Chicago: Things to do outside of the city


what to do in chicago

things to do in chicago

This past June, my daughter joined me for a crazy trip idea… fly to Chicago from LA to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Wriggly Field. I still can’t talk about his passing without getting super sad, so let’s just say I am so glad we took this crazy idea and ran with it because life’s too short. Plus, Chicago! I love visiting this city! There’s so much to see and do.  River tours, museums… but there’s also so many great things to do and see just outside of the city.

Oak Park/Forest Park:
Immediately to the west of Chicago is Oak Park and it’s neighbor Forest Park.  The Blue and Green Lines run right through here, so it’s just a quick ride to the city. We stay with friends here when we come and I’ve fallen in love with the homes and shops in this area. Oak Park was settled in the 1830’s and became home to Frank Lloyd Wright in 1889. His architectural influence is evident on many of the streets in this area. Random trivia: Ernest Hemingway was born here (as well as Betty White and Bob Newhart) and has a district named after him that has some great shops and murals lining the raised train tracks.

hemingway district

The Hemingway District of Oak Park, Chicago

love locks, oak park

Oak Park’s Love Locks

I love this little corner restaurant, Live Fresko in downtown Oak Park.  Perfect for some raw juices, organic coffee, delicious greek yogurt, smoothies, etc…

My friends in Oak Park took us to this great Mexican restaurant for dinner one night: New Rebozo. You know a place that a local takes you to is always going to be great! Blue Max coffee was the cutest neighborhood place that my daughter found.  She’s a big coffee girl, so I leave the coffee shop finds to her and she nailed it with this one.  Blue Max is located in an old house and also serves breakfast and lunch.
places to eat in oak park, il

Forest Park is filled with adorable shops, both old and new. Jayne is my go to shop when I come to Chicago.  I love everything in here and always leave with a great purse.. or two. (They have six locations in Illinois.)jayne in forest park, IL

And just a block or so away is Madison Street Shoes, another great boutique shop.

It’s important for me to find a good, affordable antique store wherever I travel and Forest Park Antiques has many great treasures!

cute shops ins Forest Park

Knit Nirvana and Forest Park Antiques.  

For an airy Italian lunch or coffee try Caffe De Luca. Looking for some comfort food, craft beer and fun atmosphere?  Check out Scratch Kitchen and Lounge.
And you know all those candies you love from your childhood? Red Hots, Lemonheads, Fruit Stripe gum, Now and Later, etc…?  Those are all from the Ferrara Pan Candy Company, started in 1908 and located in Forest Park.  Unfortunately they don’t give tours, but there is a sweet shop open where you can purchase all your favorites.Ferrara Pan candy company

Wicker Park:
North of the city, Wicker Park is a new favorite neighborhood we discovered on our last trip out. Incorporated in 1837, there are some amazing old buildings that now house endless amounts of fantastic boutiques, bars, cafes, record stores, and other specialty shops. There was a lot of construction going on when we visited, so I look forward to revisiting this area next time we’re in Chicago to see what else is popping up here!

wicker park

Milwaukee Ave, Wicker Park, Il

On my list of awesome book stores you’ll now find Myopic Books. They have a beautifully curated collection of used books and have a music and poetry series, as well.  I could have spent an entire day in this store alone. Right next door is BRU, a great place to head to with your new books for some organic coffee, raw juices, salads and more.
myopic books

Wayward was a great find. Specializing in men’s and woman’s outdoor and urban clothing and accessories, I really wanted just about everything in the store for my whole family. (They also have two stores in Washington, but sadly not LA.)  But what is in LA (and now in Chicago) is Stan’s Donuts. Some of the best donuts anywhere – you need to pop in for a treat. (Make sure to visit the original location in LA, nestled in Westwood Village since 1965.)
stans donuts wicker park

With my son being a butcher, I had to check out Chop Shop. Housed in a 100 year-old former auto body shop, the Chop Shop is part butcher shop, part deli/bar/event space. Super cool vibe!chop shop chicago

I am a diehard Dodger fan, so losing to the Cubs in the 2016 playoffs was tough. But honestly, if the Cubs were going to the World Series, who wouldn’t want them to win?  (And we know how well that turned out for them.) Going to Wrigley Field was on my bucket list, although I thought it would be a ball game, not a concert. Walking around Wrigleyville before the Tom Petty concert was fantastic! This neighborhood feels like, well, a neighborhood! So many people hanging around the restaurants and bars, whose front walls were basically gone, leaving them wide open to all the people milling about on the streets!  I don’t even drink and I wanted to go in and hang out with everyone. I can’t even imagine how crazy this place is when the Cubs play! I’d love to come back and see a (Dodger) game here!

Before we headed to the concert, we had a great meal at Matilda (American food/sports bar). Four of us ended up reaching all over the table and sharing each other’s food because it all looked so good.wrigleyville

wrigley field
wrigley field

Did I mention that it was pouring rain during the Tom Petty concert?  Pouring!  Like, someone was standing over me with a bucket of water and just dumping it on me! But it was Tom Petty, so I didn’t really notice. ???? (There’s a video below of some of the Tom Petty footage, if you want to take a peak.)
Tom Petty at wrigley field
Tom Petty at wrigley field

A few other off-the-beaten-path things to do if you’re heading to Chi Town:
Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary
Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

The houses in the TV show Shameless

And a few extra photos from our shenanigans around Chicago…

fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago
fun things to do in Chicago

Here’s a little video of our trip to see Tom Petty at Wrigley Field:

  1. Hina

    March 9th, 2018 at 5:39 am

    This reminded menof my recent weekend trip to Chicago! It is such an amazing city took my heart away instantly ☺️I wish I would have gone through your post before my visit ….

  2. Karen

    March 9th, 2018 at 7:52 am

    It is such a great city, isn’t it? So much to see. I discover something new every time. You’ll just have to go back!!! ????

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I’m Karen, a Los Angeles based photographer. I always aim to document real moments, waiting for that one thing to tell it’s story. And everything and everyone has a story. These images are how I see the world. Welcome.


Los Angeles, CA


karen ard