

Sometimes, you have to go off the beaten path. In this case, REALLY off the beaten path ...

Sometimes, you have to go off the beaten path. In the case of Muirhead Farmhouse, REALLY off the beaten path …

We’ve done Chicago to death. Caitlyn spent part of her childhood there, I spent a summer at Northwestern University in a journalism camp and we still make our way up there at least once, if not more, each year. In all, the two of us have been there dozens of times; it’s our favorite city to visit because there are so many different things to do and experience than no two trips are alike.

Every time we go, we stay in a different area of town so, suffice it to say, we’ve seen a lot of the city (we’ve even started visiting the suburbs!). There will probably, at some point, be a multitude of posts on this blog about Chicago, but we thought we’d start with a short list of our hidden gems in the Chicagoland area:

Food:

Lunch/dinner -If you explore the well-kept suburb of Oak Park visit Munch. Caitlyn still can’t stop salivating over this vegan restaurant, which is a great lunch spot, complete with “B”LTs (the bacon is really seitan) and the “Groovy Plate,” a dish of “beefy” tofu, red quinoa, mashed potatoes and more. Take the green line to the Harlem stop.

Dessert – Like hot chocolate? How about homemade marshmallows? Tempt your sweet tooth at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in the Wicker Park neighborhood (Blue line: Damen stop). This trendy dessert place (they also serve meals and wine) can get busy in the evenings, but the dim lighting and chic décor make for a romantic night out.

Lodging:

Hotel Lincoln – If you’re staying in Chicago, make a trip to Hotel Lincoln in Lincoln Park. Between plaid carpeting, a lobby desk made of vintage desk and dresser drawers and trendy restaurants and boutiques just up the street, you, too, can be a hipster for a night.

The Muirhead Farmhouse, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed B&B in the 'burbs, is a feast for the architecture lover to behold.

The Muirhead Farmhouse, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed B&B in the ‘burbs, is a feast for the architecture lover to behold.

Muirhead Farmhouse – If you’re up for staying in the ‘burbs – perhaps “in the sticks” might be more apropos – spend a night in one of the few remaining Frank Lloyd Wright inns. The Muirhead Farmhouse is a 1950s Usonian-style Wright home that’s been turned into a bed-and-breakfast, complete with heated floors, beautiful architecture and dozens of Wright autobiographies and films in the home. Unfortunately, you’ll also spend a lot of time getting into the city – plan for an hour or more and take a car to get to the L stop. Book a room upwards of a year in advance – there’s one room and it’s in high demand. NOTE: As of this blog post, the home’s website was unclear as to if the owners were still running it as a B&B, however it appears they still do tours.

Culture:

Museum – Everyone goes to the Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum or Shedd Aquarium, but the really cool museum for history buffs – especially adults – is on the north shore in Lincoln Park. The Chicago History Museum does exactly what its name says: Educates visitors about the rich history of Chicago’s many ethnic and diverse neighborhoods. You can also sit in an old seat from Wrigley Field, step onto an early “L” train car and take in any of the special exhibits, which change several times each year. The museum is located off North Street, a couple blocks north of the red line stop at Clark/Division.

Theatre – Not into museums? Catch a play on the far —and we mean far — north side of the city limits in Rogers Park at the Lifeline Theatre. Built in what appears to be an old warehouse, the heating can be spotty at times, so either bundle up or borrow one of the complimentary fleece blankets on each chair in the theatre. Snuggle up with a loved one and it’s just like watching a movie at home – but the movie is alive! Take the red line to the Morse stop.

What’s your favorite hidden gem in Chicago?

Next post: 3 ways to stay safe on your vacation

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4 Comments on “The Windy City: Hidden Gems

  1. The Chicago Architecture Foundation runs great tours. I recommend the “Highlights by Bus” tour if you are interested in modern architecture. It makes a stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s fantastic Robie House on the campus of the University of Chicago and visits the work of Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus.

  2. Caitlyn loves Robie House. We also went on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio in Oak Park. I’m not sure if I have been on the bus tour, but I do recall going on a boat tour of Chicago’s architecture when I was a kiddo. Thanks for the tips!

  3. If you’re in Lincoln Park the zoo and the botanical gardens have free admission year round. My favorite place to eat and get a beer is at John Barleycorn (by Lincoln and Webster in Lincoln Park), and you can also visit the very first Potbelly Sandwhich Works (originally an antique store) also located on Lincoln Avenue.

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