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With roots tracing back to Chicago’s earliest years, Lincoln Park has always played a leading role in the city’s entertainment, higher education, and civic institutions. Its stretch of lakefront, which prominently features its namesake park, includes many attractions such as the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory, among many others, and is as bustling as the busy retail and commercial corridors that cross through the neighborhood.
But there’s also a balance, with an emphasis placed on nature and the outdoors at many of Lincoln Park’s best known attractions and amenities. And for lovers of all things Chicago, there’s a plethora of cheap dives and high-end dining to explore all flavors of the city. Home to thousands of college students as well as long-established, multi-generational families, Lincoln Park is not only a North Side anchor, but a place that people from all walks of life call home. Here are just a few things that we love about Lincoln Park.
Lincoln Park Zoo
With free entry every single day of the year, including holidays, the 35-acre Lincoln Park Zoo shows unwavering dedication to its mission to educate and entertain Illinois residents. And having been in operation for more than 150 years, the attraction is noted as being the second oldest zoo in the country (New York’s Central Park Zoo opened just four years prior in 1864). With over 1,000 animals from around the world, there is enough to see and do for an entire day. And it’s not all just for kids — the Adults Night Out events, winter ZooLights lighting display, and Zoo Year’s Eve celebration are popular draws for grownups. The honeycomb-shaped nature boardwalk designed by Chicago’s Studio Gang is also a must-see.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and Lincoln Park Conservatory
Further bolstering the neighborhood’s naturalist credentials are the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, which are both located due north of the Lincoln Park Zoo. For a small admission fee, visitors to the Peggy Notebaert can learn about the Chicago area’s natural history and get an up close and personal look at hundreds of live butterflies in the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. And for those looking to get a breath of fresh air or study flora from around the world, the Victorian-era Lincoln Park Conservatory greenhouse is free to the public.
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond
Located directly off busy Fullerton Parkway and near the even busier Lake Shore Drive, this small three-acre pocket offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s also a destination of significant architectural merit, with a listing on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and official Chicago Landmark designation. The Prairie School era pavilion and rock features are a perfect spot to relax, but have also become a popular site for weddings and engagement photo shoots. Operated by the Lincoln Park Conservatory, this small retreat draws on an appreciation for both the natural and manmade world and blends them world into one.
Fullerton Beach and Lakefront Trail
One thing that many first-time visitors to Chicago often note is just how truly massive Lake Michigan is. To some, it’s hard to believe that it’s a freshwater body and not an ocean (hence Chicago’s “third coast” moniker). But similar to our coastal peers, Chicago has sprawling sandy beaches that residents crowd in on during the hot and humid summer months. One of the larger public beaches on the North Side, this popular stretch (which is technically a part of the broader North Avenue Beach) became even bigger after the recent completion of a massive civil engineering effort which reclaimed nearly six acres of new park space from Lake Michigan.
Passersby with a keen eye will notice sculptures located around the park’s edge of some familiar characters: there’s the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and of course, Dorothy and Toto. Yes, this park is named after that “Oz,” the one imagined by noted Chicago reporter and author L. Frank Baum. But it’s the 13-acre park’s recreation offerings — including an athletic field, tennis courts, basketball courts, and the aptly dubbed “Dorothy’s Playlot” children’s playground — that draws in nearby residents.
With an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 15,000 students, DePaul is the largest private, not-for-profit university in the Midwest. This growth has been expressed through a steady expansion of its Lincoln Park campus and the construction of architecturally notable new buildings for its theater and music schools. Known for its highly diverse student body, the university adds a feeling of vibrancy and youthful enthusiasm to the already prestigious Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Music and Theater Venues
During the ‘80s and ‘90s, Lincoln Park’s Halsted Street played an important role in the reinvention and revitalization of Blues in popular music. The legendary Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. venues remain, but in more recent years, the renovation of the Biograph Theater for stage productions and the old Three Penny Cinema’s rebirth as Lincoln Hall has brought new life and energy to the once sleepy stretch of Lincoln Avenue. Further south on Halsted is the highly influential Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which has long served as a launching pad for acclaimed stage and film actors.
Dining and Nightlife
From dingy dive bars to Michelin-star dining and everything in between, Lincoln Park is known for its eclectic variety of food and nightlife options. Established cheap eats such as Pequod’s Pizza and The Wiener’s Circle are popular with the late night crowds and DePaul students, while the farm-to-table North Pond and chef-driven Alinea attract dedicated (and deep-pocketed) foodies. Expect sports bars and Irish pubs to be packed during Cubs games.
Sheffield Historic District
Lincoln Park’s reputation as a high-end neighborhood isn’t a coincidence. With a close proximity to Chicago’s tony Gold Coast, Lincoln Park transformed into a pricey lakefront pocket during the early decades of the twentieth century. Much of this early residential architecture, including stately Victorian-era mansions and limestone-clad multi-family flats, can be seen today in the Sheffield Historic District.
