LINCOLN PARK AND OLD TOWN STAYCATION / VACATION
I love traveling for work and pleasure and I love coming home. I’m either never satisfied or always satisfied, depending upon how you look at it. Home is Chicago, more specifically the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and I’m constantly straying into nearby Old Town.
This post isn’t a “Best of” post: first off, I haven’t tried all my options in Lincoln Park and Old Town and second; even if I had, who am I to judge? (actually, my tastes are impeccable). It’s just a compilation of my regular haunts and favorite things to do that I highly recommend to others whether they’re visiting the area or they’re a local.
WHERE TO STAY IN LINCOLN PARK AND OLD TOWN
The three hotels in the neighborhoods that I would recommend differ significantly from one another.
PUBLIC: PUBLIC, a luxury boutique hotel conceived by Ian Schrager, is the place to see and be seen of the three properties. Maximalist lobby, minimalist rooms. My favorite part? The multiple comfortable public spaces to relax and sip a cup of coffee, use the computer, cocktail it up or just people-watch. Who knows? You might run into a celebrity at 2:00 a.m.
Pop downstairs (whether you’re a guest or not) to look at the black and white photos of celebrities at play at the famous former Pump Room during its heyday. 1301 N. State Parkway
Hotel Lincoln: While PUBLIC is frenetic and flashy, the Hotel Lincoln has a more laid-back, retro (eclectic) vibe. The location — close to restaurants, shops and across the street from the actual Lincoln Park — is the best of this bunch for exploring Lincoln Park. This hipster property doesn’t take itself too seriously (a good thing): pets are welcome and the Wall of Bad Art (stop in and see it even if you don’t stay here) is refreshingly kitsch. 1816 N. Clark Street
Villa D’Citta Boutique Mansion: Villa D’Citta is the quiet, romantic choice. I have seen it only from the outside (the place looks stately) but online reviewers have ranked it #1 of 25 B&Bs in Chicago. Former guests rave over the hospitality extended, fresh-baked goods from the gourmet kitchen, and the wine-on-tap. They really like that wine-on-tap. 2230 N. Halsted Street
FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN LINCOLN PARK AND OLD TOWN
The most well-known attractions in Lincoln Park and Old Town are the Steppenwolf Theatre, Second City, the actual Lincoln Park and the Lincoln Park Zoo. My recommendations for the best less-obvious things to do follow.
SpaceTime Tanks: I haven’t yet tried the light/sound machine or the “vibroacoustic bed” (they’re on my list) but I highly recommend spending a deeply relaxing hour floating in one of their sensory deprivation tanks for a change of pace. 2526 N. Lincoln Avenue
Midwest Buddhist Temple: After walking by this temple and its pretty grounds for years I finally worked-up the nerve to attend the Sunday service in English. I felt welcome, enjoyed the sermon (if that’s what it’s called) on Buddhism and found the entire experience interesting (although I could have done with less chanting). I’ve gone once since, and I will likely go again. If you like gongs you’ll love this place. 435 W. Menomonee Street
Fit Foot: Many a summer Saturday morning I will hoof-it to Fit Foot (stopping for quiche at Floriole Cafe & Bakery along the way) for a full one-hour foot and body massage. This place is sans frills: you’re clothed and lying in a sterile room with a bunch of other people (but I actually prefer it to the cucumber-water-Enya-playing-what-size-slippers-do-you-wear? high-end spa bullshit routine). A treatment costs only $28 (plus give a big tip). I recommend Wendy as a therapist. 1459 W. Fullerton Avenue
International Museum of Surgical Science: As an appreciator of architecture and sucker for bizarre museums, I’m a big fan of the IMSS. Housed in a nearly 100-year-old mansion, the exhibits, based on historical themes and surgical disciplines, make you glad that you’re living (and dying) in modern times. The contemporary anatomy-themed gallery is also cool. 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive
Lincoln Park Home Walk: My own recommended one-hour walking tour of the most unique contemporary homes and McMansions (valued as high as $18 million) in the neighborhood. Starts at 953 W. Willow Street
Elks Veterans Memorial: I don’t think it occurs to many locals that this memorial is open to the public most days of the week, much of the year. Chances are you’ll have the friezes, statues, murals and grand rooms all to yourself. Don’t miss the photos in the room in the basement. The photo below is of the Grand Reception Room, which features a mural of the Feast of Mount Olympus, an abundance of gold leafing, all hand-carved wood, and door knobs with itty-bitty elk heads etched into them. 2750 N. Lakeview Avenue
p.s. Proud to be the daughter of an Elk and first-round winner (10/25, underhand style) of the National Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest.
Astor Street Walk: Lincoln Park has Burling Street; Old town has Astor. Astor Street (named after John Jacob Astor) is home to Chicago’s most expensive, elaborate and stunning 19th-century homes. Take this walk right around dusk for glimpses of the decor inside them. Start at North Avenue and Astor Street
Read my next post for where to eat, have a drink, or just hang-out in Lincoln Park and Old Town.