Top 18 Things to Do in Lincoln Park, Chicago

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Outside view of the Lincoln Park Conservatory glass house and its front gardens, one of the top things to do in Lincoln Park
Outside view of the Lincoln Park Conservatory glass house and its front gardens, one of the top things to do in Lincoln Park. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

One of Chicago’s greatest strengths is its neighborhoods. The Loop–Chicago’s downtown area–is undoubtedly a must-hit for your first time visiting. But the popular neighborhoods of Lakeview, Old Town, Hyde Park, Wrigleyville, Logan Square, and, of course, Lincoln Park, among others, have an incredible number of activities and accommodations. It’s easy to fill an entire weekend…or longer!

Just 15 minutes north of the Loop, Lincoln Park is a particular favorite. From lakefront views to botanical gardens, top-tier restaurants, and underground coffee shops, Lincoln Park offers a more easygoing, peaceful Chicago experience.  

Here are the top 18 things to do in Lincoln Park.

An art installation inside the glass house of the Lincoln Park Conservatory, one of the many things to do in Lincoln Park
An art installation inside the glass house of the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

1. Find Peace at the Lincoln Park Conservatory & Gardens

Just steps from the northwest corner of Lincoln Park Zoo is the peaceful oasis that is the Lincoln Park Conservatory & Gardens. Steps echo and breath deepens as you explore the narrow paths of a 19th-century glass house filled with flowers from around the world.

While it’s free to enter, you will need to register for an advanced ticket before you can step into this tranquil paradise of flora and fauna.

A meerkat sits on top of a rock at Lincoln Park Zoo, one of many things to do in Lincoln Park
A meerkat sits on top of a rock at Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

2. Commune with the Animals at Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo is a true gem in Chicago and one of the best zoos in the US. This free zoo is bigger than you’d think it ever could be (And yes, I said FREE!), giving you a chance to spend an entire day spotting shy polar bears, walking through an expansive new lion habitat, and watching your wide-eyed kids on the Lionel Train Adventure.

Open 7 days a week from 8 am to 5 pm. Parking is free for the first half hour in the Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive lot. Plenty of cafés, food stands, and a gift shop provide you with everything you need for a day trip.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Keep an eye on the calendar of zoo events, too. Some of the most popular include the holiday ZooLights and the Adult Night Out series (a great date night option).

People sit and walk around the pavilion at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, one of the many things to do in Lincoln Park
People sit and walk around the pavilion at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

3. Read a Book at the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool

Talk about romanticizing life in the big city: Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool is a hidden garden that brims with greenery and lily pads that gently sway in the shimmering waters.

Architect Alfred Caldwell designed it to resemble a midwestern prairie. Like the conservatory, locals know it as a sought-after escape from the traffic and crowds outside. It’s that lesser-known, quiet place to slowly walk and do some deep thinking or to sit at the low-roofed pavilion and read for as long as your heart desires.

4. Soak Up the Sun at North Avenue Beach

Yes, a beach day is possible in Chicago! And it’s not just concrete-step picnics. Grab your sandals and your volleyball and head to North Avenue Beach, where you can spend a sunny summer day in the sand on Lake Michigan.

Because it is a free public beach, it gets crowded, so parking is in demand and may not always be cheap. So take an Uber or, if you choose public transportation, there are buses that will drop you off at Lincoln Park (the actual park), where you can walk 10 to 15 minutes to get to the lake.

5. Walk or Bike the Lakefront Trail

Pair your open-air, beachside afternoon with a stroll along the Lakefront Trail, which runs for more than 18 miles and conveniently cuts through Lincoln Park. An alternative to spending time on the downtown Boardwalk along the Chicago River, the Lakefront Trail is a local favorite for getting active while enjoying the city’s stunning skyline.

Chicago’s bikeshare program, Divvy bikes, offers day passes and e-bikes. And the city is becoming increasingly bike-friendly with dedicated bike lanes throughout the downtown and the neighborhoods. Download the Divvy app ahead of time for speedy payment!

Entrance to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, one of many things to do in Lincoln Park
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

6. Learn about Chicago’s Ecosystem at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

If you are looking for family-friendly activities in Chicago, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum features a kid’s PlaySpace, a Butterfly Haven where 1,000 butterflies soar through a greenhouse, and interactive science exhibits that teach you about Chicago’s environment and animals.

