Oak Park shares tree-lined streets with the North Shore, but where we got the lake, they got Frank.
That would be Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably the world’s most famous architect, who lived and worked in Oak Park from the beginning of his career until 1909. Signs of Wright’s influence are everywhere—starting with his own home and studio and extending to stores filled with Mission- and Prairie-style furnishings. Less than an hour’s drive from the North Shore, you can sightsee, get a little culture, a great meal and even sneak in some shopping.
Start with a guided tour of Wright’s home and studio. Even kids will enjoy this tour, because a lot of the details of the home were created with Wright’s children in mind—check out where he put the kids’ grand piano! For the truly interested, the self-guided neighborhood audio tour covers a lot more ground—literally, it’s a lot of walking. For most families, the house and studio tour will be enough. For adults, add the neighborhood tour. 951 Chicago Ave., 312-944-4000
For those smitten with Wright—book clubs who are reading “Loving Frank” for instance—add on a tour of Unity Temple. It’s an icon of modern architecture, and the story of its ongoing restoration is a testament to the devotion that Wright inspires. It’s a stop on the walking tour, but admission is extra. 875 Lake St., 708-383-8873
Alternatives to Walking Tours
If all that walking isn’t going to make your family happy campers, Oak Park does have several other options, that are just cool enough. Greenline Wheels (105 S. Marion St., 708-725-7170) rents bikes (with maps) for a self-guided tour. There’s also Oak Park Segway (711 Madison St., 708-574-1134), which you must reserve in advance and the minimum age is 14, but if you don’t mind the goofy helmet, zipping around on a Segway is the most fun way to travel! Finally Rickshaw Rick’s Tours and Taxis (521 Thomas St., 773-771-3922) will take you on a guided Rickshaw tour of the ‘hood.
Time to Eat!
All that touring means lunch is the next, and most important, stop. This local restaurant bakes its own sandwich breads and then fills them with clever combos. Try the Cajun Chicken and Cheese for a hot, pressed sandwich or the Greek Veggie. 103 N. Marion St., 708-445-1234
A dressier lunch stop is the bistro part of this market. Focusing on local, seasonal cuisine, the lunch menu has beautiful salads and sandwiches—plus a nice wine list! Any sandwich with cheese as an ingredient is an excellent choice, but they have plenty of other options as well. 100 S. Marion St., 708-725-7200