By Andy Weir
When most Chicagoans think of Lincoln Park, a green oasis in the midst of the concrete jungle comes to mind. However, there’s more to this neighborhood than winding jogging trails and open softball fields. An exciting mix of entertainment, dining, and more awaits in one of Chicago’s most iconic neighborhoods.
Lincoln Park is known as the home of Second City, the famous improv club known for churning out great comedians like Tina Fey and Martin Short. Various revues and productions occur throughout the year, but the classic “Best of the Second City” show is great for beginners, unfamiliar with Second City’s style of improv comedy. On select weekends, visitors can even sign up for an introductory improv course for only $20. These classes are only offered a few times a year and are very popular, so advance reservations are required.
Nearby, B.L.U.E.S. is a unique blues bar nestled just south of Wrightwood Avenue. The club has been routinely voted the best blues club on Chicago’s North side, and every night, different electrifying blues artists perform in this cozy venue. The venue makes a point of seeking out and spotlighting local blues artists. Intimacy is the real key to the magic of this club though with almost every seat boasting a great view.
Another popular music venue in Lincoln Park is the appropriately-named Lincoln Hall. Though slightly larger than B.L.U.E.S, this venue invites artists of an eclectic variety, on both the local and national scene, to perform on their legendary stage. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see multiple acts perform on the same night. You can top off some great tunes with some great food at their in-house restaurant. Meat-lovers will definitely want to try the Griddle Burger. Schubas Tavern at Lincoln Hall combines some of that great menu with a unique mix of world-class beers on tap. Keep in mind, the restaurant does have different operating hours than the concert hall.
Whatever the cuisine, Lincoln Park most likely has a restaurant serving it. Though most menus in the area are not terribly exploratory or novel, the neighborhood is a mostly chain-free haven from the corporate dining of downtown.
Sai Cafe stood out in particular for its fresh sushi and interesting decor. The restaurant’s ambiance is both upscale and creative, and the food matches. With an emphasis on sushi and seafood, Sai Cafe may not be a cheap dinner but is, nonetheless, a worthwhile Lincoln Park eatery that is at least worth a visit. Vegetarians will love the massive Vegetable Maki, which is made up of spinach, cucumber, gourd, pickle, and asparagus.
For a less expensive option, Homeslice cooks up creative pizza in a rustic, cozy setting. Not far away from the massive park, Homeslice’s dining room feels like an outdoorsy craftsman’s home with tree-trunk tables and lots of wooden decor. Food-wise, pizza is the restaurant's speciality of course. The Clay Bacon pizza — comprised of a concoction of roasted chicken, bacon, diced romas, onions, parsley, mozzarella, provolone, cheddar and ranch sauce — is particularly popular . Vegetarians and vegans: no need to worry. The restaurant’s menu extends well beyond pizza. Their ample veggie-based dishes and salads are accompanied by an impressive selection of craft beers.
Of course, the prominent Chicago neighborhood is best known for its beautiful 1,200 acre park. In fact, the park is not only the second-most visited park in the United States but also one of Chicago’s oldest parks. The park, however, is more than just greenery.
North Avenue Beach, the longest and most popular strip of beach in Chicago, is a can’t-miss summer spot near the park. Right on the beach, Castaways is a great hangout, open only throughout summer. From freshly-grilled burgers to live bands every weekend, Castaways is popular with both locals and tourists for its beachy atmosphere and iconic design.
It would be remiss to not mention one of Lincoln Park’s notable museums as well. The Chicago History Museum features exhibits on Chicago’s involvement in notable historic events, such as World War I. The museum even offers an immersive exhibit on Abraham Lincoln’s Chicago. To keep itself fresh, the museum rotates several temporary exhibits as well. Amplified: Chicago Blues, which walks through the evolution of blues music in Chicago, is running through August 2019. While admission to the Chicago History Museum is a hefty $17 for students, it is well worth the price at least for one visit.
Perhaps one of Lincoln Park’s most unique and unheard of attractions is the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Through a variety of natural exhibits, the museum tells the story of Chicago through its natural landscapes. The museum is best known for its massive butterfly house but also features workshops throughout the month on sustainable and eco-friendly living. Best of all, a visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum costs just $7 for students.
Explorers on a budget should check out Lincoln Park Zoo, a 35-acre zoological park right in the heart of Lincoln Park. The zoo is only one of a handful of zoos in the United States that do not charge an admission fee. From sea lions to reptiles, Lincoln Park Zoo is home to more than one thousand animals, comprised of over 200 different species. Throughout the warmer months, the zoo also offers tons of special events. On May 19, for example, the zoo will host its annual Food Truck Festival, inviting food trucks from all around Chicago to set up shop at the zoo after hours.
Lincoln Park is one of the city's most classic neighborhoods for a reason. Whether you are looking for a day on the beach, a night of comedy, or some of the best food in the city, Lincoln Park will not disappoint.