Venture beyond the city limits for dining, shopping, cultural events, and―no kidding―fabulous beaches.
A town of 28,000 people, Wilmette sits among a string of communities that hug a nearly 35-mile stretch of Lake Michigan. From the university town of Evanston to Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, the North Shore embraces some two-dozen beaches and waterfront parks, which draw hordes of swimmers, sailors, volleyball players, and beachcombers each season
Visitors can travel the North Shore on a day trip, but there’s plenty to do if you have a weekend or a full vacation. From Chicago’s city limits, Sheridan Road winds through Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Lake Bluff―the waterfront towns that lead nearly to Wisconsin. To fully explore the area, Evanston makes an ideal base.
Once a quiet college town of ice cream shops and tearooms, Evanston now “seems to have a restaurant on every corner,” says longtime resident Harriet Lake. From Tapas Barcelona’s heaping crab-and-avocado salad to Va Pensiero’s tantalizing tiger shimp with pistachio pesto, some of Chicagoland’s most outstanding cuisine appears in Evanston restaurants.
The North Shore offers a plethora of stores, boutiques, and galleries. In Winnetka, book-lovers can browse at The Book Stall. Those seeking coastal accoutrements for their homes or beach cottages shouldn’t miss Winnetka’s Seagrass. In Glencoe, fashionistas can zero in on Nicchia for chic clothing and Shirise for high-end designer shoes. In mostly residential Lake Bluff, the Friday farmers’ market makes for a delicious outing.
Outdoor performances fill North Shore calendars. The summer-long Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is North America’s oldest outdoor music festival. Top names in classical, jazz, blues, and pop music perform, and it’s a great place to hear the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In summer, local talent puts on free performances in the open-air Starlight Theatre at lakefront Gillson Park in Wilmette. On this particular evening, there’s a tuneful production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, the stage set depicting a 1920s liner. With Lake Michican lapping nearby and Gillson Sailing Beach on the other sides of the trees, audience imagination quickly hops aboard.
For a free visitors guide, go to visitchicagonorthshore.com
Lodging: Hotel Orrington, Evanston; 888/677-4648 or hotelorrington.com. Margarita European Inn, Evanston; 847/869-2273 or margaritainn.com. The Homestead hotel, Evanston; 847/475-3300 or thehomestead.net
Dining: Tapas Barcelona, Evanston; 847/866-9900 or tapasbarcelona.com. Va Pensiero, Evanston; 847/475-7779 or va-p.com. Davis Street Fishmarket, Evanston; 847/869-3474 or davisstreetfishmarket.com. Convito Italiano, Wilmette; 847/251-3654 or convitoitaliano.com. South Gate Café, Lake Forest; 847/234-8800.
Shopping: The Spice House, Evanston; 847/328-3711 or thespicehouse.com. Dancing Bear Gallery, Evanston; 847/869-8080. Burhop’s Seafood, Wilmette; 847/256-6400 or burhops.com. Plaza del Lago, Wilmette; plazadelago.com. The Book Stall, Winnetka; 800/678-2242. Seagrass, Winnetka; 847/446-8444. Nicchia, Glencoe; 847/835-2900. Shirise, Glencoe; 847/835-2595.
From the July/August 2006 issue