The lakefront neighborhood of Hyde Park is home to top museums, quaint shops, mom-and-pop restaurants and the University of Chicago. The result? An eclectic blend of history and culture peppered with modern elements—all wrapped up in a Lake Michigan breeze.
Hyde Park gained prominence as the former home of the Obama family, but it was hardly the first time the area had been in the national spotlight.
The neighborhood hosted the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and in the 20th century, it rose to fame as an important cultural, historical and political hub of African-American culture.
To get there, hop on the Metra Electric Line at Millennium Station to the Hyde Park/53rd stop at the north end, or to 55th-56th-57th on the south end. Several bus lines also run to the neighborhood, including 2 Hyde Park Express, 6 Jackson Park Express and 10 Museum of Science and Industry.
Where to Eat and Drink
A Hyde Park staple—and a favorite of U of C students and professors—Medici on 57th (1327 E. 57th St., 773.667.7394) serves classic, casual fare like burgers, pizza and sandwiches, with a BYOB policy that makes it extra affordable.
Dine on modern American food cooked in a wood-fired oven at The Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W, 312.801.2100), then head upstairs to catch live music, DJs, dance parties and other events.
The bright, airy Plein Air Café (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., 773.966.7531) serves top-tier coffee alongside sandwiches, bowls and toasts in a sleek space.
French classics abound at the elegant La Petite Folie (1504 E. 55th St., 773.493.1394), including steak au poivre, wild-mushroom crepes and a chocolate-hazelnut torte.
For classic diner food, visit Valois Restaurant (1518 E. 53rd St., 773.667.0647), a cash-only, counter service-spot that's a favorite of former President Barack Obama.
Classic dive bar Woodlawn Tap (1172 E. 55th St., 773.643.5516), another cash-only-establishment, is a popular hangout for U of C students and is the perfect spot for laid-back drinks.
Where to Shop
Peruse the stacks at indie bookstore 57th Street Books (1301 E. 57th St., 773.684.1300), home to a well-curated selection of popular fiction, kids' books, cookbooks and genre novels. Sister shop Seminary Co-op Bookstore (5751 S. Woodlawn Ave., 773.752.4381) is renowned for its vast selection of academic titles.
Music fans can spend hours in Hyde Park Records (1377 E. 53rd St., 773.288.6588), which houses a vast selection of new and used records, CDs, DVDs and more.
The Silver Umbrella (5305 S. Hyde Park Blvd., 773.675.6114), a consignment and vintage store, houses a curated collection of gently used designer clothing, furniture and books.
It might take some digging, but thrifty shoppers are often sweetly rewarded at Encore Resale Shop (1553 E. Hyde Park Blvd., 773.324.1111), a nonprofit resale clothing store with goods for children and adults.
Stock up on housewares, kitchen gadgets and other culinary supplies at the locally owned Freehling Pot & Pan (1365 E. 53rd St., 773.643.8080).
What to Do
The lakefront is a cornerstone of this neighborhood, so don't miss Promontory Point (5491 South Shore Drive), a man-made peninsula that extends into the water at 55th Street, where you can catch sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.
Architecture buffs, be sure to tour the historically significant Robie House (5757 S. Woodlawn Ave., 312.994.4000). Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it's one of the best examples of Prairie-style architecture and is considered one of Wright's finest works.
Hyde Park is home to a variety of museums, including the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Place, 773.947.0600), which houses one of the largest collections of African-American art, history and culture in the country.
Find more than 15,000 works of art at the Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Ave., 773.702.0200), the U of C's art museum, with pieces ranging from ancient Asian art to innovative contemporary works. (Bonus: it's free.)
The Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, 773.684.1414) is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. It boasts interesting, interactive exhibits that showcase the many aspects of science.