10 Things We Love About Wicker Park
The second you step foot in Wicker Park, you know you’ve found something special. Just a few miles northwest of the Loop, you’ll discover an enclave of the city’s hippest nightlife, restaurants, shops, and art scene.
Whether it’s the aromas of ramen, pizza, or tacos filling the streets; the colorful murals; or the unique specialty shops; it’s hard not to fall in love with this neighborhood. Here are 10 things that captured our hearts:
Wicker Park. Not the neighborhood, the actual park.
Named after brothers Charles G. and Joel H. Wicker, the 4.74-acre park is a focal point of the community and a small but mighty place to relax and play. It includes a fieldhouse, softball field, dog park, basketball court, playground, ample green space, historic fountain, and 10,000 square feet of ornamental gardens that are designed and maintained by the Wicker Park Garden Club.
Seasonal sports and programs are offered throughout the year, and the outdoor farmers market is a favorite among residents and visitors. There’s also special events like Movies in the Park, live concerts, and Chicago’s park-wide Night Out in the Parks.
Chicago’s historic architecture is on full display in Wicker Park, particularly in the Milwaukee Avenue District, where you’ll find styles such as Italianate, Queen Anne, Classic Revival, and Art Deco.
One of the neighborhood’s most notable examples of Art Deco is The Robey, a recently renovated boutique hotel that was originally built in 1929. Inside, the Up Room is a popular place to grab a cocktail and enjoy incredible skyline views. Across the street is the Flat Iron Arts Building, which was built a few years earlier in 1913. Not to be confused with New York City’s famous Flatiron Building, this three-story building has distinctive white and black terra cotta and has become a known artist’s community with studios and galleries (more on that later).
Varied Housing Stock
Wicker Park’s architectural diversity transcends into the area’s housing stock. Residents have a lot to choose from, including historic 19th century brick and stone mansions and landmark Victorian homes on tree-lined streets. Modern new construction condominiums and single-family homes along with vintage walk-ups, two- and three-flat, and lofts round out the options.
Fun fact: Some of Chicago’s first brownstones were built here following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.
Robust Visual Arts Scene
The streets of Wicker Park are noticeably more colorful than those of its surrounding neighborhoods. That’s because Wicker Park has one of the highest concentrations of murals and public art in the entire city. Stroll down Milwaukee Avenue and find thought-provoking pieces on the outside walls of local establishments or unique statues and displays like the Worker Cottage Parklet on the streets.
The neighborhood’s contemporary art scene is best explored with a visit to one of the many art galleries in the area. The aforementioned Flat Iron Arts Building houses several of these galleries and is open to the public daily. Every first Friday of the month, the artists open their doors to the community for a building-wide art show.
Burgeoning Performing Arts
Wicker Park’s artistic community extends to the performing arts. With actors, singers, musicians, and dancers all around, the neighborhood has two main venues that answer the call. The Chopin Theatre hosts hundreds of presentations in theater, literary, music, and film every year. The building opened in 1918 and has been restored to its present charm with a main stage, café, art gallery, and cabaret studio with the Pregnant Buffalo Lounge.
Meanwhile, the Den Theatre is the perfect place to catch a play, live music, or an evening of standup comedy. Originally built as a department store, the building is now made up of five small theaters that house their own productions as well as those of resident companies. Stick around the lobby bar after the show and you may run into one of the performers!
Like many of Chicago’s other premier neighborhood strips, Division Street boasts boutique shops, classic bars, and great restaurants for all to enjoy. Come springtime, the street transforms into the Do Division Street Fest, an event that draws thousands with live music, local vendors, and delicious food and beverages.
If you’re in the mood for cuisine that’ll have your taste buds begging for more, Wicker Park is the place to indulge. The neighborhood is known for its world-class restaurants, with everything from taco joints to fine dining. Some of our favorite spots include Smoke Daddy, Dove’s Luncheonette, Mirai Sushi, Mike & Honey Café, Bangers & Lace, and Clever Rabbit.
Looking for a place to hang out with friends? Wicker Park certainly has no shortage of dive bars to try out. Head to the unassuming Gold Bar for a beverage in an intimate atmosphere and play a game of billiards, or pay a visit to Happy Village. In the summer, Happy Village’s spacious patio is the best place for you and your crew to have a good time. When in doubt, let the bars of Division Street or Damen Avenue help you in your quest for a new watering hole.
Wicker Park’s shops are a hip departure from what Chicagoans typically see on Magnificent Mile. The neighborhood has a variety of shopping options, with independent boutiques, record shops, thrift stores, and the occasional but ever-cool national brand name lining the streets. Myopic Books is a neighborhood staple for avid readers, and Reckless Records offers a bit of nostalgia for vinyl music fans new and old. When it comes to women’s fashion and jewelry, Moon Voyage is a boutique that knows its stuff. Trust us when we say it’ll be hard to walk away empty-handed from any of these stores.
Wicker Park is well-served by public transportation throughout the neighborhood. The CTA’s Blue Line has several stops in or near Wicker Park, including Chicago/Grand, Division, and Damen, and offers an easy trip to and from the Loop or O’Hare International Airport. The Damen stop is most centrally located to the Wicker Park’s restaurants, shops, and nightlife.
The neighborhood is also served by CTA bus routes along North and Milwaukee Avenues and Division Street. And for those travelling by car, the nearby Kennedy Expressway makes getting downtown or to other neighborhoods and suburbs especially easy.