Hyde Park is out of the way for the average trip to Chicago. There are a few reasons to make the trek (I’m a Northsider – it’s a trek!). My number one reason to encourage visitors to make of day it is to get you out of downtown and into a real Chicago neighborhood.
Hyde Park is best known of the University of Chicago, Jackson Park – which was home to the 1893 World’s Fair, and the Obama’s. The best part – this neighborhood has something for everyone!
The 500 – acre park was the home of the 1893 World’s Fair. The park was built to hold the Fair. One of the original aspects of the fair included a Japanese garden, which still exists today. A walk through the Garden of the Phoenix is a must. To get a great view of downtown head up to Promontory Point. This area also has grills and picnic areas, and (BONUS!) bathrooms!
The Museum of Science and Industry sits inside the park and is the last remaining building from the World’s Fair. It’s also a must see. (Keep reading – more below.)
On the east side of Lake Shore Jackson Park is also home to 57th Street Beach and 63rd Street Beach. Chicago beaches are a great way to spend some time on a nice day. It’s not usually recommended to go in the water until about July 4th.
Hyde Park is some a serious number of museums. I am a particular fan of the smaller, neighborhood museums and seek them out when traveling. While not all of these fit into that category, they are worth checking out.
Museum of Science and Industry
This place has something for everyone – and is especially great for kids. Exhibits hit on history, science, technology, and innovation. Highlights include the science of storms and a German U-505 submarine – the only German sub in the United States.
I have to think Daniel Burnham is pretty pissed about the high rise right behind the museum. Despite leaving most of his park, and one of his World’s Fair buildings intact, the view is not as intended.
Tour this Frank Lloyd Wright House located on the University of Chicago campus.
Featuring exhibits stretching the art and archaeology of the ancient Near East, this museum is right off the main quad of the University of Chicago campus. The museum was started by a university professor with funds donated by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
SMART Museum of Art
Also located on the University of Chicago campus has rotating exhibits, plus a permanent collection of over 15,000 objects. Admission is free.
DuSable Museum of African American History
Just west of the University campus, the museum is home to African American history and culture in the United States, with a focus on Chicago.
The neighborhood is a haven for bookworms. As if the University proximity wasn’t a giveaway already. If you love independent bookstores be prepared to peruse some shelves. Just take a walk down 57th Street on the way to the campus to hit the best spots.
New and used books on every subject imaginable, shelves are floor to ceiling. Don’t worry – there are ladders so you reach the high shelves.
57th Street Books
In the basement of an apartment building, this bookstore has low ceilings, and room after room of books. You won’t want to miss the children’s section either. But don’t worry – you can’t miss it. You’ll want to pick up some books, pull up some carpet and stay awhile. There are chairs and tables stashed throughout in case you need to sit down and start reading immediately. Plus a section in the front featuring Chicago authors and newsmakers.
Seminary Co-op Bookshop
I don’t even know how to describe this bookstore. It’s massive and a little like wandering through a library, but the stacks are all books for sale instead. I ran across titles that should have come up for me in searches for books on Amazon and other sites. I could have wandered for hours. Luckily there is a café onsite in case you decide to do that.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago’s campus is a designated botanical garden and features Gothic architecture around the main quadrangle of the campus.
Harper Memorial Library is known for its Gothic architecture and the reading room that will make you think you walked into a building on the grounds of Oxford or Cambridge. Or Hogwarts.
Wander the quad and buildings while visiting all the museums in the area. You may find yourself rethinking all the decision you made that didn’t bring you here for undergrad.
Oh – did you want to eat while there? Okay.
Plein Air Café
Remember I said the Seminary Co-op has a café? This is it.
Local neighborhood coffee shop
Medici on 57th
Next to above – pizza, burgers, etc. plus patio seating.
B’Gabs Vegan Scratch Kitchen
Vegan, gluten, and soy free – I will always find you!
Did I mention Hyde Park is kind of a big neighborhood?
Drinks on 53rd Street
Dinner and drinks (also on 53rd Street)
Getting to Hyde Park
There are a few ways to get to and from Hyde Park. If you have a car while visiting it’s a short drive Lake Shore Drive from the Loop. Which also makes it a short Uber or Lyft ride. You can also take Metra from Millennium Station in Loop. A round trip ticket is about $8 making it a much better deal than rideshare. But you need to time the trains – Metra is our commuter train and doesn’t run as often as the L.