Oak Park: The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

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Planning a trip to Oak Park? Looking for the ultimate visitor’s guide?

Oak Park tourism is booming, and it’s one exciting adventure to be here. There are many wonderful things to do and places in Oak Park, from the Ernest Hemingway Museum to the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and a lot more!

Welcome to the ultimate Oak Park tourism guide! If you are visiting Chicago, Oak Park is just a short ride by train and it’s a great destination for a day trip.

We’ve worked hard on this guide, so hope you’ll enjoy the read. With that said, it’s time to get out there and explore this fantastic village!

A Brief Look at Oak Park’s History

Located in Illinois, Oak Park is a few miles from downtown Chicago. Rich in heritage and noted legacies of Hemingway, Wright, and others, the town of Oak Park had once coined itself the World’s Largest Village.

Do you know that the village’s original inhabitants were Fox Indians, Potawatomi, and Sauk? Interesting.

This village was first named Oak Ridge as the land was covered with trees. Farmers used Oak Ridge as a stopping place while taking their produce into Chicago.

After the devastating Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the village population increased rapidly, and it was renamed, Oak Park.

In 1889 architect Frank Lloyd Wright settled here, and his work greatly influenced local architecture and designs.

Oak Park was formally established in 1902, after which rapid development over the years takes place.

Now this village has museums, public libraries, railroads, Oak Parks, boutiques, and restaurants. Not only this but Oak Park now becomes one of the best locations for tourism.

The Best Things to See and Do in Oak Park

Suppose you love creativity, conservatory, and history. In that case, you should travel to Oak Park as this place is home to beautiful architecture, art museums, an abundance of nature, and historical sites.

Read on for a list of the best Oak Park tourism sites. Or use our 2-day itinerary in Oak Park as a resource. It is a must-read when planning to travel to Oak Park. 

Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Museum

📍339 N. Oak Park Ave. | 💲16 for adults, 16 for children, 5 and under are free.

What do the art museum and Oak Park have in common? Ernest Hemingway. Yes, famous author Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and you can take a tour of his house where he was born. Plus, you can visit the museum dedicated to Hemingway, which displays rare photos and artifacts.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

📍951 Chicago Ave. | 💲20 – 30; children under 8 are not permitted.  

If you travel to Oak Park, do not miss the chance to visit the American prairie-style architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio.

On top of that, you get to explore other houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank’s home and the studio are some of the best Oak Park tourism sites.

Historic Architecture

Need more architecture? Oak Park is paradise to those inquisitive about learning American architecture and its history.

Besides Frank’s iconic work, all worth visiting, this village has historical buildings where famous American people once lived. 

Most of these homes are within a 5 minutes’ walk of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio.

1869 – FRANK M. PEEBLES HOUSE (The oldest home in Oak Park) | 📍1016 Erie Ave.

1870 – WILLIAM H. COPELAND HOUSE | 📍400 Forest Ave.

1892 – THOMAS & LAURA GALE HOUSE | 📍1027 Chicago Ave

1892 – ROBERT PARKER HOUSE | 📍1019 Chicago Ave

1893 – WALTER GALE HOUSE | 📍1031 Chicago Ave

1893 – FRANCIS WOOLEY HOUSE | 📍1030 Superior St

1894 – WINSLOW HOUSE | 📍515 Auvergne Pl, River Forest

1895 – NATHAN G MOORE HOUSE | 333 Forest Ave

1895 – CHAUNCEY WILLIAMS HOUSE | 📍530 North Edgewood Place, River Forest

1901 – FRANK W. THOMAS HOUSE | 📍210 Forest Ave.

1902 – ARTHUR HEURTLEY HOUSE | 📍318 Forest Ave.

1906 – PETER A. BEACH HOUSE | 📍238 Forest Ave.

1870 – WILLIAM H. COPELAND HOUSE | 📍400Forest Ave.

If you have time, take one of the self-guided walking tours to see the historic legacies of Frank and other well-noted structures.

You may also be interested in: Frank Lloyd Wright Souvenirs That You’ll Want to Gift

Oak Park Public Library

📍834 Lake St. | 💲Free

If you enjoy reading books, the public library is a perfect destination for you. It has a collection of books and offers events like digital learning labs, authors & book groups, and summer camps for kids that usually include reading activities.

The space is beautiful and reflects the spirit of Oak Park with its acorn light fixtures.

Unity Temple

📍875 Lake St. | 💲15 – 40

Considered to be a defining moment in Frank Lloyd Wright’s early career, Unity Temple (1905-08) was designed in the renowned architect’s Oak Park Studio for his own Unitarian congregation.

As one of the first public buildings in America to feature exposed concrete, this Prairie era masterwork has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and stands on the 20th Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright List.

Showcasing a stunningly harmonious blend of geometric architecture and decorative elements, Unity Temple truly epitomized Wright’s idea of organic design and thus, marked a fresh dawn in the world of modern architecture.

Oak Park Conservatory

📍615 Garfield St. | 💲Free (donations suggested)

If you love nature and want to spend some time with family, then the Oak Park Conservatory is the perfect place for you to visit.

The conservatory is another historical site that offers three different miracle showrooms: Tropical, Mediterranean, and the Desert Room where you will discover interesting plant species that you have never seen before.

You can enjoy diverse outdoor activities in the city and nearby. From fishing to bike riding to treetop adventure to skydive. Here are recommendations that bring family fun through adventure and activities. Some are among the best summer events in Oak Park.

  • Write Plus Architectural House Walk
  • Oak Park River Forest Garden Walk
  • Art in the Park
  • Oaktoberfest
  • Winterfest Cookie Walk
  • Oak Park Festival Theater (Austin Gardens)

Go Shopping

Shopaholic? Well, the village has dozens of unique and super cool stores where you can shop small in your pastime.  At Lake Street, browse for boutiques, fashion outlets, department stores, and bookstores.

