This popular “tree town” boasts a vibrant city center and easy access to downtown Chicago
Every town has attractions, but Elmhurst has more thanits share of icons. From the campus of Elmhurst College to Wilder Mansion to the City Centre fountain, among other beloved sites, this western suburb on the cusp of the DuPage-Cook County border is inextricably linked to its places as well as to its neighborhoods and people.
Even as longtime residents lament the loss of venerable institutions like the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art — which recently closed in Elmhurst and will reopen in nearby Oak Brook — new attractions, including a towering fitness center in the heart of downtown, are garnering serious buzz.
Elmhurst’s iconic spots are among the many reasons this city just 16 miles west of Chicago has been included on lists of great places to live and visit. Other major factors are the community’s tree-lined streets — putting the “elm” in Elmhurst —
a lively cultural and entertainment scene and its proximity to major expressways, the commuter rail system and O’Hare Airport.
Who’s in for a virtual tour of the places and spaces that define this western suburb of more than 2,500 businesses and 46,000-plus residents?
Take a Walk on the Wilder Side
See why the 17-acre Wilder Park is the crown jewel of the city’s park district. The wide open space features meandering, tree lined paths, perfect for a morning run or afternoon stroll. There’s plenty of open space to kick a soccer ball, toss a frisbee
or sit down for a family picnic. Or blow off some steam with the kids at the safe, modern playground, or with kids of all ages at the nearby tennis courts.
Stop and smell the proverbial roses . . . or at least check out the colorful annual mum show this fall at Wilder Park Conservatory. With its glass façade and 83 years of history, the conservatory is an Elmhurst icon teeming with plants of many varieties. Walk through the outdoor garden next to the Conservatory, a popular backdrop for photos for holiday portraits, weddings and school proms, as well as for outdoor wedding ceremonies.
Mark your calendar . . . for special events held throughout the year at Wilder Park, from the Art in Wilder Park show in May to summer concerts on the lawn, to the community tree lighting in December.
Bring your besties to the 2019 Girls Night Out . . . an annual event held this year on Sept. 19 at the historic Wilder Mansion, a stately white house that was once home to prominent Elmhurst families and, for many years, served as the site of the Elmhurst Public Library. Come back on Nov. 1 or 2 for the kick off to the shopping season at the Holiday Market, featuring an array of local artisans and vendors. You can also throw your own soirée at Wilder Mansion, an event space for all kinds of special occasions.
Gain a new appreciation of modern art . . . at the Elmhurst Art Museum, with 15,000 square feet of galleries that attract national and international exhibits. The contemporary museum space includes a home designed by famed architect Mies van der Rohe that was moved from a residential lot in Elmhurst to its current location steps away from the main museum in Wilder Park. View rotating exhibits of modern artworks, like the “What Came After: Figurative Painting in Chicago 1978-1998” display that runs Sept. 14 through Jan. 12, or a special exhibit on the history of the former McCormick family home.
The Elmhurst Artists’ Guild has a dedicated gallery for local shows and there’s also an active education center offering year-round classes and workshops, plus an inviting lobby available for special events.
Curl up with a good book and an espresso . . . at the coffee bar inside Elmhurst’s award-winning public library, located at the edge of Wilder Park. The library is a hub of activity, from the new craft-artist-artisan center, The Makery, in the basement; to the kids’ center on the ground floor, to the state-of-the-art suite for music and video creation on the second floor; to the community meeting rooms throughout. There’s a busy calendar of activities, lectures and even performances by The Shakespeare Project of Chicago (look ahead to Hamlet on Oct. 17). Oh, they also have books to check out, too.
Get Centered in Elmhurst City Centre
Take a load off or hang out like the teens and tweens do at the Elmhurst City Centre Fountain Plaza, set in the center of the downtown shopping district and serving as a popular community gathering place spot.
Sing and dance along to your favorite songs . . . at the annual Rock the Block Party at that same corner of York Road and Schiller Street on Sept. 6 and 7. Who needs Lolla when you have this family-friendly festival and performances by
popular local bands like Sixteen Candles, 7th Heaven and American English? Local food and beer/wine vendors will be on hand to quench appetites and thirsts.
Eat your heart out . . . at one of the many restaurants in downtown Elmhurst that have defined this suburb as a dining destination. In recent years, the city has attracted distinctive, upscale restaurants like Livia Italian Eatery, One Fifty One Kitchen & Bar and Victory Meat & Seafood. Longtime mainstays like Hamburger Heaven, Pizza Palace, Red Dragon Chinese Restaurant, Two Brothers from Italy and the recently relocated Rainbow Café remain local favorites as well.
