Home to Chicago’s largest public park, the Lincoln Park neighborhood offers locals and visitors alike a multitude of activities, culture, dining, and shopping no matter the season. From taking a stroll through Lincoln Park Zoo to shopping along Armitage Avenue to catching a late-night show, the challenge with planning a day to explore Lincoln Park is narrowing down your choices of what to do.
Whether you’re seeking a day of family fun with your little ones or a day out with friends, Lincoln Park is bustling with year-round options. And with a convenient location just north of downtown, it’s easy to get to and from the neighborhood. Here’s a guide to spending 24 hours in this favorite Chicago neighborhood.
Where to stay in Lincoln Park
To wake up and immediately start exploring all that Lincoln Park has to offer, consider spending the night at one of the neighborhood’s unique hotels. Hotel Versey is a boutique hotel filled with local art and eclectic decor that pays homage to Chicago landmarks and history. On the border of Lakeview and Lincoln Park, this centrally located hotel gives guests unique access to two vibrant neighborhoods and local culture.
Also nearby, the fun and funky Hotel Lincoln boasts sweeping views of Lake Michigan and the city’s iconic skyline, across-the-street access to Lincoln Park, and one of the city’s best rooftop bars, the J. Parker. Rent a bike directly from the hotel to roam the green scenery of Lincoln Park and cover more ground.
Start your day with a bite to eat
Part of the charm of Lincoln Park comes from the endless array of eateries and coffee shops that dot the neighborhood. Check out Summer House Santa Monica for a place where it’s summer year-round. The breezy atmosphere, hearth-fired fare, and Cali-Mex offerings on its weekend brunch menu make for a delicious start to the morning. On the go? Grab a coffee and a pastry from its bakery counter.
Other options in the neighborhood include the Willow Room’s weekend brunch, which presents a cozy option with hearty menu items. Meanwhile, Batter & Berries is a neighborhood staple famous for its French toast flight. Its rotating chef’s specials are meant to highlight seasonal flavors and ingredients, and the restaurant is also BYOB.
Take in Lincoln Park Zoo
Founded in 1868, Lincoln Park Zoo is among the oldest zoos in the country. Visitors to the free zoo will find creatures from around the world, along with daily animal encounters, fun seasonal events like Craft Brews at the Zoo and ZooLights, and innovative new exhibits like the recently renovated Lion House.
Experience nature up close and personal
You can’t visit the Lincoln Park neighborhood without spending time in its namesake park. The sprawling lakefront park includes:
Gorgeous manicured gardens and wide–open green space
The historic Lincoln Park Conservatory
The tranquil Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
The North Pond Nature Sanctuary
North Avenue Beach with stunning skyline views
A scenic stretch of the Lakefront Trail
Also inside Lincoln Park, families can also explore the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Make sure to stop at the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, the museum’s internationally renowned greenhouse home to more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies representing over 40 species.
Get a dose of culture
Visit the Chicago History Museum to dive into fascinating exhibits on important moments in local history. See wreckage from the Great Chicago Fire, step on board the city’s first-ever ‘L’ car, visit a jazz club, see photos from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s time in Chicago, and more.
For live entertainment, Lincoln Park’s Steppenwolf Theatre has earned national acclaim for its powerful, groundbreaking productions. With a newly renovated campus, the Steppenwolf has a frequently changing schedule of shows that range from joyful and heartfelt to political and provocative.
And for a dose of art and architecture, plan your visit to Wrightwood 659, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando. The 1920s building has been transformed with his signature concrete forms and poetic treatment of natural light and now hosts thought-provoking art exhibits.
Shop along Armitage Avenue
There’s nowhere more charming to do a little window shopping than Lincoln Park’s Armitage Avenue. Treat yourself to a new custom-made leather bag from Laudi Vidni, find the perfect personalized gift for your friends or family at All She Wrote, or hunt for hidden treasures at the women’s boutique art effect.
Need an afternoon pick-me-up? La Colombe Coffee Roasters serves up artisanal coffee and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams always has the most creative scoops.
Top dinner spots
Maybe the hardest decision you’ll make all day is where to have dinner in Lincoln Park. No matter your desired cuisine or atmosphere, the plethora of neighborhood spots will satisfy any dinnertime cravings.
Geja’s Cafe is the spot for a night of fondue and fun. This candlelit restaurant is known for its creamy swiss gruyere cheese fondue and romantic vibes.
Galit, winner of a coveted Michelin star, offers a multi-course menu of unforgettable Middle Eastern cuisine.
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba is beloved for its Spanish tapas, paella, and pitchers of sangria. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a taste of Spain in the heart of Chicago.
Tandoor Char House is known for authentic Indian and Pakistani cuisine, run by two brothers who are bringing new life to their family recipes.
Bar Esmé is located in the same space as Michelin-starred Esmé. Grab a seat at the bar to watch the open kitchen as you enjoy the contemporary menu and thoughtfully crafted cocktails.
Homeslice offers quickfire pizza, a lively atmosphere, a full drink list, and an Instagrammable outdoor patio.
Chez Moi serves French staples in an urban and classic interior and a convivial atmosphere.
End the night with music and nightlife
For a perfect end to your 24 hours in Lincoln Park, round out your night with laughs at the iO Theater for improv comedy. With a rotating selection of themed improv shows, each night is sure to be different from the last.
For live music, Kingston Mines is Lincoln Park’s no-frills blues nightclub that’s open until 4 a.m. With two stages, hop back and forth from blues band to blues band all night long. A full food and drink menu are available as well.
When planning your visit, make sure to check out the lineup at Lincoln Park’s premiere concert venue Park West. The venue is fully indoors and hosts comedians, musicians, and more.
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