Thousands of visitors flock to Chicago each year from all around the world. The Windy City definitely has its fair share of tourist attractions worthy of visiting. From the ever popular Cloudgate- or as Chicagoans affectionately refer to as The Bean- to Millennium Park to the Museum of Science and Industry, there is enough to keep every traveler’s interest peaked for days. But if you’re looking for something more off the beaten path, you may want to consider these hidden gems. The Hidden Gems of Chicago has something to offer to everyone!
The Lincoln Park neighbourhood is full of awesome restaurants for any kind of palette. We discovered the Athenian Room while living in Lincoln Park during D’s law school days. Back then, we didn’t have the budget to eat out often, but the Athenian Room was our go to restaurant when we wanted to celebrate- birthdays, anniversaries, you name it. He almost always got the steak while I favoured the gyros. And we always ordered the baklava for dessert.
Address: 807 W Webster Ave, Chicago
Most everyone visiting Chicago has heard of the famous Millennium Park, located near the Loop. But another great park that is just as picturesque and not nearly as well known is Lincoln Park, on the north side of the city. Lincoln Park is hands down our favourite spot in the city. Located just a short walk from North Avenue Beach, it’s the perfect spot for a leisurely stroll or quiet spot to sit and people watch.
Chicago Botanic Garden
Okay, so the Chicago Botanic Garden isn’t actually in the city. I hadn’t even heard of this gorgeous oasis until we moved to the suburbs from Chicago. Located in Glencoe, on the north shore, it takes a bit of planning in order to get there. But if you are able, it is definitely worth a visit. There is no admission fee to visit the gardens but you will have to pay for parking.
Address: 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe
La Lagartija Taqueria
Of all of the Mexican restaurants in Chicago, you have probably never heard of La Lagartija Taqueria. Located on the corner of Ashland Ave on the west side of the city, this hole-in-the- wall joint is not in the safest area of the city. I personally think that could be the reason it isn’t frequented as much as it should be. To be honest, the only reason we discovered La Lagartija Taqueria is because I worked in that area when we lived downtown. Though I’m so glad to be done working in that neighbourhood, I’m sad that I don’t have a reason to make the journey for their amazing tacos.
Address: 132 S Ashland Ave, Chicago
Before I moved to Chicago, I didn’t realise that the city had so many sandy beaches. It makes sense since the Windy City sits right on the shores of Lake Michigan. But I didn’t realise that they were so sandy. Chicago residents flock to the shores at beaches such as North Avenue Beach and Montrose Beach, to name a few. And why not? However, the free city beaches tend
to get crowded on hot summer days. Approximately 25 miles north of the city, is another of Chicago’s hidden gems- Glencoe Beach. Though you have to pay a small entrance fee per person, for it’s worth it. The beach is less crowded and includes more amenities than the downtown beaches. These include pavilions to rent, and a playground complete with slides and swings, which my kids love.
Our most recent find in the greater Chicago area is definitely what I would consider a hidden gem. Lake Katherine is a bit of a drive- about an hour outside of the Loop in Palos Heights, but if you’re a nature enthusiast, it’s worth making the trip. The mile-long stretch around the man made lake is beautiful and serene and full of nature- the perfect break from the hectic city scene.
Though Chicago boasts some pretty amazing tourist attractions that are worth visiting, make sure to take some time to discover some of the lesser known places, too. You’ll be glad you did! After living here for eight years, we have hardly even scratched the surface of hidden gems in the Windy City. But we’re looking forward to finding more.