Open 7 days a week from 10 am to 4 pm, the museum charges an admission fee for anyone ages 3 and up. Illinois residents get discounted admission and can participate in free, but still ticketed, Donation Days.

7. Educate Yourself at the Chicago History Museum

Chicago has a rich history that spans from the tragic Great Chicago Fire to the eye-opening 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It is also home to generations of Polish, Puerto Rican, Black, and LGBTQ+ communities that influenced the cultural landscape of the Windy City and its diverse neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park.

The Chicago History Museum is the place to learn all of that history. open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and on Sunday from 12 pm to 5 pm. It is located on the south end of the Lincoln Park area, abutting the Old Town neighborhood (home of the famous Second City comedy club – more on that in a minute).  

Garlic shrimp and patatas bravas dishes at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!, a restaurant to visit as one of many things to do in Lincoln Park
Garlic shrimp and patatas bravas Spanish tapas dishes at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! In Lincoln Park. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

8. Get Your Fill at Award-Winning Restaurants

Lincoln Park is known for its top-notch food scene, boasting some of the best restaurants in the city. From alleyway donut shops at Beacon Doughnuts to Michelin-star dining at Alinea, there is not reason to leave this Chicago neighborhood on an empty stomach.

Some other local favorites include the vibrant Spanish tapas of Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!, the middle eastern flavors of a James Beard Award-winning chef at Galit, and the fresh California-inspired ingredients of Summer House Santa Monica.

You might also try:

  • Ranalli’s – Casual, italian dining and pizza bar
  • Athenian Room – Family-owned, Greek food, perfect for sharing
  • Blue Door Farm Stand – Seasonal cuisine with gluten free and vegetarian options
  • Del Soul – Quick and easy Korean street food
  • Boka – Michelin-star, American dining

9. Listen to Chicago Blues Music at Kingston Mines

Some of the greatest blues musicians in America came from the prolific Chicago blues scene, which helped define 20th-century urban music. If you’re looking for a true Chicago nightlife experience, go to Kingston Mines on Halsted Street, where blues artists and bands play on two stages from evening until early morning every night–as they have since 1968.

Prepare to have cash on hand for up to a $20 cover at the door. Plus, you won’t want to miss the southern cuisine, including fried okra, fried catfish, and beignets. This is a beloved historical and cultural spot in Chicago, with true talents that will have you tapping your toes all night long.

10. See a Show at the Steppenwolf Theatre

Another revered Chicago favorite, The Steppenwolf Theatre Company, founded in the 1970s, was the first home and launching pad of some of Hollywood’s top talent, including John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf and Gary Sinise. Today, it regularly sells out productions, drawing locals from the city and suburbs to see cutting-edge and thought-provoking shows year-round.

Make it a full night of fun by heading to one of Halsted Street’s restaurants for dinner, then walk over to the theater before curtain!

SheBuysTravel Tip: This is a popular theater destination. If you absolutely know you want to see what’s playing during your trip, don’t risk being disappointed. Buy your tickets online, where you can view the schedule and choose your seating.

The scarecrow statue in silhouette at Oz Park; you can visit as one of the top things to do in Lincoln Park
The scarecrow statue in silhouette at Oz Park in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

11. Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Oz Park

Okay, so there’s no actual yellow brick road leading to Oz Park. However, you will find statues of the famous Wizard of Oz characters! Make your way from Dorothy to the Tin Man as you explore all four corners of this family-friendly park. This is a great location for a picnic or a game of tennis with friends.

You’ll catch the neighborhood baseball league playing a game, dogs from nearby apartments running around on puppy playdates, a local hot dog vendor, and kids playing on Dorothy’s Playlot.

12. Shop Local Produce at the Green City Market

There’s nothing like starting your morning with a trip to the neighborhood farmers market. Stock up on fruit jams, enjoy a breakfast pastry, or taste local coffee brews at the Green City Market on Clark Street. Shopping for farm-fresh items and cooking in your Lincoln Park Airbnb sounds like a perfect way to experience local life, doesn’t it?

The market is held from April through October on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 am to 1 pm. Buses will drop you off right in front of the market, or you can take the Red or Brown Line L train line to nearby stops. If you can’t find street parking, you can opt for a parking validation card at the entrance of the market to get discounted parking in the Chicago History Museum lot.

13. Immerse Yourself in a DePaul Art Museum Exhibit

Right on the DePaul University campus is a small modern and contemporary art museum, where you can spend an hour taking in three levels of exhibits that highlight student work and Chicago-based artists. It’s a fantastic display of culturally diverse objects, prints, and graphics and is commonly used as a place of education for both students and the general public.

