Hyde Park Favorites

hyde park favorites map


1. The Point

The crown jewel of Hyde Park. On a clear day, the view north from the Point is surely one of the two or three best possible views of downtown Chicago — when the sky and water are at their bluest, it can be breathtaking, and even on the most wretchedly hot day it can be comfortably breezy there by the lake. ~Professor Dan Arnold

My favorite place in Hyde Park is the Point. The walk along the lake is gorgeous. Probably many colleagues will say this too,  but that’s my favorite place here. ~Professor Françoise Meltzer

I am thinking of the exact moment when, walking or running on the lakefront, going north around the point, all of a sudden the skyline of our city comes into view. I probably have hundreds of pictures of it, each of which is different, given the time of day, the season, the light, the cloud cover, the wildly variable colors of the lake, etc. They can’t quite capture the way that moment always makes me catch my breath a bit, at the conjunction of nature and culture, the fiercely independent environment and the human creations and intrusions, and the amazing beauty of where I live. ~Professor Margaret Mitchell

2. Lakefront trails

When I visited Chicago to look for an apartment, I fell in love with East Hyde Park. The area boasts many green spaces and paths for running, and I enjoy walking along Lake Michigan. I recently adopted a puppy (pictured), so we often go out quite early for a morning walk and catch the sunrise. There are many lovely spots near 57th and 63rd street beaches to bring a picnic and read. ~Professor Erin Walsh

3. Japanese Garden (Garden of the Phoenix)

A gem that’s widely appreciated but never crowded. On a nice day, one is apt to see people engaged in outdoor portrait photography, families picnicking in the azumaya (viewing pavilion or gazebo), dogs delighting in being walked over the steeply arched bridges, solitary readers, and couples walking hand-in-hand, with the stately Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) across the water in the background. ~Professor Dan Arnold

I hugely like the Japanese Garden in Jackson Park. The most beautiful parts of it are normally closed off at the moment, but one can peep through the fence and still enjoy the sight. The garden and surrounding park with lake offer a beautiful and quiet escape from the daily hectic. ~Professor Karin Krause

4. Wooded Isle

In these (Bobolink Meadow and) the Wooded Isle) wonderful, almost-wild spaces, it’s sometimes possible to forget you’re in a city. Along with the Japanese Garden and the MSI building, these glorious aspects of Jackson Park are among the best legacies of the 1893 World’s Fair. In connection with the World’s Fair, lots of people newly arrived in Chicago enjoy reading Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, which is rich with local color pertaining not only to a sociopathic serial killer who preyed on people brought to town by the Fair, but also to Frederick Law Olmstead’s and Daniel Burnham’s challenges in conceiving and realizing their vision for Jackson Park — a great read. ~Professor Dan Arnold

5. Bobolink Meadow

Bobolink Meadow is part of a network of 170 acres of natural areas within Jackson Park. The land containing Bobolink Meadow was created prior to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago when lakeshore marshes were filled in order to create Jackson Park. In the decades following the Exposition the land was used for athletic fields, ncluding baseball diamonds and tennis courts, and in the 1950s and 1960s, was then used by U.S. Army for the storage of Nike missiles. 

In 1982, the meadow was designated as a natural area and named after the bobolink, a bird native to Illinois that birders hoped the natural area would one day attract. In 1989, additional restoration efforts attempted to establish native ecosystems on the thin layer of topsoil placed over the limestone and foundations from the Nike missile base. A mulch trail was installed through the meadow in 2005, and a new overlook on the northern end that provides views across the East Lagoon to the Japanese Garden and wooded island was installed in 2015.

6. Jackson Park

There is also a trail in Jackson Park just south of the grounds of the Museum of Science and Industry (the Japanese gardens have their own charm). You can simply walk, have a picnic, observe bikers and other walkers, take pictures, or engage in an aimless and quick run or jaunt out into the open space. It is rather quiet and isolated so it can be an escape from noise and too many people.  ~Professor Curtis Evans

I love to go for walks in Jackson Park, especially to circumambulate the lagoons just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. Usually I start on the eastern shore of Columbia Basin to watch the geese, then make my way south through the Bobolink Meadow (5), which is a great location from which to watch birds, insects, and humans (for even better views, bring a pair of binoculars). I then cross the bridge into the Wooded Island (4)  and walk up through the narrower paths to see if I can catch a glimpse of a hummingbird or some butterflies, before making it to the Garden of the Phoenix, a glorious little Japanese garden (3) with lily pads, koi, and expansive views of the lagoons and the museum. For an extra treat, cross the flooded underpass just east of the museum parking lot to the quiet pier that stretches out into Lake Michigan. ~Professor Alireza Doostar

7. 63rd St. Beach and Beach house

I suppose anywhere on the Lake Shore would be a special place for me, but the Point and the Beachhouse on 63rd have pride of place. I love walking out on the L Shaped pier near 63. Often, I just take pictures and revel in the beauty. I find it so peaceful and calming, especially hearing the sound of waves lapping up against the rocks and the concrete surface. Peering out into the lake leaves one with a feeling of unboundedness as if there is an infinite extension of water, space, and a big blue sky. Sometimes I just close my eyes and savor that feeling of reverie and freedom.  ~Professor Curtis Evans

