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Moonlit view of the Northwestern University campus on the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston, Illinois

Illinois

Evanston, Illinois: Refined City Life on Chicago’s North Shore

By: Christi Womack

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    Illinois

Drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline or take an easy train ride from downtown Chicago to discover Evanston, a university town with urbane appeal.

Home to Northwestern University, the North Shore region is a collective haven for arts and culture. Admire a lighthouse, unique gardens and museums, the scenic stretch of lakefront beaches and lovely historic homes. Beyond its beauty, Evanston’s culinary scene will fill your travel itinerary with delicious meals and treats.

North Shore Arts and Culture

Steps from Lake Michigan, start a cultural tour at picturesque Northwestern University and view 16 outdoor sculptures on the Block Museum Campus Art Walk. Inside the free public art museum, visit three galleries with rotating exhibits and see a 5,000-item permanent collection of artwork by the likes of Andy Warhol, Mary Cassatt and Edward Steichen. Take a six-minute drive to the new Halim Time & Glass Museum and join a one-hour tour of massive stained-glass window masterpieces, artwork by L.C. Tiffany and 1,100 timepieces dating to the 1600s. Next, take a five-minute drive to a National Historic Landmark, the Charles Gates Dawes House, a 25-room lakefront mansion that was the home of former U.S. Vice President Charles Gates Dawes, the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Admire the oak, cherry wood and marble finishes, and count all 12 fireplaces on a docent-led tour. End a day of exploration in the intimate setting of Evanston SPACE, a late-night music hall and recording studio featuring shows in a variety of genres by renowned artists and up-and-coming performers.

The Dawes House, a 25-room mansion that is a National Historic Landmark

The Dawes House, a 25-room mansion that is a National Historic Landmark
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Beaches to Gardens

Naturally, the Lake Michigan shoreline ranks as a top draw in Evanston. Park grounds surrounding another national landmark, the Grosse Point Lighthouse, serve as a beacon for both history and outdoors lovers. Traverse trails on foot or by bicycle, explore wildflower and butterfly gardens, and dip your toes into the lake. Tours of the 1874 lighthouse are available Saturdays and Sundays from June to September. Go to the Northwestern University Sailing Center to try sailing, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. Rent a boat, take a class, or join a group outing. Wind down, or play a game of volleyball. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the expansive sandy beach at Centennial Park, which is just a few blocks from downtown Evanston hotels. Look south, and you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Chicago skyline.

Calming yoga session in a park with views of Lake Michigan

Calming yoga session in a park with views of Lake Michigan
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Foodie Favorites

Seeing the best of Evanston’s cultural and outdoor treasures requires time-outs to enjoy the local flavors. At the Found Kitchen & Social House, savor farm-to-table New American cuisine that changes with the seasons and the availability of items from area farmers. The menu, which the owners call “flexitarian,” might include butternut squash flatbread, chicken thighs and quinoa, and pecan date cake. Prepare to raise a pint to toast the inventive take on comfort food served at the Peckish Pig, Evanston’s first brewpub. Pair a house-brewed draft with kimchi macaroni and cheese, bacon-wrapped dates, maple-habanero chicken wings or a host of other creative menu items. Visitors craving barbecue must visit Smylie Brothers Brewing Company. Follow a guide behind the scenes to learn about the beer-making process, then relax with a seasonal brew while eating smoked brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs or a wood-fired pizza.

A night out at Found Kitchen & Social House

A night out at Found Kitchen & Social House
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Getting There

Fly in to international airports O’Hare (ORD) or Midway (MDW), where you can rent a car and drive about 35 minutes to an hour to get to Evanston. Trains, shuttles, buses and ride-share services also are available at the airports.