The DePaul Art Museum is open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 am to 7 pm, and Friday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. It’s right off the Fullerton L stop, which you can access via the Red, Brown, and Purple lines. If you drive, validate your parking at the front desk to get discounted pricing at the 2331 N. Sheffield garage.

A coffee cup with a cookie on top at Ludlow Charlingtons cafe; visiting this coffee shop is one of many things to do in Lincoln Park
Ludlow Charlingtons. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

14. Sip the Afternoon Away at a Cozy Coffee Shop

Try more than one coffee shop or cafe, as each has adopted an irresistibly cozy and creative theme. For example, there’s the Bourgeois Pig Cafe, where you can jump into the pages of a turn-of-the-century novel to enjoy a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Then, stay for the night to sip a cocktail at The Gatsby–a hidden speakeasy located in the back of the cafe.

At Ludlow Charlingtons, dogs are treated like royalty. It’s not just because there are portraits of dogs in regal attire on the walls; 50% of their profits from merchandise goes to Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control to help sheltered dogs find homes.

You might also try:

15. Enjoy a Nightcap at a Local Bar

A small, moody cocktail lounge like the King of Cups, where you can simultaneously get a Tarot reading, has a dark and mystical energy. Replay is for those who just can’t sit still, as it is an arcade-bar that has everything from air hockey to classic Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. If you’d like to enjoy the city at night, go to J. Parker, on the rooftop of the historic Lincoln Hotel.

Of course, you’ll also run into plenty of other bars and lounges that specialize in craft beers if you’re looking for something more casual, like Tapster Lincoln Park.

16. Laugh it out at The Second City

Tiptoe into Old Town to see the spot where some of the best names in comedy have graced the stage. The Second City is known for alumni such as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell. Today, multiple stages host ensembles of comedy experts who perform improv sketches that will leave you in stitches for the evening.

Shows run 7 nights a week, but you’ll have to pay attention to which performance you are attending because there are multiple theaters within and entrances into the building.

Image2An outside shot of Molly’s Cupcakes shop, one of many things to do in Lincoln Park
Molly’s Cupcakes. Photo credit: Megan Kudla

17. Devour a Sweet Treat

There are plenty of options to soothe that sweet tooth while wandering the streets of Lincoln Park. I already mentioned the alleyway walkup donut shop called Beacon Doughnuts. Firecakes Donuts and Mochinut are other local fried dough hotspots. If you want a cold dessert, try Annette’s Italian Ice, where the Italian Ice is made daily on-site.

For a bakery item, browse Vanille Patisserie and Molly’s Cupcakes on Clark Street or Sweet Mandy B’s and Floriole Cafe & Bakery on Webster Avenue.

18. Spot the Statues and Murals

You now know that Oz Park is home to the Wizard of Oz characters. You should also know that the name “Lincoln Park” is named after Former President Abraham Lincoln himself–so there’s, of course, a statue of him near the Chicago History Museum.

Make spotting the sculptures an extra scavenger hunt while strolling Lincoln Park, as you’ll find plenty others in the area; for example, the William Shakespeare Monument near the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

For even more sculptures, as well as murals, walk along Clark Street from Armitage to Diversey. The Art on Clark initiative showcases many different kinds of local art along this central street in the neighborhood.

Megan Kudla is a writer, editor, producer, and artist. She is a producer and production manager for national television’s Family Travel with Colleen Kelly on PBS. She is also producer and co-host of the Round Trip with Colleen Kelly Chicago radio show on WLS-AM 890, which is also a national podcast, where she has had the honor of interviewing people such as Executive Producer Elise Doganieri of The Amazing Race; travel TV hosts Kathy McCabe and Mickela Mallozzi; Artistic Director Ashley Wheater MBE of The Joffrey Ballet; Choreographer and Artist Stefanie Batten Bland; National Geographic Editor Jennifer Barger; and others. Megan has written for digital publications such as SheBuysTravel, Family Travel with Colleen Kelly, Round Trip with Colleen Kelly, European Traveler, Jetsetter Guide, and See Chicago Dance. Her work spans the likes of local performance art and Broadway in Chicago reviews to domestic and international travel articles. She hopes to inspire those who wish to solo travel the world, as well as support art as a way to engage with local cultures. You can find more information at
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