Ten days in Skokie
June 28, 2010 6:46 PM   Subscribe

How to get around and what to see in Chicago? Caveat: I'll be staying in Skokie.

I'll be visiting Chicago (well, Skokie) on business in the middle of July for about 10 days. It's my first time to Chicago, and while I've perused several older threads about sightseeing and dining in the city, there are few regarding staying in the suburbs. How can I best make use of my time (most weekdays after 5:00 PM and one weekend) when I'm so far from the center of the action?

A few requests and things to keep in mind:
- Staying in Skokie is non-negotiable, as the hotel (the Doubletree) has already been booked.
- I will not be able to rent a car.
- I'm used to taking public transport, both in the US and Japan, so cleanliness or timeliness (or lack thereof) doesn't faze me too much.
- While I'm definitely interested in seeing Chicago's main sights (Mag Mile, Art Institute, ), I also enjoy walking around neighborhoods, especially unique or ethnic ones. Nearby suburbs (Evanston, are okay, too.
- Related: I definitely want to sample some of the local cuisine (deep-dish, italian beef, etc.), and while I have some ideas (Lou Malnati's, Al’s No. 1), I'm open to more convenient and/or more delicious places. Also, I'd like to have some authentic Mexican (if they serve chorizo or lengua, so much the better), since it's practically nonexistent in Tokyo.
- Any recommendations of funky or off-beat stores, museums, or other locations would be warmly appreciated. Interesting events, too.

I'm going to keep looking through older threads, so there's no need to repost links to them wholesale, but links to particularly useful previous answers are welcome. (I'm also using Wikitravel as a reference.)
posted by armage to Travel & Transportation around Skokie, IL (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The CTA can take you all the way from Skokie to downtown - just check the schedules on the website before you make the trip. The Red Line runs 24/7, but the Purple and Yellow do not.

Alternatively, you can get a cab to the Main St Metra Station in Evanston, and take the Metra in. Much cleaner, much faster. Schedules are here.

Authentic Mexican - check out any restaurant run by Rick Bayless.
posted by lholladay at 7:01 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are my favorite places and things to do on the north side of the city, near Skokie:

- Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind is a performance in which 30 plays are staged within 60 minutes. Go on Sundays to ensure you get a seat - it fills up on Fridays and Saturdays pretty frequently.

- American Science and Surplus is one of the best stores anywhere. They sell the most amazing odds and ends. They buy surplus, so their supply varies. It's really awesome.

- Transistor is a music store. They also sell art and have a performance space. Another great store.

- Chicagoland Games: Dice Dojo in Andersonville has a weekly board game night on Wednesdays. There's a great crowd.

- The Lincoln Park Zoo is the one touristy attraction I'd go to. It's free. Always. The Museum of Science and Industry is pretty good, too, if a bit pricey.

- Oddball museums: Leather Archives and Museum; Museum of Holography.

For public transit: Better hope you're near the Yellow Line. Skokie's not really a great place when it comes to public transit. If you're near the Yellow Like, you can take that to the Red Line to get to most places of interest.
posted by LSK at 7:08 PM on June 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Skokie isn't too far from the city, and is one of the only suburbs serviced by the "L" train. The yellow line is a splinter line that connects to the red line, which will take you into the heart of Chicago's tourist district. Unlike the red line, the yellow line does not run at all times, so check the times. This will be your easiest way to get into the city. Notable red line stops include Belmont (for Boystown), Chicago (touristy shopping, contemporary art museum), and Renaissance art museum at Loyola University Museum of Art).

My favorite pizza place is Oven Grinder. It's not quite deep dish, but baked in a bowl, then turned over when served. very unique, gooey cheese, in a unique and dark setting. expect to wait for a table though.

Skokie has a new holocaust museum (not on all tourist's agendas, but hey, you're nearby).

The Leaning Tower of Niles is a 1/3(?) replica of Pisa. so strange. accessible by taxi/car, close to Skokie.

Evanston is a cute suburb with a nice downtown (built alongside Northwestern University).

You'll be rather close to the little India section of Chicago, which is all along Devon Ave. Great for a little adventure and food.

My absolute favorite thing to do in Chicago is ride a bike along the city's lakefront path. You can rent a bike at Foster Avenue (at the path) and ride south or north from there. A great way to experience nature in the city, see the skyline, the lake, it's gorgeous.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:11 PM on June 28, 2010

I'll let the city people give you recs for Chicago proper, but I will say that one of my fondest food memories from living in Evanston was the Pita Inn in Skokie. It would be perfect for lunch or whatever when you're stuck in Skokie.
posted by donnagirl at 7:11 PM on June 28, 2010

I've stayed in Skokie on business. My favorite pizza joint was a sports bar called Village Inn which is less than two miles from the Doubletree. Friendly folk there, and good food.