Get to the meat of the matter at 100 South Chop House, or eat your way across the cuisines of Italy at one of this town’s many Italian restaurants, such as Angelo’s, Armand’s, Bacci Pizza, Francesca’s Amici, Pazzi di Pizza or Zanzi’s. For take-out only, pick up one of Chicagoland’s favorite pizzas at Lou Malnati’s.
See what the fuss is about at foodie-centric gathering spots . . . like Tannins Wine Bar & Boutique and Market Table Catering and Events. Raise a pint at, well, Pints, or one of several pubs serving up all kinds of brews, including locally owned Elmhurst Brewing Company, Beerhead Bar & Eatery, Fitz’s Pub, Red Arrow Tap Room or The Club.
Prefer a morning meal? Rise and shine at Nu Crêpes, Egg Harbor Café or Stray Hen Café, among other breakfast spots. Get your caffeine fix at Pilot Pete’s Coffee, tucked inside the Metra station, Gloria Jean’s Coffee, or at the independently owned Brewpoint Coffee, with one location by the train tracks and a second — with a space for community events, artisan fairs and open mic nights — further north
on York Road.
Live the sweet life . . . at Fannie May, Kilwin’s, Kimmer’s Ice Cream, TCBY or Courageous Bakery, which donates part of every purchase to finding a cure for cancer.
Get rolling — or rock and rolling — at Fitz’s Spare Keys . . . a venue with its own bowling alley, pool hall, party rooms, bar and stage area, where a range of acts — including dueling pianos — perform on weekends.
Check out collections and hobby fun . . . at the Elmhurst Model Railroad Club (with open houses every week), It’s Good to Be King chess shop or Gem Comics.
Shop local . . . at one of the independent stores in Elmhurst City Centre, including apparel stores E Lounge, Enzee Boutique, Hazyl Boutique, Maxine, RedE and others; jewelry shops including Cottage Hill Diamonds; the iconic York Furrier that dates to 1931; and home décor and gift boutiques such as The Uptown Shop, Bread and Butter Home and Main Street Candy and Toys.
Catch a flick at the venerable York Theatre. . . . a Classic Cinemas venue that is practically synonymous with Elmhurst, thanks to its colorful, historic marquee and updated spaces for comfortable viewing.
Work it all out . . . at health and fitness spots like the new multilevel Fitness Formula Club — complete with a rooftop pool — Orangetheory Fitness, Pure Barre, The Pilates Room, CorePower Yoga or the venerable Elmhurst YMCA. The latter boasts one of the area’s only outdoor ice-skating rinks, in addition to an indoor swimming pool, gym and programs for all ages.
Put down roots . . . at one of the many new residential developments that have sprung up in downtown Elmhurst, including the Marke of Elmhurst on Addison Avenue at 1st Street, just north of the railroad tracks, and another new building under construction on Park Avenue, just south of the tracks.
Beyond City Centre
Venture beyond downtown Elmhurst to visit other business districts that define Elmhurst, a suburb that spans just over 10 square miles. For starters, put some spring in your step at the Spring Road business district on the south end of town. The area has its own merchant group — the Spring Road Business Association that was founded back in 1950 — that puts on events including summertime Music at the Gazebo concerts,an annual pet parade and an Easter egg hunt.
Bop through a cool boutique . . . like Kie & Kate Couture on Spring Road that carries a range of women’s fashions. Capture and remember moments at Elmhurst Photo Boutique, known for decades as Elmhurst Camera, which offers photo-finishing, photo gifts, photo books and more. Bloom where you’re planted at Phillip’s Flowers, which offers a range of flowers, plants and gifts. Wheel and deal at Stemple’s Bike Shop, a fixture in Elmhurst for decades with a handy location next to the Illinois Prairie Path, a popular route for cyclists.
“Ciao” down . . . at Roberto’s Ristorante and Pizzeria, a longtime hot spot for takeout pizza that is also well known for its fine Italian dining. Or giddy up on over to Silverado Grill for steaks, sandwiches and salads, a popular home on this suburban range for 25 years.
Belly up to the bar . . . at Spring Inn or Doc’s Victory Bar. Uncork a good time at Cuvee Cellars Wine Shop and Wine Bar and sample some of the 25 wines on tap while nibbling on shared plates and cheeses that pair well with wine. Live the sweet life at Lezza Spumoni and Desserts, the retail outlet for the Bellwood-based spumoni company that was founded in 1905.
Steps from the Prairie Path
Venture over to the Valette and York district, where other businesses and services cater to residents and visitors.
Grab a bite or a beverage . . . at places like Prairie Café, Riley’s Gathering Place, Southtown Hot Dogs, HB Jones or Mama Maria’s Pizza, or call in for coffee and lounge on the comfy couches at Elijah’s Coffee.
Strike the right chord at Luscombe Music. Get inspired by the rotating quotes that have been providing food for thought for decades outside Verlare Cleaners. Browse keepsakes, gifts and accents at Bacchabee’s or Carousel Flowers, among others.
