Exploring Hyde Park

One of my favorite fall activities is heading to Hyde Park for the South Side Pie Challenge. This year, the event falls on Nov. 4. This delicious event makes it easy to do three great things with your family: get in the kitchen with kids, support a good cause and enjoy Chicago’s amazing Hyde Park neighborhood. Here’s an easy plan for making a day of it.

First things first: Pie!

South Side Pie Challenge 

Hyde Park Neighborhood Center, 5480 S. Kenwood Ave.

The South Side Pie Challenge is open to the public. Anyone can enter, including you and your kids! Entrants must register by Nov. 2 here. Bakers drop off two pies at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Center between 9:30-10:30 a.m. and return when the event opens to the public at 2 p.m. and slices of pie are sold for $3 each. Proceeds are donated to the Hyde Park & Kenwood Hunger Programs to help fight hunger. Prizes are awarded a little later in the afternoon.

Between dropping off the pies and returning to taste them all and hopefully claiming a blue ribbon, spend time getting to know Hyde Park.

Grab breakfast or brunch 

Medici on 57th  

1327 E. 57th St.

The scent of sweet and savory pies will have you mouth watering, so stop for brunch at this unique Hyde Park institution that’s been around for decades. This is a restaurant, bakery and deli all wrapped into one. From cinnamon roll French toast and delicious coffee to the “squeeze your own orange juice” (a Medici tradition), there’s something for everyone here.

Next, hit a museum (or three)

If you’ve got STEM-loving kiddos, head to the Museum of Science & Industry

5700 South Lake Shore Drive

The Museum of Science & Industry is on a mission to help curiosity make a comeback, and we’re all for that. Learn about how some of the ingredients for pies are grown and harvested at the Farm Tech exhibit. Visit the Future Energy Chicago exhibit to get a better understanding of energy, including the energy used by the ovens in which the pies baked. Also, Brick by Brick, the temporary LEGO exhibit, is at the MSI through Jan. 7. If you haven’t been, or want to go again, now is a great time.

If your little one loves mummies, head to The Oriental Institute

1155 East 58th Street

See a 17-foot statue of King Tut at this unique museum dedicated to the study of the ancient Middle East, which is also located on the University of Chicago campus. It seems the beginnings of pie can be traced back to the bakers for the pharaohs, who put nuts, honey and fruits in bread dough in what we would now call a galette. Over time, it evolved into pie. Families can work up an appetite discovering the world of the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians and Assyrians.

If your kids love art, head to the Smart Museum of Art

5550 South Greenwood Avenue

Nov. 4 is Family Day at the Smart Museum of Art, located on the University of Chicago campus. They host Family Days featuring hands-on art activities on a monthly basis so if you miss this one, don’t worry. If you are able to make it, kids can design and build flying parachute toys inspired by female aviators and posters on view in Revolution Every Day and join in a circus workshop for kids.

Burn off some energy on the playground

Bixler Playlot Park

1372 East 57th Street

Bixler Playlot is right across from the Medici and is a great place to do some climbing, swinging and sliding.

Nichols Park


1355 E. 53rd St.  


Get in some pre-pie activities at this 10-acre park which is adjacent to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Center.

Head back for pie!

Head back to the Southside Pie Contest and start tasting. With categories like fruit and pumpkin/sweet potato, I rationalize that we’re getting both fruits and veggies if we’re sampling pies from each category. That means pie for lunch is completely reasonable. And hopefully you’ve entered a pie and it wins, because the tagline of the pie challenge is spot on: “The only thing better than victory is victory a la mode.”

(It’s worth noting that you don’t have to be present to win so if the baking and museum-going has tired out your kids, or you, it’s okay to head home for a nap instead.)

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