Top Things to Do Along Chicago's North Shore

Bordering Chicago along Lake Michigan, the communities of the North Shore seem farther from the bustle of downtown, thanks to abundant green spaces, including the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The North Shore suburbs of Chicago—stretching from Evanston to the Wisconsin border along the Lake Michigan shore—combine village vibes with abundant natural resources, making a perfect base for a weekend getaway. Here's our guide to the best things to do, places to eat and places to stay in North Shore communities like Evanston, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest and Skokie.

Shakespeare Garden Illinois
Shakespeare Garden. Bob Stefko

What to Do

In Evanston, Northwestern University's ivied lakefront campus beckons for a stroll. Shakespeare Garden on the university campus shows off plants and trees mentioned in the Bard's works.

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park features more than 60 large-scale contemporary works in a beautiful setting. Make the most of this two-mile long park with a free public tour, self-guided tour or private tour.

The Green Bay Trail between Winnetka and Highland Park runs parallel to the Metra commuter rail line, taking cyclists and walkers on a route flanked by restaurants, shops, parks and lovely older homes.

Relax in the sand and water at North Shore beaches, including those in Evanston, Glencoe and Winnetka. One great option: Sunrise Beach in Lake Bluff—a secluded, picturesque beach perfect for a quiet getaway.

Baha'i House of Worship
Baha'i-House-of-Worship. Courtesy of Chicago's North Shore CVB

Marvel at the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, an architectural wonder that welcomes all for meditation. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come each year to the only Baháʼí House of Worship in North America (and only one of eight in the world ) to explore its tranquil gardens and beautiful architecture.

See Evanston's Grosse Point Lighthouse from the Lighthouse Beach. Built in 1873, the Grosse Point Lighthouse helped vessels navigate along the shallow coastline to Chicago's harbor. During warmer months, visitors can climb the 113-foot-tall tower that overlooks Lake Michigan as well as explore the interpretive center.

Bridge and pond at Chicago Botanic Garden
Courtesy of Illinois Office of Tourism

Lose yourself in the 385 acres (about 290 football fields) of gardens and natural areas at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Featuring 28 gardens, four natural areas and a variety of programs and events year-round, the Garden is a must-visit. If you're in the area towards the end of the year, be sure to check out the annual Lightscape illuminated trail.

Let kids play the role of doctor, automobile designer or veterinarian at Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview.

See holograms of survivors telling their stories at Skokie's Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. One of the largest Holocaust museums in the United States, this institution teaches the history and legacy of the Holocaust through immersive exhibits. The exhibit "I'll Have What She's Having": The Jewish Deli (October 22, 2023-April 14, 2024) explores how Jewish delicatessens became a part of American food culture and the role of delis for Holocaust survivors and refugees.

Where to Eat

At Hewn in Evanston, taste artisan breads fermented with wild yeast for richer flavors. Buy a loaf, or try the pastries and sandwiches from this independently owned bakery.

Eat a famous Hackneyburger (a half-pound beef patty) on dark rye at Hackney's on Harms, a Glenview institution since 1939. French Fried Onions have been a staple on Hackney's menu for decades as well.

Grilled octopus, lamb-and-beef gyros and egg-lemon soup highlight the Greek fare at Avli in Winnetka. Pair your dish with one of 130 Greek wines.

A local favorite, Union Pizzeria in Evanston elevates the traditional wood-fired Neapolitan pizza with toppings like lamb sausage, Gaeta olives, béchamel sauce and Calabrian chili oil. Concertgoers can enjoy their delicious pies from Union in the neighboring intimate music venue, SPACE.

Originally operating as a food truck, La Cocinita now operates a restaurant in the Evanston community, serving contemporary Venezuelan-inspired street food. One favorite: arepas, delectable cornmeal patties filled with a variety of flavors.

Guest room at Graduate Evanston in Illinois
Steve Freihon/Graduate Evanston

Where to Stay

Deer Path Inn has been a fixture in downtown Lake Forest since 1929. This boutique hotel, styled like a 15th-century English manor house, offers guests luxury lodging as well as dining experiences such as afternoon tea, pub favorites in the cozy wood-paneled White Hart Pub, or fine dining in the elegant English Room.

Just blocks from Northwestern University's campus, the 119-room Graduate Evanston pays homage to local history and campus traditions with details such as Midwestern-theme artwork and decor in shades of Northwestern purple.

For couples wanting a romantic getaway, Sybaris in Northbrook offers suites with indoor private pools or whirlpools (some rooms even have waterfalls).

You'll find reliable national-branded properties throughout the North Shore such as Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore/Skokie, Hyatt House Chicago/Evanston and Hilton Garden Inn Chicago North Shore/Evanston.

More information:

Updated by
Lia Reichmann

Lia Reichmann is an editorial apprentice at Midwest Living. She grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago before moving to Des Moines to attend Drake University. She is currently a senior studying multimedia journalism and history and is the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Times-Delphic. When not busy working, you can find her relaxing with her fur baby, Athena, a gray tabby cat.

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