If you know Chicago, you know that the city goes far beyond the Loop (and that 24 hours in Chicago just isn’t enough). Just a couple miles in any direction will take you to old Swedish bakeries, hipster dive bars, family-run Italian landmarks, and more variety than your city-going heart could ask for.
If you’re not in Chicago for long but have done the touristy things before, my recommendation to you is this: pick a neighborhood, any neighborhood, and stay there. It’s a great way to learn the city one unit at a time, and you’ll get more out of it than trying to hit a handful of stopping points at once. And if you’re fancying something not too far from the city center and with some lakeside charm, you’ll definitely want to hit up Lincoln Park.
Here are some of our top hits for great Lincoln Park escapes. What are yours?
1. Morning Rush: Elaine’s Coffee Call in the Hotel Lincoln
After visiting this adorable specimen with former Globetrotter Girl Jessica, I pretty much swore off Starbucks forever. This adorable vintage hole-in-the-wall is neat as a pin — but the decor makes it look like an old beat-up coffee shop run by a warm and trusted neighbor. Make sure you get here early (or late?) for breakfast because it fills up fast, and seats are about as common as a Chicago hot dog with ketchup on it (bad Chicago joke, sorry).
2. Next Stop: Green City Market
The Green City Market in Lincoln Park is a great morning activity for anyone who loves the sights and smells of summer. It’s available inside the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum during the early months of the year, then moves outside when the weather is warm. Don’t miss it if you’re in town during the glorious Chicago spring and summer months.
If you’re looking for a traditional market, step aside. This one is chock-full of family activities and cooking demonstrations. They even do educational outreach in an edible garden and provide farming scholarships.
3. Afternoon Delight: Lincoln Park Zoo
The Lincoln Park Zoo is one of Chicago’s best freebies: a city-sized sampling of what you might find at the larger Brookfield Zoo in the suburbs, plus a beautiful nature walk, yoga classes, and other great activities. It’s also best not to get me started on the striking patio at Cafe Brauer, where you can steal a view of the Chicago skyline so gorgeous you may never want to leave.
4. BBQ of Champions at Chicago Getaway Hostel
If you’re looking for a place to stay in the Lincoln Park area, the Chicago Getaway Hostel is known for its boutique hotel feel and dirt cheap prices. It’s the scene of our upcoming travel panel, “Travel on a Dime: Make the Most of your Summer Budget“, and a great way to build community with other global travelers. In fact, on select evenings in the summer the whole hostel community gets together for a barbecue on the killer patio.
5. Wine + Truffles (say no more) at D.O.C Wine Bar
This trendy escape on Clark St. really knows its wine — and they’ll make a great recommendation if you let them. A private room in the back is great for parties, but if you’re caught with a cool evening, in front of the fireplace is exactly where you want to be. Don’t miss their Wednesday night date nights, where you can get a wine flight and hand-crafted chocolate truffles for $20. Need I say more?