Chicago may be the most appealing vacation destination in Illinois, but the nearby village of Oak Park provides the perfect getaway and allows access to the city with just a short drive or hopping on board one of the many forms of public transportation. It’s a dream spot for any history or architecture buff, having been home to Frank Lloyd Wright as well as other famous people, such as Ernest Hemingway and Betty White. Learn more about the best things to do in Oak Park!
1. Marvel at the world's first modern building: Unity Temple
Whether you’re planning on going to mass or not, Unity Temple is one of the buildings in Oak Park that you can’t forget to see. Designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who lived in Oak Park, the building has been called the first modern building in the world. It is built entirely of reinforced concrete and mixes superb aesthetic, structural and functional elements for both churchgoers and passersby. The building was built between 1905 and 1908, which also makes it part of the national historic register.
Address: 875 Lake Street, 60301 Oak Park, Illinois
Website: Unity Temple
2. Watch a movie at historic Lake Theater
Vacations can mean you’re constantly on the go. Especially in Oak Park, where there’s so much to see, you’ll most likely need a nice, relaxing movie night. Instead of heading to a cookie-cutter corporate movie theater, buy your tickets at Lake Theater, which is one of the several theaters that the family-owned Classic Cinemas shows movies in Illinois. Like the rest of their theaters, Lake Theatre was refurbished by them and now offers a top-notch movie going experience inside a historical building. It has all of the latest movie technology, but you’ll feel like you’re in the golden age of movies.
Address: 1022 Lake St, 60301 Oak Park, IL
Website: Lake Theatre
3. View Pleasant Home’s unique prairie style
Pleasant Home is one of the locations you need to remember if you’re an architecture enthusiast. The building is more than a century old and is known as one of the earliest examples of Prairie School Architecture in the nation. The house is now a museum where you can marvel at the architecture and also enjoy various cultural events, performances, and festivals. The building was built in the late 1900s and includes 30 rooms. For docent-guided tours, tickets are 10 USD for adults, 8 USD for seniors, and 5 USD for children ages 5 to 18.
Address: 217 Home Avenue, 60302 Oak Park, Illinois
Website: Pleasant Home
4. Explore the Oak Park Public Library
The Oak Park Public Library is a great destination for a rainy or more relaxed day. While there are three different buildings, the main library as it stands now was erected in early 2000, offers three stories of books and is nearly double in size of the previous library building. Along with the standard collection of books for check out, the library also offers special events such as authors and book groups, digital learning labs and summer reading activities for kids. The library hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Oak Park Public Library
Address: 834 Lake St, 60301 Oak Park, IL
Website: Oak Park Public Library
5. Discover wonders at the Oak Park Conservatory
The Oak Park Conservatory is one of the top three historical sites in Oak Park, and you know it’s a great place to visit when more than 30,000 visitors head there each year. What’s best is the conservatory is free, so it’s the perfect place to spend the day with the whole family. You can marvel at three different showrooms, which are the Mediterranean, Tropical and Desert rooms. You’re sure to discover a new plant species you haven’t seen before. The conservatory’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Oak Park Conservatory
Address: 615 Garfield St, 60304 Oak Park, IL
Website: Oak Park Conservatory
6. Fulfill your desire for nature at Austin Gardens
Austin Gardens is a beautiful respite for many Oak Park and Chicago citizens. It’s tucked away in a residential neighborhood and provides the perfect amount of peace and tranquility for those who are usually used to a bustling city. The park is only 1.5 hectares (3.6 acres), but it offers about 285 trees to walk amongst and relax underneath. The park also offers the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center, which hosts educational programs, kids’ camps, and other community events. The park is open every day from sunrise to 10 p.m.
Address: 167 Forest Ave, 60302 Oak Park, IL
Website: Austin Gardens
7. Learn about Hemingway at the Hemingway Birthplace and Museum
Many people associate Ernest Hemingway with the Florida Keys since that is where he lived for quite some time and even wrote some of his books. However, Hemingway was actually born in Oak Park, Illinois and you can now tour the house he was born in as well as visit a museum dedicated to him. The two-story home has many different rooms, including the nursery that Hemingway resided in. The museum is only a short walk from the house, and it holds rotating exhibits of rare photos and artifacts. The home and museum are open Wednesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Address: 200 N Oak Park Ave, 60302 Oak Park, IL
Website: Hemingway Museum
8. Bring the kids to Wonder Works
If you’re with kids when you visit Oak Park, the Wonder Works Children’s Museum may be a great place for them to learn and have a great time. The museum is much more than the average place where you merely walk around exhibits because it offers interactive opportunities for children to experience art, performance, design, building and more. There’s even an outdoor organic garden! The museum is open every day except Tuesday, and its hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is 7 USD per person.
Address: 6445 West North Avenue in Oak Park, Illinois
Website: Wonder Works
9. Join the Annual Wright Plus Housewalk
If you’re visiting Oak Park in the springtime, don’t miss the Wright Plus Housewalk, which usually occurs in May. The event allows attendees to walk around Oak Park and visit each building in the town that was designed by either Frank Lloyd Wright or his contemporaries. Many of the buildings are closed off to the public, but on the day of the walk everyone involved is able to take a look inside and see the beautiful architecture firsthand.
Wright Plus Housewalk
Address: Around Oak Park
Website: Wright Plus Housewalk
10. View the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is one of the best sights to see in Oak Park. The house is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and docents also offer tours throughout the day. Tickets are 8 USD for adults and 15 USD for children. With admission, you get to explore the beauty of the home and experience firsthand the birthplace of American Prairie-style architecture.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
Address: 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, IL
Website: Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
First and foremost, Oak Park is a paradise for those interested in American architecture and its history. Not only are there many Frank Lloyd Wright homes to wonder at, including his own, but there are also other historical buildings that famed Americans once lived in. The town is full of things to do, and you may not want to leave!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.