Vacation in Chicago - safe neighbourhood & stuff to do?
May 31, 2017 4:18 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend is staying at an Airbnb in Chicago near the intersection of S. California Avenue and W. 18th Street next to Douglas Park (North Lawndale/Little village?). Her work colleagues expressed some concerns about crime there and she just wanted to hear your impressions of the area (and possible "ground rules") from the Mefi-community. Secondly (and likely more interesting) what would be some fun, low-cost experiences for a late 20s girl who loves to explore and see a city from the ground up - sights/people or even events this coming weekend.
posted by mathiu to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (21 answers total)
My wife used to work a few blocks from there; this is not a good neighborhood. There's a lot of stuff that goes down in Douglas Park, and she says she wouldn't stay there after dark, to be honest with you.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:28 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with comrade_robot. That is not a place I would be comfortable alone.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:32 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

So you'd say "don't be stupid and walk alone after dark through the park" or "don't go back to the flat from the Metro alone at the end of a day or you'll be mugged"?

Any further details would be greatly appreciated
posted by mathiu at 5:36 AM on May 31, 2017

I would say "switch your airbnb if you can"
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:38 AM on May 31, 2017 [10 favorites]

My wife says that work told her not park on the street because that's where the drug dealers would park to sell drugs openly during the day, see for example this. She suggests you change the airbnb if you can as well.
posted by Comrade_robot at 5:41 AM on May 31, 2017

Safety tip: Don't go into this neighborhood for fear of a stray bullett. Sorry, there are just some neighborhoods that are like that.
posted by Kalmya at 5:59 AM on May 31, 2017

That does look pretty rough - I will forward these infos to her. Thanks a lot (and I'm glad I asked).
posted by mathiu at 6:04 AM on May 31, 2017

I think some of the responses above are a little overblown. The location you're talking about is two short blocks from the new Lagunitas brewery, which is a huge tourist attraction that pulls tons of visitors. While technically Lawndale, you're not far from the western edge of Pilsen, which is thoroughly gentrified these days (albeit moreso further east). I don't doubt that you can buy drugs nearby; there are not going to be many places in Chicago where that's not the case. (Disclaimer: I haven't lived in that neighborhood, only biked through and visited Lagunitas.)
posted by enn at 6:12 AM on May 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

If she's not accustomed to cities and not good at gauging her surroundings in unfamiliar places, that is not the AirBnB for her. It's a chronically depressed neighborhood, despite the beautiful park, because Chicago still has serious systemic biases and Lawndale/Douglas Park suffers because of it. She's no more likely to be mugged (if she has the decent street smarts) there than most places, but she is more likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time at that corner than in some other parts of the city. It can feel pretty desolate at night, but like enn says Lagunitas is right there and the new hipster drag of Little Italy is not far, either. The medical district and UIC and the Red Cross are a few blocks north, so it's hardly a war zone. It really depends on what she's expecting and how city-adverse she is.

But it's not always easy to get from there to other things in the city--you're not going to be strolling past a vibrant business district (though you're not too far from the L) and surrounded by points of interest (though that's not too far from the Mexican Museum of Art and Thalia Hall). The bus service is less reliable on the south side (see systemic bias). Spouse and I have wandered around there after shows at Thalia Hall and felt more isolated than unsafe but I lived not far from there about 25 years ago when it was dangerous to walk outside and people died in the heat wave for fear of being outside.
posted by crush at 6:41 AM on May 31, 2017 [9 favorites]

She is accustomed to cities and has a pretty good sense for the right place/time (in my opinion) - I guess I'm mostly worried about unsafe situations that being street-smart doesn't protect you from (the difference between "feeling a strange vibe" and "people not connected to the drug business are getting regularly robbed/assaulted.." even if they know how to behave).
posted by mathiu at 6:59 AM on May 31, 2017

I know this area and I would cancel that BnB. Not trying to fearmonger but it aint great.
posted by agregoli at 7:16 AM on May 31, 2017

Douglas Park and the rest of the greenbelt and boulevards of the west side of Chicago are beautiful examples of the late 1800s/early 1900s landscape architecture in the style of Olmsted and all, and are worth a driving tour, but definitely not a home base for a vacation. That is an active shooting zone, and it seems lately that stray bullets are killing more random people than intended victims.

A friend used to work at the rehab hospital right by the park. Security escorted employees to their cars every day.
posted by hwyengr at 7:21 AM on May 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think some of the responses above are a little overblown.

