Oak Park, Illinois, is brimming with art, architecture, culture, history, shopping, cuisine, and entertainment. This lively village, located just 10 miles west of Chicago’s Loop, is simple to reach and even simpler to enjoy. If you are in Chicago, take the Green Line “L” to downtown Oak Park. Otherwise, this ideal weekend retreat is a short trip from anyplace in the Midwest.
What Is There To Do In Oak Park?
Oak Park, with a population of over 52,000 people, provides something for everyone. No matter when you visit, historic buildings, cultural sites, parks, museums, shopping, and more will fill your weekend.
Here are some of the greatest activities if you only have 48 hours in Oak Park.
Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s House and Studio
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is the perfect spot to begin your tour to Oak Park, which is Frank Lloyd Wright central. During the first two decades of his career, this was the architect’s private workshop. He established the Prairie style here and experimented with architectural design principles.
A guided tour of the complex is available, as is a walking tour of the numerous Wright residences that dot the historic area. For ticket information and other details, go to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s website.
The Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum is a must-see.
Oak Park is the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, one of America’s most renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists. His ancestors constructed his birthplace, the first home in the area to get electricity, and it has been restored to its original 1890s design.
The museum’s displays, antiques, and furniture provide visitors with an insight into Hemingway’s childhood. The Ernest Hemingway Foundation’s website includes further information and ticket sales.
Pay a visit to the Oak Park River Forest Museum.
The Oak Park River Forest Museum, a town institution since 1898, commemorates the village’s history and residents. In a Hometown Legends collection, Oak Park, a municipality devoted to diversity, honors its many distinguished inhabitants, ranging from architects and performers to scientists and social activists. Among the most famous are Ray Kroc, Richard Sears, Lawrence Welk, Paul Harvey, John Mahoney, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Frank Mars, and Carl Rogers.
The Oak Park & River Forest Gangster Tour is a must-do.
Because of its proximity to Chicago, Oak Park and its neighboring River Forest have plenty of gangster stories to tell. The Oak Park & River Forest Gangster Tour, a tour of 13 mansions previously occupied by famous Chicago mobsters such as Sam Giancana and Anthony “Tough Tony”’ Capezio, brings the history of organized crime during the Prohibition era to life.
John Binder, a tour guide whose books investigate parts of Chicago’s organized crime scene, gives insights and highlights ranging from secret tunnels to hit stories. The 2.5-hour trip is only available on Sundays.
Take a walk through the Oak Park Conservatory.
The Oak Park Conservatory, which opened in 1929, was initially intended to house exotic plants obtained by locals on their travels abroad. Its popularity rose over time, and it presently houses over 3,000 plants from all over the world. The Conservatory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, and its distinctive glass building draws over 50,000 visitors each year. Three indoor displays house Mediterranean, tropical, and desert plants, while outdoor gardens showcase Illinois native species. This urban haven hosts a variety of unique markets, plant sales, tours and activities.
Explore the Oak Park Arts District.
The Oak Park Arts District, a half-mile length of Harrison Street, is a must-see for art enthusiasts. This hive of creative activity has over 25 galleries and workshops displaying a variety of art in a wide range of genres. On the third Friday of each month, open-door nights for new exhibitions are held. There are also coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, and live theater in the neighborhood, as well as classes and seminars.
Visit Downtown Oak Park
A visit to Oak Park would be incomplete without a stroll around its lovely downtown. The main commercial district is a walking area with restaurants, shopping, public art, and other attractions.
While you’re there, don’t miss out on Oak Park’s Marvelous Mini Murals. There are almost 120 of these vibrant paintings on exhibit.
Wine festivals, cookie walks, jazz concerts, Oaktoberfest, and Art Dans la Rue, a celebration of all things French, are all held in downtown Oak Park on a regular basis. If you have a long weekend, Thursday Night Out allows you to sample local eateries while listening to live music while dining outside. Check out the events page to discover what’s going on during your visit.
Oak Park Restaurants
The culinary culture in Oak Park is as diverse as its people. There are so many possibilities that it will be difficult to fit them all into your weekend. You’ll have to make plans to come back, which is a good idea as each season in Oak Park offers something unique.
This little Middle Eastern restaurant located close to the Classic Cinemas Lake Theatre is a neighborhood favorite. The cuisine at Jerusalem Cafe is really delicious, and the prices are ridiculously low considering the quality. Salads and dips, as well as shawarma and kabobs, are all readily available. The portions are also generous. We typically share one of the fantastic combinations. They provide combinations for both carnivores and vegetarians, so everyone in your group will depart with a full stomach and a bright smile, just as we usually do.
Delia’s Kitchen Everything is created from scratch using local ingredients. They choose organic wherever feasible and try to accommodate allergies and food preferences whenever possible.
If you prefer brioche French breakfast, fluffy omelets, fresh salads, chilaquiles, blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes and sandwiches, you’re in for a treat. Delia’s understands how to satisfy your palette, so arrive early to avoid a wait and to peruse the menu.
Hemmingway’s Bistro is one of our favorite Oak Park restaurants. Because it’s so wonderful, this charming French-American retreat feels like a guilty pleasure. We’ve had breakfast, brunch, lunch, and supper here, and they’ve all been fantastic.
Baked brie, quiche of the day, Lake Superior whitefish, and all other delicacies are created with love. A superb house sparkling and a delicious cremant de Loire are among the many wines on the large wine list. If warm crusty bread with ice cold butter and a glass of fine wine put you in a good mood, you’ll be overjoyed by the time you leave this enchanted culinary sanctuary.
Firecakes And Petersen’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
We can’t fathom life without amazing doughnuts. Fortunately, neither can the people of Oak Park, who can fulfill their appetite with Firecakes. Firecakes are sweet explosions of doughnut delight based on a grandpa’s recipe for hungry employees in northern Wisconsin’s logging camps in the 1930s. The secret family recipe and locally grown ingredients are still used in the shop. Churros, pistachio, Valrhona chocolate, and wildflower honey are among the flavors that change on a regular basis. They even sell minis so you can sample a couple different ones.
If you like ice cream, you should definitely head to Petersen’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream, a neighborhood favorite for over 100 years.
Where Can I Shop in Oak Park?
Downtown Oak Park is packed with charming stores and independently owned businesses. Ten Thousand Villages provides artisan-crafted fair trade gifts, accessories, and home décor from across the world. Scratch ‘n Sniff is a fantastic business that sells pet-related gifts as well as high-quality snacks for your furry pals. And The Book Table has defied the trend by maintaining a fiercely independent bookshop that sells books, puzzles, and hosts events for bibliophiles of all ages.
Where Can I Stay in Oak Park?
There are a few places to stay in Oak Park.
Bishops Hall, a Georgian Revival bed & breakfast, is a one-of-a-kind experience. There are three rooms available, each with its own bath.
The Carleton of Oak Park has boutique hotel accommodations as well as motor inn-style rooms with patio entrances. It also features Barclay’s American Grille, one of the greatest burger joints in town.
The Write Inn Hotel has hosted many prominent visitors, including poets, Nobel laureates, and Pulitzer Prize winners, for individuals who value literary history. It’s also situated next to Hemmingway’s Bistro, which is a huge bonus in our book.
Oak Park is a unique community with plenty to see, do, and eat. Make time to wander through the parks for a relaxing weekend. Quiet mornings are ideal for strolling through Lindberg Park, Field Park, and other nearby parks. Oak Park is a fantastic spot to visit if you want to rest, invigorate, or do a bit of both.