When I stayed in Skokie, I stayed at the Howard Johnson next to the Doubletree. It's a reasonably walkable neighborhood.
posted by Doohickie at 7:13 PM on June 28, 2010

Everyone's taste is a bit different with respect to where to go, what to see, and where to eat, but I can address the transportation issue:

Where you are staying is a short bus or taxi ride (or the Doubletree may have a little shuttle bus) from the CTA Yellow Line (aka the Skokie Swift), which can easily connect you to the CTA Red Line and other lines for access to downtown and numerous interesting neighborhoods and events all around the city. Some might say the city is organized around the CTA lines.

You will also be reasonably close to some Metra (train) stations. Metra is a very civilized way to travel downtown and back.

If you're into this sort of thing, there are bound to be interesting art and neighborhood fairs during your visit. Chicago is a foodie's paradise; the listings in Chicago Magazine are probably a good place to start, while Metromix has a broader array of places listed but the reviews can be a bit sketchy.
posted by DrGail at 7:18 PM on June 28, 2010

The Doubletree is kitty-corner from the Old Orchard mall - it's a major bus hub, and you may find it more convenient to use the bus to start your trips, since the Skokie Swift (the Yellow L line) is a pretty long walk from the hotel. There's a bus that runs east and west along Golf Road, on the north side of the hotel, and that will take you into downtown Evanston. Evanston's really nice, and you can take either the Purple L train down the lakefront or the suburban Metra train into the Loop.
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:48 PM on June 28, 2010

Metra is indeed a valuable transportation option.

Rick Bayless's restaurants are great for high-end Mexican; for a more common experience, jump off the Red Line at Sheridan and hit one of the taquerias near the station. My favorite is Taqueria El Palmar. Or switch to the Blue and head to Pilsen.
posted by me3dia at 8:01 PM on June 28, 2010

If you are here before July 18th and a fan of Neil Gaiman, Lifeline Theatre is doing a production of Neverwhere that Neil himself saw and said everyone should see. Lifeline is just off the Morse redline stop which is 2 stops south of the Howard stop where the yellow and red line meet.

I'll second Too Much Light. The Neo's are amazing.

I would also recomend Lookingglass Alice if you like Alice in Wonderland, theatre, or circus type acts, with the caveat that I'm currently working backstage on that show.
posted by Uncle at 8:47 PM on June 28, 2010

me3dia: "Rick Bayless's restaurants are great for high-end Mexican"

The newly opened Xoco is not so high priced, if that's what you meant. Salads and soups for around $8.

posted by IndigoRain at 11:52 PM on June 28, 2010

Chicago's an improv town, and the IO has some sort of improv every evening of the week, conveniently located by the addison redline stop.
posted by garlic at 7:24 AM on June 29, 2010

My strategy when I commuted to the suburbs from Wicker Park was to use a combination of biking and taking the Metra trains. I realize that biking might not be an option since you are only there for 10 days, but it was what I found to be the most effective way of getting around.

If you are near it, the Skokie yellow line station will get you into the city and let you transfer to any line to get you to any part of the city.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:28 AM on June 29, 2010

As long as we're talking Rick Bayless: at the Macy's store in the afore-mentioned Old Orchard Mall is an experiment Bayless has been doing with them called Frontera Fresco. It's fast food price, but it's delicious and about the best inexpensive Mexican food I've ever had. I recommend it highly!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:36 AM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far, everyone! You've put my mind at ease regarding getting in and out of the city on the El or Metra. I'll be able to use taxis, but it seems like it will be easier to get one when I'm in the city heading back to my hotel.

I've never eaten at a Rick Bayless restaurant, so if time allows I'll have to fit it in, especially if there's a place at the Old Orchard Mall (which is quite close to the hotel).
posted by armage at 6:06 PM on June 29, 2010

IndigoRain: I meant gourmet more than price, although that's a factor too. I know XOCO is cheaper, but it's a chic environment. Not to say that's a bad thing, just that Bayless' restaurants are aimed at a downtown, professional clientele. The food may be pitch-perfect (and it is delicious) but it's not a rustic, some might say "authentic" experience by any means.
posted by me3dia at 8:00 PM on June 29, 2010

AFAIK, All the Bayless restaurants are lined up next to each other in the River North neighborhood in Chicago.

XOCO, Frontera and Topolobampo (on Clark) are within walking distance from the Grand Red Line stop.
posted by achmorrison at 11:08 AM on July 6, 2010

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