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Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip to Oak Park

By Kenneth Johnson

A popular destination for those in Chicagoland, the Village of Oak Park sits just a quick jaunt down the Eisenhower Expressway, easily within one tank of gas. It's most famous resident, Frank Lloyd Wright, left a wealth of Prairie style architecture behind, but Oak Park also boasts a past and present filled with literary and artistic genius.

Getting There

The first suburb straight west of downtown, Oak Park is bordered by Austin Boulevard on the east, Harlem Avenue on the west, Roosevelt on the south, and North Avenue on the north. The Eisenhower and its infamous left hand exits cut through the south part of town. The easiest way to Oak Park is to take the Ike to Harlem Avenue, then go north to Lake Street. Downtown Oak Park sits on Lake Street between Harlem and Marion. You may also get directly to Downtown Oak Park via the Metra Union Pacific West Line, and the CTA Green Line. The Metra Station and Harlem Avenue Green Line stops are within easy walking distance of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. The CTA Blue Line runs along the Eisenhower; get off at Harlem, exit to Lombard Avenue, walk two blocks north and you're in Oak Park's Art District.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
951 Chicago Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(312) 994-4000

Price: $15 adult home studio tour/$12 ages 4 to 17 and 65 and older/free children 3 and younger/$15 adult walking tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District/$12 ages 4 to 17 and 65 and older/free children 3 and younger

Oak Park is home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed structures, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, where Wright lived and worked from 1889 to 1909. Both the residence and the octagon studio have been restored to their 1909 state, the last year Wright lived there. Home and studio tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District are available daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.

Related: Frank Lloyd Wright Group Now Fully Owns Oak Park Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright

Pedal Oak Park Tour
Greenline Wheels
105 S. Marion Street
Oak Park, IL 60302

Price: $30 FLW Preservation Trust members/$35 non-members

A two-hour bicycle tour of 22 Wright-designed structures, see the Wright buildings in the spring and summer the best way possible. Tour locations include the FLW Home & Studio, Unity Temple, Frank Thomas House, Cheney House and Heurtley House. Through Greenline Wheels you may also book a knowledgeable independent tour guide for a custom-designed tour via bike, rickshaw, Segway or electric car. The "Darkside Bicycle Tour" next door in River Forest visits the mansions and murder sites of Chicagoland gangsters.

Related: Urban Planning Group Honors Oak Park Historic District

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple
875 Lake St.
Oak Park, IL 60301-1341
(708) 383-8873

Price: $10 adults/$8 ages 5 to 22 and younger/$8 age 65 and older/free children younger than 5

Unity Temple may look like a fortress on the outside, but inside it displays an absolutely phenomenal use of light and space. Wright's first public commission, it is the only surviving building from his Prairie period. Unity Temple features concerts, workshops and lectures year round. If you want to understand the beauty of the Prairie style, just walk inside.


Papa Hemingway in Oak Park
Ernest Hemingway Birthplace
339 N. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 848-2222

Ernest Hemingway Museum
200 N. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 848-2222

Price: $10 adult museum and birthplace tour/$8 ages 6 to 18, 65 and older, and college students with valid ID/free children 5 and younger

Hemingway was born here in Oak Park in 1899 and attended Oak Park and River Forest High School. He later famously referred to Oak Park as "a neighborhood of wide lawns and narrow minds." Hemingway's Birthplace and Museum feature Hemingway memorabilia, including photos, a childhood diary and letters, and his early writings. At the birthplace, where the family lived until he was 6, look for the masculine library and Dr. Hemingway's room as early influences on young Ernest.

Related: Guide To Chicago's Literary Landmarks


Buzz Cafe
905 S. Lombard Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60304
(708) 524-2899

Buzz Cafe is a wonderful community meeting place in the heart of the Oak Park Arts District. Works by local artists line the walls, and on any day you're likely to find an artist sketching at a table and a reading group having a lively discussion on the sofas in the back. Buzz Cafe features excellent coffees, live music and breakfast, lunch and dinner, all with a organic ingredients from local farms.

Poor Phil's Bar & Grill
139 S. Marion St.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708) 848-0871

The local spot for beer and seafood, Poor Phil's features a great beer selection, oysters and more oysters, succulent sweet potato fries, crab cakes, gumbo, and jambalaya and crawdad etouffée, burgers and sandwiches. Speaking of beer, a recent update to its beer menu includes 30 beers on tap, one in cask, 73 in bottles, and eight in cans. Dining al fresco is a summer option, and very tempting to the Metra commuters walking by after a hard day's work, so snag your seat early.

Kenneth Johnson is a freelance writer covering all things Chicago. His work can be found on

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