8. 61st St Farmers’ Market

I can't resist adding one more neighborhood location, on the other end of Hyde Park, because it's such a treasure at this time of year in particular.  On Saturday mornings in the summer and fall, the Farmer's Market on 61st and Kenwood is a regular destination for my family. The market was organized to bring fresh produce into an underserved neighborhood, to offer business opportunities for urban farmers, and to bring neighbors together outdoors--all of which is lovely and well worth supporting--and then, there's the particular delight of getting to know the bakers, cheesemakers, farmers, and beekeepers who supply us with such goodness all season long. For such a compact market--just a block long--the variety is astounding. The corner grocery store in the small town where I grew up boasted that they had "everything from soup to nuts."  This market offers both soup (two homemade varieties every week) and nuts-and also meat, fish, eggs, cheese, honey, spices, teas, vegetables, herbs, fruits, and Pleasant House breakfast and lunch pies.  The market's open til October 31, and then migrates inside the Experimental Station (at the same address)  for the winter months. ~Professor Cynthia G Lindner

9. Plaisance

The Midway is the lakefront’s lesser sibling – to get to know it is to discover a distinctive personality.  You will find that it rubs up against Washington Park and the DuSable Museum on the west and the Museum of Science and Industry and the Japanese Gardens on the east; plenty of University buildings frame it on 59th and 60th Streets.  At sunrise and sunset the refracted light plays gorgeous games with the limestone facades and the trees. Its midsection is a testament to spectacular failure: you can glimpse in those leftover immense, now grassy troughs the river it was intended to be at the Chicago World’s Fair (the planners wrongly projected that they could funnel water from Lake Michigan).  Now they are fields for soccer and football and ultimate frisbee matches, and occasionally for tae kwon do.  The Midway is city property, so it’s a place where being on the southside really means it: on hold right now (mostly) are barbecues and picnics, and in most summers weekend nights feature outdoor film viewings and music.  The Midway is also The World’s Most Spectacular Natural Wind Tunnel, so in the winter there is ice-skating and occasional sledding (for the adventurous very young).  Bonus: it has at its west end an unintended tribute to graduate education, Lorenzo Taft’s Fountain of Time, to which you are escorted via a garden dedicated to the remarkable sociologist Allison Davis. ~Professor Rick Rosengarten

10. The Quad

The Quad, early evening, in the winter. Chicago winters are not for the faint of heart. Walking home through the Quad, with snow around you, almost makes up for it. ~Professor Ryan Coyne

11. The Medici

The graffiti-covered booths at the Medici, 57th between Kenwood and Kimbark. The food there is fine. According to my own highly scientific research, it tastes better when you're sitting in one of the booths. ~Professor Ryan Coyne

12. Bixler Park

Even when Hyde Park is locked down, the neighbors near Bixler Park on 57th kept the far end of the park’s wide section beautiful. There is a tiny grape arbor and a looping path of native plants, and a stand of corn to remind you that you are in the Midwest. ~Professor Laurie Zoloth

13. Powell’s Books

Powell's Books, 57th and Harper.  Still the best used bookstore in the country, hands down. ~Professor Ryan Coyne

14. 55th St Courtyard (Ascione Bistro)

I do not really have a favorite spot in Hyde Park. I like to walk around and notice different things along the way, new flowerpots, a tree knocked down by a storm, a garden newly designed, different curtains behind the windows. When the kids were little and we would drive back from downtown, they would always want me to go down 53rd street just to see what had changed there. I still do that as my default GPS direction when I am in the car. Seeing Hyde Park mostly on the move, therefore, either walking or driving, and sometimes on the bike, I am sure there is also much that escapes my attention. But there is a spot that has become more interesting to me recently and that is the little courtyard on 55thstreet. Thanks to the efforts of the new restaurant Ascione, it now has an outdoor terrace, which makes all the difference to that courtyard, providing a Mediterranean oasis in the urban landscape of Hyde Park. It is a wonderful place to hang out for lunch, as it allows you to look at all the different passers-by: the folks who go to the post office, those who go in to get their fix of a French éclair at Bonjour café, or just the shoppers on their way to Trader Joe’s. Hyde Park is generally not much for congregating, as most people tend to be on their way somewhere. But this is a place to linger and treasure the lingering. Let’s hope we can do it till deep in the fall. ~Professor Willemien  Otten

15. Nichols Park

Keep walking north [from Bixler Park] and you will find another wild garden in the park across from Target on 53rd. Visiting these two small, lovely places on a walk reminds you of the quotidian grace of gardens, the changing seasons of Plains flora, and the loving care of neighbors who silently volunteer to make this all happen. When the Lakefront was closed all summer, we turned from its spectacular, showboating surf and sand to these quieter places. They are even nice in winter, with snow on the branches, white on wet black crossings.  ~Professor Laurie Zoloth

16. Florence Stout Park

Florence Stout Park, 54th and Greenwood. There's a hill there. An actual hill. In Chicago. It's tiny, but still. You can go sledding. ~Professor Ryan Coyne

