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Chicago Off the Beaten Path

Courtesy of Lou Malnati's Pizzeria
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
October 12, 2021
Chicago is a destination that’s packed with fun things to do without ever leaving downtown, but it’s worth it to venture off the beaten path to explore the attractions in some of the surrounding neighborhoods. Whether you’re an architecture buff, a literature lover or just looking for family-friendly fun, you’ll find something to love in Oak Park.
AAA/Frank Swanson

Architectural Tours

951 Chicago Ave.
(312) 994-4000
Oak Park boasts what is reputedly the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture as well as other Prairie-style buildings by his contemporaries. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust offers guided walking tours through the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District that offer a look inside the architect’s home and studio, along with exteriors of other structures in the historic district. Guided bicycle tours also are available, or you can strike out on your own with a 45-minute self-guiding tour of Wright-designed building exteriors and other Prairie-style or Victorian homes.
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AAA/Inspector 40

Brookfield Zoo

8400 W. 31st St.
(708) 688-8000
If you’re looking for fun things to do with kids, head for the Brookfield Zoo, just a few miles from the Oak Park historic district in nearby Brookfield. This AAA GEM features hundreds of species of animals in naturalistic habitats. Little ones will love the play zoo where they can learn about nature while exploring, building, making crafts or pretending to be a zookeeper. The whole family will enjoy feeding a giraffe or meeting a penguin in the Penguin Encounter.
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AAA/Frank Swanson

The Hemingway Birthplace Museum

339 N. Oak Park Ave.
(708) 445-3071
Travel back to the turn of the 20th century with a visit to the house where author Ernest Hemingway was born. The Queen Anne home was built in 1890 for Hemingway’s maternal grandfather and namesake, Ernest Hall, and has been restored and furnished to reflect the Victorian era of Hemingway’s childhood. Guided tours will take you through the richly furnished home to provide a glimpse of what life was like for the author as a young boy.
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Courtesy of Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

1038 Lake St.
(708) 358-0800
You don’t have to go downtown to savor a slice of authentic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza; one of the most well-known pizzerias, Lou Malnati’s, has a location in Oak Park. If it’s your first time to try deep-dish, order the Malnati Chicago Classic—made with lean sausage, extra cheese and sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes on a crisp, buttery crust.
Wikimedia Commons / CC BY/IvoShandor

Oak Park Conservatory

615 Garfield St.
(708) 725-2400
Though Frank Lloyd Wright provided it with a rich architectural legacy, not all of Oak Park’s historic attractions are houses. Some of the plants at the Oak Park Conservatory date back to the conservatory’s founding in 1914. Today the Edwardian-style glass structure and surrounding gardens feature more than 3,000 plants. Inside you’ll encounter flora from Mediterranean, tropical and desert regions, while outdoor gardens offer water features, native plants and places to relax and enjoy nature.
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