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Things to do in the North Shore Suburbs of Chicago

A captivating combination of scenic beauty and cultural cachet, Chicago’s North Shore is far from ordinary.

Located just north of Chicago, the North Shore suburbs are home to communities that rank among the wealthiest in the United States. It boasts historic mansions and estates originally owned by some of Chicago's – and the country's – wealthiest families, including such familiar names as McCormick, Ogden, and Armour.

But there's more to the North Shore suburbs than affluent residents and grand homes.

Bordered by Lake Michigan, the area has a long and interesting history and is filled with an abundance of nature parks, cultural attractions, and some of the best shopping and restaurants in the Chicagoland area.

Read on to learn more about this fascinating area, and see our selection of the best places to go and things to do in the North Shore Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

North Shore Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois

Lakefront homes for sale in the North Shote Suburbs of Chicago Illinois

The North Shore area is located between Chicago and Wisconsin, extending from the shores of Lake Michigan westward to Milwaukee Avenue, and is an established network of residential communities known as the North Shore Suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. These areas encompass tree-lined streets and historic luxury lake-front homes mixed with recent construction as well as vintage condominiums.

The most notable suburbs in the North Shore area include:

  • Lake Forest, Illinois

    Located around 30 miles north of Downtown Chicago, this lakefront city was named after the abundant forested land in the area, preserved from its earliest days. Home to prestigious golf courses, country clubs, beach parks, and historic polo matches, Lake Forest offers an idyllic resort lifestyle while being only minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

  • Glenview, Illinois

    The Village of Glenview has a small town charm and a family-friendly atmosphere. Featuring historic neighborhoods, Glenview has fantastic shopping and dining, numerous education options, and great community spirit.

  • Evanston, Illinois

    Home to the esteemed Northwestern University, Evanston has a youthful college town feel. It is a vibrant city with plenty of attractions, including historic and cultural destinations, more than 80 parks and playgrounds, a wealth of restaurants, cafes, and breweries, and a fabulous lakefront with stunning views of the Downtown Chicago skyline.

  • Des Plaines, Illinois

    Conveniently located just north of O'Hare International Airport and less than 20 miles to Downtown Chicago, Des Plaines is a thriving small city with plenty to offer to residents and visitors. Here, you'll find golf courses, community centers, and numerous parks and recreational facilities.

  • Highland Park, Illinois

    Highland Park boasts miles of stunning beaches, nine business districts, acres of parks, and a popular festival for the performing arts. Dedicated to green living and the preservation of its vast natural heritage, Highland Park has been named a Tree City USA annually since 1980.

  • Northbrook, Illinois

    The Village of Northbrook exudes the historic small town charm that characterizes most of the North Shore communities, but it also has a vibrancy that sets it apart from its neighbors. Northbrook features an expansive luxury shopping mall that has become a regional retail destination, as well as a nationally recognized bicycle racing track and a thriving central business district. In addition, the city has numerous parks and activity centers, walking and biking trails, and other family-friendly attractions.

Top activities and attractions in North Shore, Chicago

Whether you're a beach lover, an outdoor enthusiast, a history and culture buff, or an urbanite who loves eclectic shopping and dining experiences, you will never run out of things to do in the North Shore Suburbs.

We compiled these lists of some of the best activities and destinations in the area to serve as your guide:

Beaches in the North Shore area along Lake Michigan

A closeup view of seashores in the North Shore Suburbs of Chicago

Evanston Beaches
2100 Ridge Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201

The city of Evanston has six public beaches with miles of biking and jogging paths along Lake Michigan. You can enjoy tanning on the sandy beaches, swimming, boating, picnicking, and playing sports like volleyball and tennis. At certain times of the year, some or all of the beaches may be closed for swimming, but the sand portion is open almost every day for sunbathing or a day of frolicking with family and friends. Evanston Beaches: Lighthouse Beach, Clark Street Beach, Dempster/Greenwood Street Beach, Lee Street Beach and South Boulevard Beach.

