15 Best Things to Do in Oak Park, IL

Oak Park, IL
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Located right next to the expansive city of Chicago is Oak Park.

This seemingly quiet suburb is teeming with many interesting sights to see.

Several notable people have lived in this place, and it houses a fantastic art scene as well.

Apart from that, it also serves as the home of some of the most beautiful buildings around.

With the many interesting locations found in this small area, going here should be a part of your bucket list.

Here are some of the best things to do in Oak Park, Illinois:

See the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

Outside View of Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
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With the many homes and buildings he designed in Oak Park and in the U.S., a trip to the home of Frank Lloyd Wright may interest you.

This place served as the home of the famous architect during the first 20 years of his career.

Here, you can see Wright's studio preserved as to how he would've used it.

You also get to witness up close how he designed his home - from the structure to the furniture in the interior.

If you want to learn more about this prolific architect, you can book a guided tour that will let you in on information about Wright and his designs.

You can go beyond the home as well and book a tour that would let you visit the many homes in the neighborhood that he has designed.

After all, you won’t find the largest collection of buildings Wright has designed anywhere else other than Oak Park.

This is a must-do when you visit this Illinois suburb.

Stay Active at Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex

If you want to find a place to try out many fun, recreational activities, check out Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex in Oak Park.

Here, you can find facilities that can help you participate in a wide array of recreational activities.

It features both a pool and an indoor ice-skating rink that you can use.

You can also find baseball and multipurpose fields in this complex, as well as dance and fitness studios.

If you need a venue for certain events, you can also book banquet rooms here.

Stop by Ridgeland Common Recreational Complex and have some fun with the entire family.

Check Out Oak Park Public Library

Outside View of Oak Park Public Library
Zol87 from Chicago, IL, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another relaxing spot to head to if you want some peace is Oak Park Public Library.

Since it is a library, the place is naturally quiet, all while offering a large collection of books that you can read.

View of Oak Park Public Library
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Apart from just reading, you and your family can participate in the many kid-friendly book discussions, reading programs, educational labs, and summer activities that the library hosts.

While an unconventional place to stop by during a holiday, spending some time here for some peace and quiet and for learning makes everything worth it.

Shop for the Best Finds at Oak Park’s Farmer’s Market

When you visit a charming neighborhood like Oak Park, consider supporting the locals and their work by shopping at the area’s Farmer’s Market.

Here, you can pick out some of the best products offered by the local farmers and artisans in this suburb.

Fresh produce, artisanal items, quirky souvenirs, and tasty baked goods: you can surely find something here that will highly pique your interest.

Apart from that, you can also check out the events hosted here if you have your timing right.

This market opens early every Saturday, so if you’re in the area, head over there on Saturday morning and find the best deals around.

Relax at Oak Park Conservatory

View of Oak Park Conservatory
Teemu008 from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When talking about Oak Park, many will mention the conservatory as one of the top historical attractions you can find while visiting here.

The place boasts attracting more than 50,000 people per year, after all.

Many tourists flock to this place, thanks to the fantastic atmosphere it offers, along with a fantastic array of plants and animals that are featured in its three themed showrooms - Mediterranean, Tropical, and Desert.

View of Oak Park Conservatory
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Apart from this, it also offers people a place to find respite from the busy streets of city life.

You can find several outdoor gardens surrounding this conservatory, featuring a showcase of the state’s natural ecosystem.

It’s a great place to hang out and relax during your vacation downtime at Oak Park.

Bask in Nature at Austin Gardens

Another place where you can relax, learn, and appreciate the great outdoors is Austin Gardens.

Dubbed as “The Secret Garden,” this area contains over 280 trees within its boundaries.

It serves as a place where people can learn more about the environment, appreciate nature, and protect mother nature apart from being a great hang-out spot.

You can find here a pathway and many green spaces that locals and tourists who just want to hang out here use.

Apart from the focus on nature, Austin Garden also hosts many art-related installations and activities.

It also serves as the venue where Oak Park Festival Theater hosts performances for everyone’s enjoyment.

If you come by during winter, you may also access the outdoor ice-skating rink at Austin Gardens.

Explore Pleasant Home

View at Pleasant Home
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While many interesting architectural wonders stand in Oak Park, many know Pleasant Home as one of the more popular ones.

Being one of the oldest and most well-known examples of homes designed based on Prairie School Architecture, the foundation taking care of this place also runs it as a museum.

You can come by Pleasant Home and be awestruck by its fantastic architecture and interior.

View at Pleasant Home
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You can also attend some of the events and programs hosted here if you happen to be in town.

With a design by famous architect George W. Maher made in 1897, this place veered away from the prevalent design styles at the time in Oak Park.

View at Pleasant Home
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Featuring up to 30 rooms, this mansion was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places back in 1992.

It also has the distinction of being one of the first landmarks found in this suburb.

Visiting a place known for its architecture, stop by Pleasant Home while checking out Oak Park.

Get to Know Local History at Oak Park-River Forest Museum

Founded in 1968, the Oak Park-River Forest Museum lets you in on the historical background of these two places: Oak Park and River Forest.

