This little suburb, which lies just outside Chicago’s western border, is one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the city. It’s easy enough to get to via driving or the CTA (take the green line to the end) and, despite its close proximity to Chicago, a day spent in Oak Park browsing the little shops and admiring the beautiful, old Victorian homes can feel like a mini getaway. The pace is slower, and the downtown district has a distinctly small town charm while still offering plenty to see and do.
This past weekend, Eric and I ventured here on something of a whim. I’ve been feeling rather homesick lately for Vermont and my family there, and needed a little escape. We headed to Oak Park and were pleasantly surprised to find the season in full swing with Home for the Holidays, a free, old-fashioned Christmas event.
It was fun to watch the excitement from all the little ones as they enjoyed the carolers and horse-drawn sleigh rides down Marion Street.
We ducked in and out of the many little shops to browse and defrost our toes. There are a number of larger chain stores, including one of my favorites, Paper Source.
But there are also quite a few locally owned shops that shouldn’t be missed, including these:
If you’re like me and you have Apartment Therapy bookmarked in your internet browser, Update Interiors is definitely a store for you. They have everything from beautiful place settings and candles, to funky holiday decorations.
Oak Park was once the home of two very famous artists: writer Ernest Hemingway and architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The more you explore, the more evident the distinct imprint these two men left on this little midwestern community becomes.
Wright was commissioned to create quite a few homes here, and his trademark ‘Prairie Style’ stands out among the many old Victorian mansions in the historic district.How pretty are these holiday decorations?
There are daily tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Workshop, though Eric and I opted just to walk around the area and explore for ourselves. While I admire his work, I think I’d much prefer a beautiful victorian with a wrap around porch.
Even if you aren’t familiar with Hemingway’s work, the tour itself is so interesting, if only because you get to glimpse what life was like at the turn of the century. Admission is very reasonable, and gains you access to not only the house, but the museum up the street for that same day, as well as any other day within the next year.
Our guide, Michelle, has been working at the site for over eight years and had some very interesting stories to share about the house itself and its infamous occupants.
If you find yourself needing a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, definitely hop over to Oak Park and look around.
Fellow Chicagoans, where do you go when you need a day away?