Glencoe Beach
55 Hazel Avenue
Glencoe, IL 60022

Considered the most beautiful beach on the North Shore, Glencoe Beach is a wonderful place to hang out and simply soak in the sun, or to enjoy a host of activities such as swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking, and more. The beach also features fun amenities and facilities, including a sprayground for kids, volleyball courts, sun shelters, and a trellis area that may be rented for parties and events. The adjacent Glencoe Boating Beach features boat launches, beach equipment rentals, and watercraft storage rentals.

Winnetka Beaches
540 Hibbard Road
Winnetka, IL 60093

The City of Winnetka has four swimming beaches and one dog beach, all surrounded by acres of lush green parkland. You have a choice of a swimming-only beach, a swimming and non-motorized boating facility, and a swimming and motorized/non-motorized boating beach. Amenities include beach houses, playgrounds, fishing piers, boat launches, and watercraft rentals.

Beaches in Winnetka, Illinois include: Centennial Dog Beach, Elder Lane Beach, Lloyd Beach + Boat Launch, Maple Street Beach, and Tower Road Beach.

The outdoors

A hiking trail sign surrounded by leaves and branches

The Grove National Historic Landmark
1421 Milwaukee Avenue
Glenview, IL 60025

Covering 150 acres, The Grove has been designated a National Historic Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It features miles of trails along previously wetland pools, prairies filled with oak-hickory trees, and habitats of indigenous wildlife.

You'll also find two historic homes in the area – The Kennicott House where groundbreaking horticulturist and educator Dr. John Kennicott settled in 1836, and the Redfield Estate, which is now a popular wedding and events venue.

Other highlights include a Native American village, a log cabin, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and an interpretive center.

Forest Preserves of Cook County - River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Avenue
Northbrook, IL 60062

River Trail Nature Center is one of the six natural preserve facilities operated by the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Located on sugar maple woodland, the facility offers self-guided trails that lead to the Des Plaines Trail System. There's also a nature center where visitors of all ages can learn about native plants, animals, and landscapes, and do fun activities like making maple syrup and playing at the facility's outdoor and indoor play areas.

Ladd Memorial Arboretum & Evanston Ecology Center
2024 McCormick Boulevard
Evanston, IL 60201

Stretching under a mile along McCormick Boulevard, the arboretum offers 23 acres of natural beauty. It features several gardens, each showcasing a collection of plants belonging to the same family. Also found within the arboretum is the Evanston Ecology Center, a nature education facility featuring fossil exhibits, nature programs, and mounted specimens of different kinds of animals.

Green Bay Trail
400 Maple Street
Winnetka, IL 60093

This "rails with trails" runs parallel to the Metra North Line. It stretches nine miles from Wilmette, IL to Highland Park, IL and passes through other North Shore communities like Kenilworth, IL and Lake Bluff, IL. Biking on the trail is one of the most fun things to do in the North Shore Suburbs of Chicago, IL. The trail is navigable even by young bikers, although caution is advised as the surfaces vary from asphalt to crushed limestone, and some parts traverse sidewalks and residential roads.

Museums and Cultural attractions

A view outside a museum in North Shore Suburbs of Chicago Illinois

Baha'i House of Worship
100 Linden Avenue
Wilmette, IL 60091

The oldest existing Baha'i House of Worship in the world, this beautiful temple was completed in 1947 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is open every day to visitors who come to pray, meditate, or simply marvel at the building's design, with its intricate lace-like ornamentation and a stunning 135-foot high dome. Exquisite gardens and fountains surround the temple, creating the perfect atmosphere for tranquil contemplation and prayers.

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center
9603 Woods Drive
Skokie, IL 60077

This significant museum was created to remind people about the horrors of racial hatred and prejudice, and to encourage them to take a stand against such issues.

The third largest Holocaust museum in the world, the Illinois Holocaust Museum showcases the events and daily life before, during, and after the Holocaust, as well as Holocaust survivor stories and current issues involving social justice around the world.

