Chicago, Chicago, I'll Show You Around...
May 18, 2016 8:24 AM   Subscribe

My wife, our 15-year-old daughter and I are going to Chicago the last week of June (June 26 - July 1). We're looking for some ideas of things to do that AREN'T the usual highlights.

Having lived in Chicago in the 1980s as an undergrad and grad student at Northwestern, I am already familiar enough with the city to know and fondly remember the big things and the things I *hope* are still around. But it has been nearly 30 years since we left for the next leg of our life's adventure, so I'm sure there is plenty we don't know that Chicago MeFites can clue us in on.

A few bits of info: we are staying in an AirBnB in Evanston and will have a rental car for the entire week, so suburban destinations, particularly on the North Shore, are welcome. Restaurant cecommendations would also be appreciated -- anything from mid-range on up, especially things that are unique.
posted by briank to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Restaurant rec: Farmhouse Evanston (or Farmhouse Chicago): Midwestern comfort food done upscale and locally-sourced. Killer deep-fried cheese curds and an excellent beer list, most or all of which is brewed within 100 miles of Chicago.
posted by suelac at 8:32 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I always recommend the Museum of Surgical Science, as much for the gorgeous building and views as for the exhibits. Really simple to get to from Evanston (by car, anyhow) as it's right off of Lake Shore.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:33 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

The redditors at /r/chicago maintain a little wiki on things for visitors to do/see/eat. Not the end-all resource, but a good starting point.

Definitely do the architecture cruise. A lot has changed.
posted by JoeZydeco at 9:00 AM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mindy's Hot Chocolate! We went there right after Mindy had won a James Beard Award, and it was somehow that rare place that was way overhyped and still managed to be better than expected. I think a 15yo girl would have a fantastic time with fun hipster desserts :)

Do go to The Bean anyway, even though everyone else does.

Chicago also has a lot of Swedish culture (and Ukrainian, Polish, Chinese, yada yada yada... but Swedish is what I know). Ann Sather's is a brunchy restaurant with a Swedish theme that has a bunch of locations all over the place.
posted by St. Hubbins at 10:02 AM on May 18, 2016

Are you into churches at all? The immigrant churches, particularly St. John Cantius, are worth checking out. Pretty cool to see all the love those folks poured into their churches even as they just started out in this country.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:06 AM on May 18, 2016

The Bahai Temple in Willmette is stunning, as are the gardens around it.
posted by Sublimity at 10:16 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, it is. We've been there a couple of times, and it's already on the list so my daughter can see it, too. I'm hoping for things that are either new since about 1990 or not well known but worth seeking out.
posted by briank at 10:22 AM on May 18, 2016

If you're going to be in Evanston, you must go to Edzo's for the best hamburger you've ever had, as well as fantastic French fries and milkshakes.
Cozy's is an adorable little noodle shop that had the best tom kha gai I've ever had.
Al's Deli is a great European-style deli if you're up that way and want to grab a good, hearty sandwich.

Agree with the Bahai temple and the Museum of Surgical Science. Would your daughter enjoy a Frank Lloyd Wright tour?
posted by honeybee413 at 10:51 AM on May 18, 2016

The Peckish Pig
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. It may have been in existence when you were there previously, and seemed to have a fair number of Northwestern grads in its ranks, so maybe you know all about it but it's magical and excellent.
posted by donnagirl at 1:42 PM on May 18, 2016

The lovely Chicago Botanic Garden is in Glencoe, north of Evanston. Great way to spend an afternoon.

Lots of good food in Evanston. It's on the pricey side but I enjoyed Found Social House & Kitchen. The aforementioned Farmhouse is good, too.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 3:33 PM on May 18, 2016

Haven't been there for years, but when I lived in Chicago I would go regularly to the Garfield Park Conservatory for the amazing gorgeous plants and flowers.

Also, and this is mainstream so excuse me for emphasizing the obvious, but if you don't go to the Art Institute, you are wrong.
posted by charlesminus at 4:02 PM on May 18, 2016

Quimby's Bookstore! Comics and weird books, local zines.
posted by agregoli at 4:33 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Wooly Mammoth in Andersonville has bizarre oddities for sale (and its an upscale area with lots of shops and restaurants). In that same area is a Brown Elephant which is AMAZING thrifting.
posted by agregoli at 4:34 PM on May 18, 2016

On weekdays in the morning, La Principal in Evanston has great churros and atole, among other things, served from a storefront window. For shopping, the legendary Evanston bookstore Bookman's Alley has been replaced by Bookends and Beginnings, a nice, large indie bookstore with both new and used books (and lots of author events). Squeezebox in Evanston is a small used book and music store whose owner has great taste--hard to go there without finding something you didn't know you wanted.

The whole lakeshore near Northwestern has been completely renewed, with an acclaimed welcome center and a bird sanctuary.
posted by carrienation at 6:00 PM on May 18, 2016

I saw a taping of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" in Chicago if that's your kind of thing.
posted by bendy at 6:42 PM on May 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

You could make an appointment for you and your daughter to visit the StoryCorps space at the Cultural Center. The building itself is worth wandering around for a while, but the StoryCorps experience might also be a terrific memory for the two of you down the road.
posted by deliciae at 7:01 PM on May 18, 2016

Drive down to Hyde Park to see the beautiful campus and the Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright). The Oriental Institute there at the University of Chicago has great sarcophagi and other Egyptian coolities.
The Museum of Science and Industry is there by the lake.
There's a good deep-dish pizza place on 57th, between the Museum and the university, the Medici. (look close at the table in back to see my initials and my old boyfriend's carved in the surface, with a thousand others).
posted by my-sharona at 9:23 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can mostly address food options as someone who loves food and also has kids. Since you've left there's much more of a hipster corridor from Wicker Park to Bucktown to Logan Square. This is a teen-friendly area with lots of fun restaurants like Big Star (prepare to wait), Irazu, Parsons Chicken & Fish, and Lula. All with different personalities but great food. Myopic Books and Quimby's are fun to poke around too. Get Divvy Bikes and ride along the 606, Chicago's answer to the High Line. Alternatively, closer to Evanston, Andersonville could be fun to walk around - good food (e.g. Great Jones, Cantina 1910), pie (First Slice), Swedish American Museum. Not sure how much this has changed since the 90s though.

The other big new scene since you've left the area is the Randolph St and Fulton Market restaurant areas - tons of options, but the ones my own teenager likes best are Takeya Ramen, Publican Quality Meats (butcher shop w/ sandwiches in the back), Little Goat Diner (all day brunch and sandwiches/platters, midwestern meets asian fusion, very loud/fun/family friendly).
posted by bluedeans at 8:35 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some places now have an Inside Street View, such as this new store in Evanston - Little Light Bazaar - so you can see if it's worth a visit.
Segway Experience of Chicago has a groupon, but call them first to see how to book it using the groupon. We went last week, they had the newer models and were not speed limited.
posted by Sophont at 1:42 PM on May 19, 2016

The Dreihaus Museum, a completely restored late-19th century Chicago mansion, opened to the public in 2008 and is a wonderful way to spend an hour or two learning about the life of Chicago's wealthiest in the Gilded Age.
posted by escabeche at 7:23 PM on June 13, 2016

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