The Book Table offers a superb selection of books in just about every genre, and magazines not commonly found. This indie bookstore is giving Amazon a run for their money!

Say “Bonjour!” to the Careful Peach Boutique It is the answer to your upscale, French shopping dreams for kitchenware, wines, cookbooks, candles, linens, condiments, soaps, and more. They have a little bit of everything!

Don’t miss the Pumpkin Moon for Pez dispensers, geeky t-shirts, toys, fun magnets, gadgets, or gifts!

Stop at Scratch & Sniff and browse the isles for an hour to accumulate lots of cute things for your fur baby or yourself. They have interesting and unique gift items, pet supplies, retro accessories, and home decor.

All these stores’ services are enough to take care of your shopping and gift-giving needs. You’ll find most stores at Lake and Marion Streets, Lake and Oak Park Ave., or in the Arts District on Harrison Ave east of Ridgeland St.

Where to Stay

There are a couple of hotels and a selection of private homes where you can stay. Below are our recommendations for a comfortable visit.

visit-oak-park
Credit: Booking .com

The Carleton

📍1110 Pleasant St

Carleton of Oak Park is in the historical district, within a 5-minute drive of Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and Concordia University Chicago. Featured amenities include a business center, express check-in, and express check-out.

visit-oak-park
Credit Booking.com

Harvey House

📍107 South Scoville Ave

Harvey House Bed & Breakfast is within a 15-minute drive of Douglas Park and Humboldt Park. Featured amenities include a business center, express check-in, and express check-out. Self-parking is available onsite.

Best Places to Eat in Oak Park

After you explore the village, you will probably get hungry and need some good, tasty food.

This cultural village has a thriving dining scene including Mexican, American cuisine, Mediterranean, traditional French dishes, vegan and gluten-free cuisine, deep-dish pizzas, and European fare and steaks.

The Chicken Louie pasta at Lou Malnati’s contains juicy pieces of chicken with fettuccine wrapped in a warm cream sauce and baked with mozzarella. If you haven’t tried a deep-dish pizza from Chicago, start with one from Lou’s.

Enjoy the outdoor patio and well-pronounced Italian flavors at Il Vicolo Trattoria. The pasta is so good you will feel as though you are dining on the coast of Naples.

Poor Phil’s is rich in ambiance and seafood cuisine. You’ll love the blackened catfish po’boy, oysters, crab cake, or fish & chips with a cold one from the tap.

For Asian fare, Katy’s Dumplings where the dumplings are made by hand and the potstickers are a must.

New Pot is the best local spot for amazing Thai cuisine. The food portions are generous and the crispy, crunchy, soft, and chewy texture of spring rolls topped with the peanut sauce will have you coming back for more.

Sugar Fixe Patisserie is perfect for confectionary treats. Try one of their gorgeous apple tarts or colorful macaroons.

Courageous Bakery & Cafe is great for breakfast, brunch, or a sweet reward. Dive into their Cinnamon Roll French Toast and get a few creative cupcakes to-go.

Kick back after a morning stroll at Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea. The inside alone is worth a visit for an Instagram-able moment.

This cafe will raise your latte game with options like Vosges Chocolate Truffle Mocha, Sticky Chai Latte, and Frothy Monkey. On the blog, you’ll find some of the best Oak Park restaurants that we recommend along with our favorite dishes.

Moreover, you can buy freshly baked goods and locally grown vegetables from the Farmer’s Market held every Saturday from May to October.

Once you visit this town, there are so many things to do that you won’t want to leave.

More Things to do Near Oak Park

Go Ape Treetop Zipline and Adventure Park

📍 1100 Ogden Ave, Western Springs

While planning your trip, book your zipline course and treetop adventure beforehand. Go Ape is a chain of outdoor activities where groups explore treetops and fly around on multiple zip lines from exciting heights. 

It’s a fun-filled experience that includes activities like tree-to-tree crossing, tackle dangling obstacles, monkey drop, and ax throwing. 

Discover Schiller Woods

📍 Irving Park Rd and Cumberland Ave, Chicago

Schiller Woods has good options for visitors when it comes to accommodation, recreational facilities, parks, and restaurants.

Located along the Des Plaines Trail, Schiller Woods is a diverse natural habitat that includes sedge meadows, remnant prairie, wooded areas, and wetlands.

However, you can do many outdoor activities when exploring Schiller Woods, such as kite flying, fishing, bicycling, cross-country skiing, sledding, hiking, and walking. Also, Schiller Woods has accessible indoor and portable bathrooms and parking amenities.

Final Thoughts About Visiting Oak Park

If you plan to travel to Oak Park, don’t miss out on the architectural and historic gems that we’ve covered.

It’s a small town that delivers big surprises.

Travel to the best Oak Park tourism sites to make some memories that will last a lifetime. The longer the stay at Oak Park, the more this place has to reveal.


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6 Comments

  1. Rebecca McKellips says:

    The Frank Lloyd Wright house looks so cool, I toured one in Buffalo and the way he manipulates the light is absolutely amazing!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      His designs are amazing. I was mesmerized with Taliesin West in Arizona.

  2. Jamie Sharpe says:

    This is a cool alternative to Chicago, I’d encourage everyone to give Oak Park a visit!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      Thank you, we think so too 🙂

  3. I love that this area has so much heritage surrounding it, it always makes places more interesting for me. It looks like a very pretty area to visit!

    1. Tanya Taylor says:

      It’s a lovely village and just 20 to 30 minutes by train from Chicago.