Frances Willard House
1730 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201

Frances Willard was one of the most influential social reformers in America, and her work in the late 1800s served as a foundation for modern social welfare policies. The Frances Willard House in Evanston was her residence and headquarters when she was president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in the late 1800s. Built in 1865, the house is one of the most significant historic properties in the North Shore, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Grosse Point Lighthouse
2601 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60201

Completed in 1873, Grosse Point Lighthouse served as the lead lighthouse that guided sailors in the approach to Chicago. The grounds surrounding the lighthouse were developed into the Lighthouse Park District in 1929. Today, the park includes wildflower and butterfly gardens that are being maintained by the Garden Club of Evanston. From the tower, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the scenic town below.

The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
9501 Skokie Boulevard
Skokie, IL 60076

This two-theater complex is a venue for many live performances and fun things to do in Chicago’s North Shore, including concerts, musicals, lectures, and comedy shows. The theaters, along with the adjoining lobbies and function rooms, may also be rented for private and corporate events, such as parties, receptions, and seminars. The Center Theatre can accommodate up to 867 people, while the smaller North Theatre can accommodate up to 318 people.

Halim Time & Glass Museum
1560 Oak Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201

Opened in 2017, this one-of-a-kind museum features more than 70 stained glass artworks from masters like Tiffany, Sperry, and Lamb, as well as over 1,100 timepieces from various eras in history. See tower clocks, pocket watches, automatons, and other timekeeping devices made with painstaking craftsmanship. In addition to these permanent exhibits, Halim Time & Glass Museum also features artworks by the masters in various media, including oil paintings, housewares, and more.

Restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries

A bottle pouring wine to a glass

Hewn
1733 Central Street
Evanston, IL 60201

Named one of the Best Bakeries in America by Food & Wine Magazine and one of the Best Bread Bakeries by the Food Network, Hewn is clearly on track to achieving their mission of making "people feel good about eating bread." Hewn makes artisan breads and baked goods from scratch and offers a rotating daily bread selection. Their rustic storefront also doubles as a coffee shop where you can enjoy a cup of joe from their full espresso bar, along with a freshly baked bread or pastry.

Hackney's on Harms
1241 Harms Road
Glenview, IL 60025

The home of the famous Hackneyburger – a half-pound burger served on Hackney's Dark Rye or bun – Hackney's on Harms has been a North Shore staple since 1939. Located across the street from Glenview's forest preserve, this beloved restaurant offers a relaxing and deeply satisfying experience, with their homey ambiance and signature burgers, sandwiches, and salads.

Ruth's Chris Steak House
933 Skokie Boulevard
Northbrook, IL 60062

The North Shore location of the world-renowned steak house, Ruth's Chris Steak House Northbrook offers a wide selection of prime steaks, seafood, and more.

The restaurant also features an in-house bar serving their signature handcrafted cocktails and appetizers.

Double Clutch Brewing Company
2121 Ashland Avenue
Evanston, IL 60201

Covering 10,000 square feet, this brewpub and event venue boasts a 15-barrel brewing system at a facility found just at the rear of the building. Double Clutch serves craft beers on tap, a full bar and wine selection, and delectable bar food to go with your drink. The spacious pub may also be rented for private events and parties.

Shopping

Westfield Old Orchard
4905 Old Orchard Center
Skokie, IL 60077

Housing over 140 shops of luxury and popular brands, Westfield Old Orchard has been the go-to retail destination in North Shore since 1956. Encompassing nearly 1.6 million square feet, this shopping center also features department stores, grocery stores, a regular and a luxury cinema, and numerous services.

Northbrook Court
1515 Lake Cook Road
Northbrook, IL 60062

Anchored by a Neiman Marcus and featuring more than 90 shops, Northbrook Court is a major retail and entertainment institution in North Shore Chicago. In addition to the shops, you will also find popular restaurants, snacks and drinks counters, and an AMC cinema complex that includes a luxurious dine-in theater.