17. Hyde Park Records

Anyone who finds record stores to be intrinsically congenial spaces will appreciate this dilapidated store, whose front window (and also its sidewalk on a nice day) is usually chockablock with pop-cultural artifacts of all sorts — figurines of Langston Hughes or Billie Holiday, perhaps, along with 70’s funk albums and back issues of Jet and maybe a couple of record players. The store’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the years, but within the last decade or so it has come to enjoy a steady reputation as one of Chicago’s better record stores (https://www.timeout.com/chicago/shopping/the-12-best-record-stores-in-chicago), widely recognized as having particular strengths in Soul, R&B, and hip-hop on vinyl. The store also has a decent selection of CD’s (it’s not the kind of place where you probably won’t find a particular thing you’re looking for, but where you’re nonetheless likely to find something of interest), as well as DVD’s, used books and magazines, and, increasingly, vintage audio gear — if you need an amplifier or a turntable or a pair of speakers for your new apartment, you just might find something here. ~Professor Dan Arnold

18. Kenwood Community Park

Technically, I think, the neighborhood places that first come to mind for me might lie just outside "Hyde Park" proper. As someone who spent many years working and raising my family (as well as annual flower and vegetable gardens)  in the Pacific Northwest, I am particularly fond of our neighborhood's abundant green spaces--the parks, community gardens, and tree-lined streets--and the sense of community and neighborliness that are evident there. We live just a block from Kenwood Community Park, adjacent to Shoesmith Elementary School, a spacious three-block expanse that  serves as our neighborhood's front yard. There are playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, and some absolutely massive oak trees--all sorts of folks visit regularly to play sports or cheer on the neighborhood kids, to bbq or picnic, walk dogs, throw a frisbee, or read in the shade. The ice cream truck makes regular appearances on summer afternoons, school kids come and go in fall and spring, the school is a polling place during election season (the Obamas voted here during the primary and election that made Barack our president) and fascinating political discussions are often on offer.  I love the complexity and diversity of the South Side, and our parks are a rich resource for bringing us all together. ~Professor Cynthia G Lindner

19. Blackstone Library

If I can have two recommendations, I'd add that the Chicago Public Library, including the Blackstone branch (4904 S. Lake Park Avenue) is also a wonderful resource.  I'm particularly fond of their e-books and audiobooks available for free checkout with a library card.  It is wonderful to have more books available on a snowy night (or during the pandemic).  I've been making my way through Louise Penny's series of murder mysteries about Inspector Gamache, set in a village outside Montreal.  I also appreciated My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography. ~Professor Sarah Fredericks

20. Pebble Beach

“Pebble beach” some quarter of a mile north (just beyond 51 St), is one of the many good places to swim in the lake that always for me holds the memory of how a friend said puppies should just be thrown in when very young to get used to swimming. When we acted on this advice our 8 week old black lab, Milo (who passed away last year at a venerable 14+ years after a grand life) emphatically disagreed, and I can still hear his yelps and conjure his j’accuse looks as he ran back up onto the beach and into the arms of our daughter Katie every time I walk past there. ~Professor Margaret Mitchell

21. Washington Park

Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in the 1870’s, Washington park with its broad, tree-lined paths and  sweeping willow trees feels almost European, a bit like Munich’s English Garden, although without the nude sunbathers, biergartens and surfing.  In early spring the lawns are carpeted in azure snow glories.  After a long grey winter, waves of blue spread across the sloping fields.  It’s enough to choke you up. At the park’s southern center a series of lagoons and marshes, small bridges and narrow footpaths send you off the main paths and into the brush.  If you head deep enough, it is almost possible to feel lost, at least for a moment,  until a car horn, a siren, or a laughing child remind you that city life still surrounds you. ~Professor Sarah Hammerschlag

Other Hyde Park favorites

Little free libraries

While the lakefront is one of my favorite places in Hyde Park, I imagine that many people will sing its praises (the beauty, wide open spaces, ability to appreciate the changing seasons with migrating birds, butterflies and changing lake color, etc.), but I'd like to direct you to something probably less well known -- the Little Free Libraries.  In multiple front yards in Hyde Park, our neighbors have set up these small libraries, about the size of a suitcase, constructed to look like a little house.  Anyone may take a book or leave a book.  Many times while walking around the neighborhood I've come across a wonderful novel or book of nonfiction right when I've needed one.  The libraries also provide a convenient spot to leave a surprise book for a neighbor when you are done with it.  I frequent those around the corner of 54th and Dorchester -- there are 3 in a tight radius -- though several more dot the neighborhood.  See https://littlefreelibrary.org/ourmap/ for more information.  ~Professor Sarah Fredericks

Harper street Halloween festivities

Harper Avenue, between 57th and 59th, each Halloween between 4pm and 7pm. They close down the street, and every kid in the neighborhood is out trick-or-treating. There's a guy named Greg who lives on the block. Each year he builds a big structure in the middle of the road. A few years back, he built a Giant Red-Eyed Chicken with Flaming Nostrils that doubled as a small haunted house. . ~Professor Ryan Coyne