Ditto. I live a couple of miles east of this on 19th street (in Pilsen proper) and work in the Medical District, but I'm probably within a few blocks of this AirBnB once a week and absolutely don't avoid it for fear of crime. In addition to Lagunitas, my girlfriend and her sister go to the Planet Fitness on Cermak (effectively 22nd street) just west of Western and friends volunteer at Working Bikes. My impression is that this is a pleasant neighborhood of working-class families.

It's a chronically depressed neighborhood, despite the beautiful park, because Chicago still has serious systemic biases and Lawndale/Douglas Park suffers because of it.

This is also 100% true, but it's far from blighted. It isn't a cute/gentrified neighborhood with a walkable "main street" of boutiques and brunches like you would expect in affluent north side neighborhoods, but neither is it full of empty lots and boarded-up buildings.
posted by pullayup at 7:28 AM on May 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Alright, you've got me convinced - could I ask a bonus question: which general direction/neighborhoods could we focus on for a replacement/generally: are there other major areas to avoid?
posted by mathiu at 7:43 AM on May 31, 2017

I stayed in a very cute AirBnB in the Logan Square area a few years back. Walkable to the train, and the neighborhood had a good vibe to it. Can't speak to actual crime rates, but I never felt worried.

As for stuff to check out, the two coolest highlights of my trip were checking out the International Museum of Surgical Science ($15 admission) and going up to the Signature Room to watch the sunset and drink a fancy cocktail. (IDK prob like $20 for the fancy cocktail--but the view was UNREAL.)

Also, if y'all are architecture/art deco dorks like me, walking around downtown Chicago is essentially free and pretty much all of the buildings are the most beautiful things you've ever seen. The Chicago Cultural Center in particular is more gorgeous than it has any right to be, and I'm pretty sure it's free to go in and look at all of the art exhibits and pretty mosaics and stuff.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:56 AM on May 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

For the record, I also think the concerns are somewhat overblown, especially if she's willing to take a Lyft home at night; I worked in that part of the city for a while. However it's not a great place for a tourist – aside from higher crime, there's just not much going on (of interest to tourists) other than Lagunitas. (Although it looks like there's a fest in Little Village this weekend!) It's not an area I'd ever recommend, even if I don't actually think she's likely to get mugged.

If I were your girlfriend I'd look for something along the north branch of the blue line (Wicker Park/Logan Square especially) if she's looking for post-gentrification extreme hipness. Anywhere along the brown or red lines north of the Loop will also be safe, walkable, and reasonably pleasant. I'm biased, but Lincoln Square and Andersonville are the best. Pilsen, as mentioned by others above, is not too far from her original airbnb and a much safer, more interesting area. This is all assuming she's looking for neighborhood flavor; if she's doing standard tourist trail stuff, it's probably easier to just stay downtown.

As far as stuff to do: this is a pretty comprehensive list of the weekend's fests. Personally I'll be at Maifest, but if your girlfriend lives in Germany she might not be super interested in a German fest in Chicago :)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:01 AM on May 31, 2017

This is incredibly generalizing, but excluding Wicker Park, no west side/south side neighborhoods with 'Park' in the name. Looking at a map, again massively generalizing, north of I-55, east of Western until you hit Grand Ave, then east of the Milwaukee District Metra line from that point north (if you look at the gMap, it's the railroad line that turns NW'ly at Western/Grand).
posted by hwyengr at 8:02 AM on May 31, 2017

Crime statistics for that area in last month, keeping in mind that this is for the whole community area.
posted by WCityMike at 1:51 PM on May 31, 2017

Lots of people walk around with their wheely suitcases in Logan Square. I assume they're AirBnBers. It's safe and walkable and right on the blue line. Wicker Park, Lincoln Park or Andersonville would also be good places for a tourist, depending on your required level of hipness.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 12:17 AM on June 1, 2017

Just a quick update: it turns out there is no more reasonably priced accommodation available in pretty much all of Chicago. She will go there by Taxi tomorrow during the day and get to have a feeling for the place, her plan is to be careful and not be outside in the evening and she installed Lyft to have more options to get around.

The Airbnb host is also in the flat and is hopefully another source of information..

If it turns out to feel too rough she will get a rental car and go on a little outside-chicago-roadtrip.

She asked me to send you her thanks for all the responses and recommendations!
posted by mathiu at 4:26 AM on June 1, 2017

« Older Britain is a nation of shopkeepers... but who kept...   |   Recommend a hotline for eviction housing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.