It showcases rotating exhibits that let you explore the different facets of the area’s history.

Here, you can find thousands of memorabilia and artifacts donated by families and groups found within the community.

These items range from photos to costumes, so something will definitely pique your interest.

Originally found on Pleasant Home’s second floor, you can now find this museum on Lake Street.

Apart from the countless artifacts and information you can find here, you can also participate in the events hosted by the museum’s administrators.

While today, Oak Park may seem like a simple suburb, you can discover its rich past by checking out this museum.

Visit Unity Temple

View of Unity Temple
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With a design that sprouted from the brilliant mind of notable architect Frank Lloyd Wright, don’t forget to check out the Unity Temple.

Wright, who also spent years living in Oak Park, designed this structure that many call the world’s first modern building.

View of Unity Temple
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Built with strong concrete, the impressive look brought about by its structure and function features leaves both members of this church and simple tourists in awe.

Constructed between the years 1905 and 1909, this historic and impressive building should be in your Oak Park itinerary.

Learn About the Famous Author at Hemingway Museum

While many see architecture as the main tourist selling point of Oak Park, attractions other than intricately designed buildings also stand here.

One such place is the Hemingway Museum.

In case you didn’t know, famed author Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, and he spent many formative years in this Illinois suburb.

View of Hemingway Museum
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The house where he was born now serves as a museum dedicated to his life.

You can visit this museum to learn more about the novelist’s formative years.

The said home was constructed in 1890, and 9 years later, Hemingway was born in a room on the second floor.

He lived here until he was six, and now, the home still tries to showcase how he lived his life back then.

Apart from Hemingway memorabilia, the home itself is a notable building, as this Queen Anne house has the distinction of being the first home in the suburb to have electricity installed.

After a tour of the house, stop by the Hemingway Bistro nearby, which offers amazing food that you can indulge in after learning about a significant Oak Park historical figure.

Find Beautiful Artwork at Harrison Street

For art lovers out there, Oak Park has its own art district in Harrison Street.

The said area of this place is dotted with many local galleries and studios that offer impressive art.

You may even find your next favorite artist while browsing through the collections of the art places in this strip.

Some notable places to check out at Harrison Street include Black Moon Gallery and Studio, Gallery Pink, and Expression Graphics.

As an area known for groundbreaking architectural styles, you’re bound to find many other impressive artists using different media types while in Oak Park.

Don’t miss out on checking their work by visiting Harrison Street.

Stop by Scoville Park

View at Scoville Park
David Wilson from Oak Park, Illinois, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With a layout design created by Jens Jensen, a Danish-American architect, spend some time at Scoville Park while visiting Oak Park.

Situated right by Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue, this park offers you and your traveling companions a place to hang out.

Apart from the usual park amenities, you can also find several Oak Park attractions within this area.

First, while in this park, check out the memorial dedicated to Oak Park veterans who served during the First World War - Peace Triumphant.

Then, you can also find here a replica of the Horse Show Fountain, a clearing that serves as the venue for many concerts during summer and other local events.

You can also let your kids check out the playground, or you can challenge your friends to a round at the tennis court.

Besides offering these exciting attractions, Scoville Park has also been included in the National Register of Historic Places starting in 2002.

Learn a New Art Skill at Terra Incognito

If you want to find something to do, why not try learning a new artsy skill?

In Oak Park, you can find Terra Incognito, a place that aims to promote the art of making ceramics.

You can book classes here and learn how to form your own masterpieces from clay.

Other than that, you can also partake in workshops and events hosted by this establishment.

Along with learning how to do your own clay works, you can also browse through the masterpieces displayed here, created by several talented artists featured in the studio.

Try creating your own, one-of-a-kind ceramic item that could serve as a souvenir for your trip to Oak Park.

Watch Films at Lake Theater

View at Lake Theater
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If you’re on holiday, it’s unsurprising to find yourself going to many different attractions and sites.

However, to avoid getting too tired and burnt out during your trip, take some time to relax.

You can do this with activities, such as watching a movie.

At Oak Park’s Lake Theater, not only can you unwind while watching the latest blockbuster, but you can also visit a local historical attraction.

The theater itself has stood where it is today since 1936, and it features an impressive architecture designed after the prevalent Art Deco style at the time.

The theater was refurbished by Classic Cinemas, featuring the latest film showing technology that will add to your experience.

So, now, you can catch the latest films by heading over to this theater.

Spend Family Time at Wonder Works Children’s Museum

A fun, family-friendly destination you can go to, don’t miss out on spending some time at Wonder Works Children’s Museum.

Here, your kids can have fun in the many areas and exhibit that your kids can explore.

It features “experience zones” where both kids and their parents can take part in many different interesting activities.

At Wonder Works, they aim to let kids thrive by promoting the use of creativity and fun.

While in Oak Park, find some fun for the entire family by visiting this amazing museum.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let the quiet suburban ambiance fool you - Oak Park serves as the home of many exciting sights and experiences that many people tend to miss out on.

Now that you know some of the gems found in this area don’t hesitate to visit this place on your next holiday.