Elmhurst’s Further Reaches
Eat, drink and be merry at other business districts in Elmhurst with their own unique character, such as the North York Corridor, where Mariano’s has set up shop; Lake St. and Grand Ave; Route 83 and St. Charles Rd., with everything from a popular Portillo’s to Whole Foods; or Route 83 and North Ave., where you can check out locally famed restaurant, Mack’s Golden Pheasant.
Another landmark site, at the edge of Elmhurst and Oak Brook and close to the retail area at York Road and Butterfield Road, is Elmhurst Hospital, a state-of-the-art facility built in 2011.
Some Elmhurst events are considered as iconic as its locations. Several have taken on a life of their own over the years, drawing residents, former residents and visitors from throughout the area.
Go low and slow . . . at ‘Cue for a Cause, a family-friendly barbecue competition held Sept. 8 in a community parking lot at York Road and Valette Street, benefitting the Elmhurst Walk-In Assistance Network. See the grill bosses at work while enjoying activities, music, barbecue foods and beer.
Burn off major calories . . . before the big dinner at the Dan Gibbons Turkey Trot, a 5K race on Thanksgiving morning that attracts more than 7,000 runners and walkers and has donated more than $3.9 milion over the years to several Du Page County charities.
Jingle all the way . . . to the Spring Road business district in South Elmhurst for holiday events, including sleigh rides and ice sculptures at the Prairie Path Gazebo. The Spring Road Business Association also puts on a Family Fun Fest on Sept. 21 at Wild Meadows Trace Park, in addition to other events during the year.
Get your Irish up . . . at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Elmhurst, which has grown into one of the Chicago area’s most popular events of its kind. The 2020 parade is March 7, stepping off at Spring Road and Wilson Street.
Raise a flag in honor of veterans . . . at the Elmhurst Memorial Day Parade, which dates back to 1918 and steps off in downtown Elmhurst before winding through town and ending at Wilder Park and its veteran’s memorial.
Time After Time
Step into the past at the Elmhurst History Museum, housed in the stone Glos Mansion that’s been a fixture in town for a century and features rotating displays like the upcoming exhibits, “The Power of Children: Making a Difference” and “On the Right Track: By Rail to Chicago and Beyond.” Toast the history of the town and celebrate its future at the Craft Beer Fest held on the museum grounds on Sept. 14, where you can enjoy beers from more than 50 craft brewers, listen to music by local bands and savor barbecue fare.
Give It the Old College Try
Elmhurst isn’t usually thought of as a college town, but it definitely is, thanks to Elmhurst College, a four-year liberal arts school that was founded in 1871. In June 2020, the school will officially change its name to Elmhurst University. You don’t have to be an Elmhurst College/Elmhurst University student however, to take advantage of its offerings and amenities.
Stroll the 48-acre campus . . . it’s officially an arboretum, thanks to the more than 800 trees and shrubs planted there.
Enjoy a concert . . . by the famous and, yes, regionally renowned Elmhurst College Jazz Band, including the annual Elmhurst College Jazz Festival in February.
Act like a student . . . and take advantage of college offerings open to the public. Cultural events, concerts and lectures are held at the Hammerschmidt Chapel and have drawn high-profile speakers over the years. It’s an iconic venue on its own. Student plays at The Mill Theatre welcome the community, and Elmhurst College library is also a resource not far from the Elmhurst Public Library.
Tune In to Culture
Take note of local musical talent at performances by the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra (ESO), Elmhurst Choral Union and Spirito! Singers, which trains young women and girls in sacred choral music, and Men of Spirito!, a male-voice choir. ESO will play the works of Tchaikovsky in November, the Elmhurst Choral Union presents “The Music of Christmas” in December and Spirito! Singers will perform at local events throughout the suburbs during its season that begins in September.
Sit back and enjoy the show . . . at local theatre productions by GreenMan Theatre Troupe, which will stage “Spooky Stories of the Season” in October and “Doubt: A Parable” in November, at the First United Methodist Church of Elmhurst.
Volunteer-run since 1937, Elmhurst Children’s Theatre produces three musicals per year, as well as a sketch comedy show and a roster of classes and workshops.
Go for a run or walk . . . on the Illinois Prairie Path that cuts through Elmhurst, with scenic stretches under a canopy of trees. There’s actual restored prairie near the York Road crossing of the Prairie Path.
Play around . . . at The Hub in Berens Park, a sports hub with batting cages, a spray park in summer and mini golf. There’s a sledding hill too, for snowy winter days. The park is one of several operated by the Park District, which also runs the Courts Plus fitness and tennis center, two outdoor swimming pools, and a variety of other recreational facilities.Edit Module