PATCH PASSPORT: Oak Park Offers World Famous Architecture, Hemingway Haunts and More

Our weekly series will let you be a tourist in your own town.

Patch is your guide as you become a tourist in Chicagoland. Whether you're new to town or want to explore the city you've loved for years, check out the Patch Passport series.


Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

The landmark at 951 Chicago Ave. attracts more than 100,000 people a year to Oak Park from all over the world. After all, the Frank Lloyd Wright District area has the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designs than anywhere else in the world, according to the museum, and was recently rated one of the best neighborhoods in America. Nearly hour-long guided tours start about every 20 minutes from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and children, with those under age 3 free. Or take a walking tour of the entire district, which includes many Wright-designed homes. See the home and studio where Wright began his legacy, raised his family and designed some of the most famous buildings in the world.

Ernest Hemingway Museum

Arguably one of the greatest writers of all time, Ernest Hemingway was born and raised in Oak Park. He attended Oak Park-River Forest High School from 1913-17, where he participated in sports and began his writing career at the school’s student newspaper, The Trapeze. At the museum, located in the Oak Park Arts Center at 200 N. Oak Park Ave., see artifacts from Hemingway’s life, including his time in Oak Park. Also check out the BBC documentary about his life, because the museum is the only place you can watch it in the U.S.

Lake Theatre

In a clash of old meets new, you can check out a 3-D movie in Oak Park’s historic Lake Theatre, located at 1022 Lake St. The theatre opened in 1936 with only one screen. Designed by Thomas Lamb in art-deco style, the theatre underwent renovation and restoration in the 80s and 90s. Now the theatre houses eight screens, including the aforementioned three-dimensional screen.

Oak Park Conservatory

For a tropical getaway, Oak Parkers don’t need to go very far. Located right off I-290, the Oak Park Conservatory, located at 615 Garfield St. and open everyday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is home to an extensive collection of plants, flowers and animals. This free, self-guided tour takes you through the fern room to the tropical room to the desert room. Check out the fish pond in the tropical room — home to a huge albino catfish, koi fish and turtles — as well as the exotic birds around the room. Flowers change with the seasons in the fern room, which currently house colorful, lush Hydrangea. On July 9, the Herbert M. Rubinstein Memorial Garden will officially open at 9:30 a.m., and at 10 a.m. bat naturalist Susan Peterson will speak about the importance of fruit bats (with some of the critters in tow).

Unity Temple

This national historic landmark is the only surviving public building from Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie period. Built between 1906 and 1908, the temple is still a functioning Unitarian Universalist church. This building, located at 875 Lake St., was more than just a commissioned building for Wright; he was raised Unitarian. Tours are self-guided unless there are large groups and cost $9 for adults and $7 for seniors and students, with children under 5 admitted free. Hours are Monday-Friday 10:30-4:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.

What To Buy

  • Show your Oak Park pride with items celebrating Ernest Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright and local artists at the Visit Oak Park online store.
  • Check out the eco-friendly, fair trade items offered by nonprofit Ten Thousand Villages, 121 N. Marion St., including jewelry, coffee and tea, toys, instruments, art and accessories:
  • In need of some new tunes? Head over to , 239 Harrison St., which buys and sells CDs, LPs, DVDs and cassettes.
  • The kids can flex their shopping prowess, too, if you head over to , 110 N. Marion St., an eco-friendly children’s boutique where they can trade old clothing or toys (in mint condition) for points for the stores’ items.
  • Take a class or check out the gallery space at Expressions Graphics, 29 Harrison St., a nonprofit printmaking cooperative in the Oak Park Arts District.


Where to Eat

  • Begin your day with handmade coffee drinks and organic breakfast items at The Buzz Café, 905 S. Lombard Ave., then stroll the Oak Park Arts District. Yova Coffee Shop, a newcomer to the neighborhood in the 800 block of Oak Park Avenue, also serves up coffee drinks, teas and smoothies.
  • Grab an Arepa, a tasty Venezuelan patty stuffed all types of fillings, from cheeses and shredded chicken to scrambled eggs and sautéed eggplant with , 118 N. Marion St. Go Greek at , 733 Lake St. Select gourmet snacks and fancy cheeses from , 100 S. Marion St., then head a few paces south to the grassy expanse of and have a picnic.
  • Enjoy the back patio at , 144 S. Oak Park Ave., but prepare for a wait. Diners at Executive Chef Ruben Beltran’s spicy hot spot have reported waits of up to 30 minutes on a nice weeknight. Pro tip: It’s worth the wait.
  • End the evening with sweet treats at , 119 N. Marion St., a French-inspired bakery croissants, macarons, tarts, tea cakes and more.
  • And no trip to Oak Park would be complete with out stops at local ice cream favorites. If you’re on the north side of town, check out , 1100 W. Chicago Ave. If you’re in South Oak Park, search out , 901 ½ S. Oak Park Ave. Look for the small fuscia awning.


Upcoming Events

Saturdays: The Oak Park Farmers Market. In 2011, this legendary outdoor market celebrates its 38th year. Located at 460 Lake St., the market features dozens of local and organic produce vendors. Walk around, meet new friends and enjoy the sounds of the Farmers Market Bluegrass Band. May through October.

Wednesdays: Oak Park MidWeek Market. Consider it a looser version of the Saturday market. Here, you can buy wine and craft beers, sample the goods from local restaurants, take in some live music — all while shopping for locally grown produce and responsibly raised meat and poultry. June through September

Thursdays: Thursday Night Out. Downtown Oak Park restaurants and shops take it to the streets every Thursday in the summer for outdoor dining, discounts and live music. May through August.


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