The Ultimate Guide to Chicago Hyde Park – Older Woman Solo Travel

The Ultimate Guide to Chicago Hyde Park – Older Woman Solo Travel

Where is Hyde Park located in Chicago

The neighborhood of Hyde Park is 7 miles south of downtown Chicago.  It is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Its boundaries are 51st St (Hyde Park Blvd) to the north, Midway Plaisance to the south, Washington Park to the west and Lake Michigan to the east.

Why is Hyde Park special?

  • Safe for the Older Woman Solo? – The neighborhood of Hyde Park is patrolled by the City of Chicago Police and the University of Chicago Police (with full police powers).  It is one of the safest neighborhoods in Chicago.  Chicago city blocks are very well lit at night but you will want to stick to main streets such as Hyde Park Boulevard, Midway Plaisance, South Lake Park Ave, and 55th Street if you plan to take a stroll in the evening.
  • Diversity – The neighborhood is very culturally diverse. Sometimes it reminds me of a mini-Washington DC. Giving me another reason why I love the neighborhood. College students, the middle class, academic professors and Chicago politicians all make up the population of this neighborhood.
  • It’s the home of our 44th President – Well, really President Barack Obama’s home is located in the neighborhood of Kenwood.  But He did teach law at the University of Chicago, located in Hyde Park.  Kenwood is adjacent to Hyde Park but linked together due to its close proximity to each other. This is why it’s often known as the Hyde Park-Kenwood area.
  • It’s laid back, hippy vibe – You will see your fair share of Birkenstocks and home-grown community grocery stores such as Treasure Island and Hyde Park Produce. Take a walk around Promontory Point, at 55th street and see joggers, competitive cyclists, people of all ages taking a stroll, mothers walking with strollers, lovers making out and folks smoking ganja. The Point, as Chicago Hyde Parkers call it, offer breath-taking views of downtown Chicago; a great place for a picnic.
  • The University of Chicago – A big reason that Hyde Park is so diverse is due to the UChicago. It is also the reason why Hyde Park has that small college town feel to it. Established in 1890 by the American Baptist Education Society, a large grant from John D. Rockefeller and land donated by Marshall Fields.  It was known and still is known for groundbreaking research in the areas of Ecology, Sociology, Education reform and Law, to name a few.  And of course, it was instrumental in heralding in the Atomic Age.

Chicago Hyde Park’s history

Paul Cornell, the cousin of Ezra Cornell who founded Cornell University, purchased the land that would become Hyde Park in 1853.  He named it Hyde Park after the area in London by the same name. It was annexed by the city of Chicago in 1889. And shortly afterward, it was named the location for the World Exposition of 1893.  The building of the University of Chicago in 1890 and the World Exposition ushered in a housing boom for the neighborhood of Hyde Park with its building of cottages, residential hotels, professor’s homes, parks, and businesses.

Things to do in Chicago Hyde Park

  • Start off early with breakfast at The Original Pancake House, 1358 East 47th Street (across the border in the neighborhood of Kenwood).  Recommendation: Get there early, the wait time for a table can be horrendous. Check out the crepes made with fresh strawberries, strawberry syrup and plenty of whip cream (my favorite).  Coffee’s not bad either.

 

  • Here you will be met by concrete barriers and Chicago Police but you will be able to get a sneak peek of President Barack Obama‘s Chicago residence; 5046 South Greenwood (Kenwood neighborhood).
  •  Frederick C. Robie House, 5757 South Woodlawn Avenue.  The house was built in 1908 by Frank Lloyd Wright.  His vision was to build a house that was sleeker with an open space architectural design.  The architect who is responsible for the Prairie-style was a genius ahead of his time.  The Robie House is the precursor to architectural modernism.

 

 

  • Time for refreshments?  Head next door to Plein Air Cafe, 5751 South Woodlawn Avenue.  Grab yourself a thick cut of sourdough toast with butter and honey, some tea. And if it’s comfortable outside; find a seat and sit in the shadows of a genius’ creation…let your creative juices flow.

 

 

  • Oriental Institute Museum, 1155 East 58th Street, across the street from Robie House.  This museum was founded in 1919 and its mission is to promote interest in the ancient civilization of the Middle East in the diverse, cultural society that we live in.

 

 

  • Not to be missed is the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel5850 South Woodlawn (across the street from the Oriental Museum) Hours: Tues-Fri, 11:00 AM-6:00 PM.

 

What I love about Rockefeller Chapel is its goal to support spirituality as a whole.  It is the spiritual center for the University of Chicago.  You can find all types of events at this chapel or at Bond Chapel representing a variety of spiritual practices.

Recommendation: If you practice meditation, you can catch a 20-minute session at Bond Chapel from 8:00 AM-8:20 AM weekdays

  • If you are a bookworm, head over to 57th Street Books, 1301 East 57th Street.  Enjoy their collection of sci-fi thrillers, children books, and cookbooks.

 

  • MIS, located at 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere and is home to more than 35,000 artifacts.  Many of the exhibits are hands-on with the intention of sparking scientific creativity within.

 

  • Exhibits range from subjects such as energy, chemistry, design, transportation, environmental science and so much more!  Recommendation: MSI is so huge and contains so many exhibits that you should schedule a whole day to visiting all 400,000 square feet of this museum. Don’t rush and take plenty of breaks.  What’s so great about MIS is that a lot of exhibits requires sitting….thank God!  My favorite is the exhibits in the Transportation Gallery.

 

 

 

  • When I moved to Chicago about 30 years ago, one of the first places I had pizza was Medici on 57th.  Back then it was a little tiny spot; a local hang out for college students, professors, and local residents.  It was known for its wooden tables full of graffiti and great pizza, of course.  Now, it’s still a local hang out (graffiti tables are still there) but a lot bigger and just little fancier.  But don’t let that stop you from stopping in and getting some pizza.  Location: 1357 South 57th Street.

 

  • If you are staying at a hotel or an Airbnb in Hyde Park, have Italian Fiesta Pizza delivered to you, 773-684-2222 or 1400 East 47th Street if you want to pick it up.  Be prepared for a long wait.  They are very popular.  It is the favorite pizza of President Barack Obama!

Where to stay in Hyde Park

  • Hotels: Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center5225 South Harper Avenue

Recommendations: Staying at an Airbnb is a wonderful way to get to know Hyde Park on a more intimate level and a lot cheaper than staying at a hotel. Click on this link www.airbnb.com/c/anitam1404 , and you will get $40 towards your first trip and I will get a $20 travel credit (thank you).

 

How to get to Hyde Park

  • If you are driving a car to Hyde Park, “may the force be with you”.  Hyde Park is notorious for horrendous parking.  No, seriously I’m not kidding…horrendous.  The best way to get to Hyde Park is either by public transportation, uber or Lyft.

Public Transportation

  • By Train: The Metra Electric commuter train from downtown station Millineum Station downtown services 3 stops in Hyde Park; 51st/53rd (Hyde Park) station, 55th-56th-57th Street station,  59th Street (U. of Chicago) and 47th Street (Kenwood)
  • By Bus: CTA bus #6 Jackson Park

If you are a walker (or runner) getting around Hyde Park is very doable. It’s like a large college campus.  You can also rent a bicycle at a divvy station – Lake Park Ave and 56th Street; Shore Drive and 55th Street; and Lake Park Ave and 47th.

Use Uber and Lyft if you don’t feel like walking.

Recommendation: Download Google Maps for directions and Yelp for local recommendations for cuisine, shopping, nightlife.

 

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