Chicago History Museum
Take a deeper look into Chicago’s past at the Chicago History Museum, located on the southern edge of Lincoln Park near the lakefront. From early relics from Chicago’s industrial roots to highlighting the narratives of Chicago’s immigrant communities, this institution not only collects and catalogs historic items, but seeks to tell the story of our fascinating city within context. Engaging permanent exhibitions such as The Fifth Star Challenge and Chicago: Crosswords of America provide interactive fun and education.
See what’s happening around town this month!
It’s time to break out that Michael Bublé album and immerse yourself in the magic of the holidays. Fortunately for us, nobody does holiday fun better than Chicago. With that in mind we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most festive events in Chicago this holiday season.
Randolph St. Market Festival | Chicago Plumber’s Hall (West Loop) | December 15th & 16th
Head to the Randolph Street Market Festival to find the most unusual and stylish mix of vintage and modern fashion, jewelry, decorative objects, housewares and hostess gifts available.
Memorable and exciting treasures in all price ranges await you at the Randolph Street Holiday Market.
Frosty’s Christmas Bar | Goose Island | Until January 6th
If you’ve ever dreamed of grabbing a drink with Santa, then boy do we have the bar for you. Frosty’s pop-up Christmas bar in Goose Island is the ultimate destination for festive fun, and lively libations, featuring wall-to-wall decorations across three levels, a holiday themed soundtrack and Singing Santa shows every hour on the hour.
Put on your favorite holiday sweater, grab a festive holiday punch from one of the four bars and get ready to dance the night away.
Plan your trip to Frosty’s here.
37th Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party | Art Institute of Chicago | December 9th
Learn about select works and enjoy an array of family-friendly activities as you visit five stops within the museum’s galleries and the Ryan Learning Center.
Your tour will culminate with a stop by the historic Stock Exchange Trading Room for a tea party featuring delicious refreshments, live entertainment, and a gift bag for each child.
Head here for more information.
Ugly Sweater Party/Beginner Salsa Dancing | Duet Dance Studio | December 14th
If you’re looking to burn some calories, check out Duet’s Ugly Sweater Party to wear your ugliest holiday sweater and get your salsa dance on.
The event includes a 45-minute beginner salsa class, Duet’s student and teacher performances, as well as open dancing and mingling. Guests must be 21+ for this event.
Head here for more information.
Christkindlmarket | Daley Plaza (Chicago Loop) | Until December 24th
There are few events that evoke the holiday spirit more than the annual Christkindlmarket in the Chicago Loop. Shop iconic German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, and hand-blown ornaments.
Along with traditional toys and holiday-themed items, you can find a bevy of delicious authentic German cuisine like sausages, potato pancakes, beer, and assorted sweets.
Head here for more information on Christkindlmarket.
A Christmas Carol | Goodman Theater (Chicago Loop) | Until December 30th
If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit via theater, this is the event for you.
Head to Chicago’s Goodman Theater to catch the annual run of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is an event for the whole family, with a message of hope, charity and kindness towards others.
Head here for more information.
ZooLights | Lincoln Park Zoo | Until January 6th
A tradition in Chicago, Lincoln Park ZooLights is something you do not want to miss this wintertime. This is a family-oriented holiday celebration, so you’re sure to enjoy at any age.
Enjoy the luminous displays as well as the holiday-season activities throughout the zoo. ZooLights is free, but be sure to check the schedule before you plan your visit since some nights are special themed events that may require a ticket.
You can find the schedule here.
Christmas Around the World | Museum of Science and Industry | Until January 6th
This holiday season head to the Museum of Science and Industry to explore holiday traditions from around the globe. The museum’s annual celebration features a four-story grand tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures across the globe.
On the weekends you can even enjoy live holiday performances and photos with Santa.
Head here for more information on the exhibit.
The Polar Express Train Ride | Chicago Union Station | Until January 1st
If you’re looking to recreate the magic of The Polar Express, look no further. This holiday season, head to Chicago’s Union Station to board The Polar Express Train Ride.
This is a magical one-hour trip through the neighborhoods along the Chicago River that includes all the bells and whistles. Literally, as each passenger gets to take home a keepsake sleigh bell.
For more information on The Polar Express Train Ride, head here.
Winter WonderFest | Navy Pier | Until January 6th
The ultimate destination for indoor family fun, Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest is a favored Chicago holiday tradition spanning across 170,000 square feet of attractions for the whole family, with rides, giant slides, ice skating, and lots of festive decor.
Buy tickets online or at the Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest box office until January 6, 2019.
Head here for more information on Winter WonderFest.