The Glen Town Center
2030 Tower Drive
Glenview, IL 60026

The Glen Town Center features shops and brands that can only be found in the North Shore. This mixed-use complex also houses residential and office units, as well as a spacious park where you can take a break from a day of shopping. Special events are staged at the center throughout the year, including festivals, art exhibits, and more.

Parks and Gardens

A garden full of violet flowers, a fountain, trees, and

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022

One of Chicagoland's most visited attractions, the Chicago Botanic Garden encompasses 385 acres of dazzling landscaping. This plant museum has around 27 individually themed gardens, each showcasing a breathtaking assortment of colorful foliage. The botanic garden also stages highly anticipated annual events, such as the Orchid Show, the Night of 1,000 Jack-o'-Lanterns, and Wonderland Express. There are also a host of events throughout the year that cater to a wide range of interests and advocacies, such as the Garden Chef Series, Tuesday Morning Music, and many more.

Thornwood Park
2400 Thornwood Avenue
Wilmette, IL 60091

The community parks in the North Shore of Chicago offer a host of fun and convenient things to do. One of the best facilities in the area is Thornwood Park. Located just off Green Bay Road in Wilmette, Thornwood Park is perfect for the family. It has a large grassy area with sidewalks for biking and scootering, as well as playgrounds, baseball fields, an outdoor ice rink, tennis courts, and a sandbox.

Emily Oaks Nature Center
4650 Brummel Street
Skokie, IL 60076

This 13-acre savanna and nature center offers a scenic landscape of wildflowers, lush oak trees, tall grasses, a pond, and wildlife such as great blue herons, flying squirrels, hawks, foxes, and more. The facility's nature center holds classes on nature, and stages fun events and games like scavenger hunts and gnome hunts.

Ed Rudolph Velodrome
1479 Maple Avenue
Northbrook, IL 60062

This 382-meter bicycle track is a venue for regional and national cycling races, as well as training programs for professional and amateur cyclists. When it's not being used for events and races, the velodrome may be used by Northbrook, IL residents.

Annual festivals and events

A couple with their back turned holding each other while rising their other hands

Glencoe Festival of Art
Downtown Glencoe, IL 60022

This yearly summer event is participated in by dozens of juried artists of various media, including painting, jewelry, glass, photography, and more. Their works are displayed and sold in galleries, coffee shops, boutiques, and other venues throughout Downtown Glencoe. Visitors also get the chance to watch the artists at work or chat with them at their booths.

Bitter Jester Music Festival
Highland Park, IL 60035

Also staged in the summer, this music festival is an annual competition for emerging musicians throughout the Midwest. Participating bands and solo artists perform in concerts staged every Friday at venues like Ravinia Brewing Co. and Judy’s Pizza, where finalists for the Grand Finale concert are picked. The finale concert is typically held on the Fourth of July as part of the program leading to the city’s fireworks display.

Northbrook Days
Northbrook, IL 60062

This five-day family-friendly event is typically held in August at the picturesque Northbrook Village Glen. The festival features all kinds of attractions for participants of all ages, including amusement rides, daily concerts, food and beverage booths, games, and more.

Lake Forest Music Festival
Lake Forest, IL 60045

This day-long event features a wide variety of activities for the entire family, such as a bourbon and craft cocktail tasting event for adults, games and activities for kids, food booths, and live music performances at the City Hall Stage and the Oakwood Stage.

Winnetka Music Festival
Winnetka, IL 60093

Featuring live musical acts, this one day event also has an extensive food tasting extravaganza at the venue’s spacious food court where various restaurants, food trucks, and booths offer all kinds of food, wines, and spirits.

Learn more about living in the North Shore Suburbs from Team United

If you're looking for the perfect North Shore home for you and your family, we at United Realty Group can help. We are real estate and lifestyle experts specializing in the region's vibrant communities as well as the nearby suburbs.

We are committed to providing you with a seamless and worry-free real estate experience from start to finish.

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Contact us at 888.964.1977 or send an email to info(at)united(dotted)re.
Tags: activities in chicago | chicago real estate | living in chicago | north shore chicago | things to do in chicago

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