Early in October we traveled to Chicago for JMD to run a marathon. We stayed near good friends from college who live in the Hyde Park neighborhood south of downtown. We've stayed with them in Hyde Park about four times in the last couple years, and I've come to really love the neighborhood known for the University of Chicago and the private home of President Obama. On this most recent visit, I was familiar enough to know where to go, but of course had much more to discover, and had more time to do so. We also made an AirBnb reservation this time and stayed a couple blocks away from our friends' place (and the Obamas' house) in a cool midcentury prairie style home that has been in the family since the 60s when it was built. We got to learn all about our host's family and their connection to Uof C, the Manhattan Project, and the civil rights movement.
One of the first places our friends took us on our original visit to Hyde Park was the Plein Air Cafe, across from campus, tucked between the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore and Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. I like having little routines when I travel; stopping in at the same coffee place in the morning, or capping the night off at the same bar. Plein Air Cafe has become that morning routine for me in Hyde Park. It was our stop every morning of this trip, except for Marathon morning, of course, but i still made it there later that afternoon while my running man was resting. Plein Air Cafe is a nice blend of a clean modern space and classic Euro-American charm, with a lovely outdoor courtyard. They serve delicious coffee (which instantly gets you into my good books) and breakfast and lunch made with fresh ingredients, as well as delectable baked goods! It's pretty much perfect.
Right next to Plein Air and its courtyard, and across from east campus is the Robie House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. You can go on a paid tour on certain days, or just enjoy this beautiful example of FLW architecture form the outside, preferably while sipping coffee at Plein Air.
The University of Chicago campus is beautiful. Parts of it are based on Oxford, and there are many lovely nooks to explore. Directly across the street from Plein Air Cafe and the Robie house is the Oriental Museum, which houses an exceptional collection of ancient artifacts from Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, and other areas. I love ancient Egypt, and I feel like Indiana Jones definitely worked here. The courtyard where Sally picked up Harry, the Harper Reading room (great for day-napping), a Hogwarts-esque great dining hall, quiet leafy pond area, and ivy covered stone arches all await you. A sculpture by Henry Moore memorializing the first nuclear reactor, examples of brutalist architecture, and a glass domed library are other points of interest to look for as you walk through campus.
As you make your way through the charming streets of Hyde Park, and admire the happy mix of gorgeous old brick and stone homes and walk up apartment buildings with their little green courtyards, you will see adorable playgrounds named things like "Butternut Park." Make sure you pop into the 57th Street Bookstore, a delightful local book shop, where I could spend hours, and was a favorite place for the Obamas to take their girls.
From 57th St, you can make your way to downtown Hyde Park, where you'll find restaurants, shops, and the historic Harper theatre where you can go see a movie. Modern Cooperative is a shop with a thoughtfully curated selection of vintage and new midcentury modern furniture and home goods, as well as handmade gifts and decor from local artists. We sat in the cozy window of A10 and enjoyed our modern Italian eats, including homemade pasta and people watched while the sun went down. Down the street from A10 and Modern Cooperative is Valois where you can enjoy causal diner style food (another one of Obama's favorite spots!).
This T-shirt from our Airbnb pretty much sums it up. Things I want to see on our next stay would be Promontory Point Park, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Dusable Museum of African American History, La Petite Folie, Promontory restaurant, the Osaka Garden, an interior tour of the Robie House, and that elusive Obama sighting. Can't wait to see you again Hyde Park, to fall back to my favorite routines, and to discover more of your landmarks and secrets.
All photos taken with an iPhone 6s, edited in Instagram with Gingham filter.