With Barack Obama back in the White House and Abraham Lincoln in movie theaters, we thought it was time to immerse ourselves in Chicago -- a place with historic ties to both presidents. We hit the north side of the city -- specifically Lincoln Park, Bucktown and Wicker Park -- to give you this insider's guide.
Stepping into the Hotel Lincoln (www.jdvhotels.com) is like walking onto the set of a Wes Anderson movie. The Midwest meets New England with golden yellows, forest-y greens and a sense of quaint nostalgia reminiscent of the director’s “Moonrise Kingdom.”
A number of the rooms feature curtains that open like the flaps of a tent, and patterned carpeting guides you through the hallways and suites. While it underwent extensive renovations before being opened by hotel operator Joie de Vivre early in 2012, the 12-story building still retains its historic edge. On the rooftop, an all-season bar offers sweeping views of Lake Michigan, North Avenue Beach and downtown Chicago. Off the lobby is Perennial Virant (www.perennialchicago.com), offering a seasonal menu and featuring pickled and canned ingredients purchased from local growers.
Across the street from Hotel Lincoln is Lincoln Park, a 1,200-acre retreat from the city nestled on the edge of Lake Michigan. Locals stroll and jog through the miles of trails in this urban getaway. Near the park center is Lincoln Park Zoo (www.lpzoo.org), a free facility featuring a menagerie of creatures, from sea lions to land lions. The animals are like an extended family for locals, who can stroll through at any time and watch as the babies — including two recently born gorillas — grow up.
Bucktown and Winter Park
Located west of Lincoln Park, both Bucktown and?Winter Park have seen a resurgence in recent years as established residents and young families mix with students and hipsters. Before you start exploring, grab lunch at Big Star (www.bigstarchicago.com) — a whiskey and taco eatery just past the Damen “L” transit station.
Across the street from Big Star is The Violet Hour (www.theviolethour.com). The lounge has a nearly hidden entrance and a speakeasy feel. A house rule helps to achieve this — cell phones are left at the door!
End your day by grabbing dinner at The Bristol ( www.thebristolchicago.com), an award-winning Bucktown restaurant. GQ recently named the eatery one of the 10 best new restaurants in America, and with its extensive wine list and seasonal-based creations, it’s easily worthy of the title.
Historical hot spots
To get in touch with the city’s more infamous history, walk a short distance from Hotel Lincoln to 2122 North Clark St., which was the site of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. It was at this address in 1929 that, at the height of prohibition, Al Capone’s south Chicago gang murdered seven rival mob associates.
Located at the southern end of Lincoln Park are the mansions and stately homes of the Gold Coast — an area the rich built in the decades after the 1871 Chicago Fire. The Chicago History Museum offers an all-weather walking tour of the Gold Coast (www.chicagohs.org). Be sure to visit the Charnley-Persky House on North Astor Street, which was designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.