Our neighbors to the north: an unofficial visitor’s guide to Lincolnwood in Chicago

Living on the far north side means that I end up traversing the suburbs-sometimes unintentionally, since the line between city and ‘burb isn’t so clear in some areas. Take Lincolnwood, for example. It borders neighborhoods like West Rogers Park, Sauganash, and Albany Park and could easily pass as Chicago proper. It might not be on many people’s hangout radar, but I’ve found myself spending time in Lincolnwood a lot these days-and not by accident. Here are some ways to get to know this friendly neighbor to the north:

  1. Lincolnwood Library. This place is a mecca of kids’ programs, from weekly movie screenings to storytimes to an after-school café during the school year. The best part is that they’re all free, and you don’t have to be a Lincolnwood resident to register. I take my three-year-old to the weekly “Storytime and More” (for ages 3-5), which feels more like a preschool class than a free schedule-filler. There’s storytime, alphabet teaching, and top-notch crafts (think the letter “e” hatching from an egg). My favorite event, though, is the annual Book Sale (June 18-25 this year), where you’ll find boxes of books, DVDs, and albums. Prices are usually discounted the last few days: this year’s discounts were .25 for paperbacks, .50 for hardcovers and albums, and for DVDs and audio books. I scored a summer’s worth (40-ish) of books and music for under , including a Benny Goodman vinyl for hubbie, Richard Scarry favorites and The Boxcar Children for the boys, and a Joan Didion classic for myself. Not too shabby.
  2. Lincolnwood Farmer’s Market. There’s something about the allure of open-air markets in the thick of the city, but farmer’s markets 5000 N and better are few and far between (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Since this little piggy doesn’t want to fight through traffic, I found that Lincolnwood’s charming version off Pratt is just as good. Every Thursday through October 13 (8am-1pm), the parking lot of St. John’s Lutheran is transformed into a community of local farmers and the consumers who care enough about them to stop by. Oh, and the parking? Awesome.
  3. Lincolnwood Fest at Proesel Park. I have fond memories of riding the Tilt-A-Whirl one too many times here. Carnivals are as Americana as it gets and an unforgettable experience for kids, and Lincolnwood Fest’s sprawling version is no exception. Aside from typical rides and games, there’s a magic show and ventriloquist show (separate events) and an antique/classic car show on the last day. This year it runs from June 28-31.
  4. Bike Trails. Technically, it’s called theSkokie Sculpture Park, but the stretch of McCormick starting at Devon is indeed L’wood territory. The gently sloping hills are perfect for bike-riding, rollerblading, stroller-striding, or early bedtime-inducing. The trails run all the way north to Dempster and then some, according to some Yelpers. Newly planted trees help block out McCormick traffic, but you’ll be too busy admiring the eclectic sculptures to notice. Download the print tours from the website, especially the treasure hunt-esqueFamily Guide.
  5. Lazar’s Juvenile Furniture. I have yet to set foot in here, but that will all change soon, especially with ournewest addition. This family business has been around since 1917, making it the original baby superstore-and one of the country’s best, according to Baby Bargains. I love that they carry brands most places don’t, like Petit Collage, and big-ticket items as well as basic essentials.
  6. Lincolnwood Town Center. Let’s be honest; we urbanites may look down at malls, but we secretly love them. This one is the retail equivalent of a pot roast; no frills or foam-just the hearty basics (i.e. Gap, The Children’s Place, and Haagen-Dasz). And you can count on LTC to have that cute thing in that hard-to-find size.
  7. Christmas Lights. Of course, we’ll have to wait a while for this one, but trust me. It’s legendary. Between Devon and Pratt west of the Edens, the upscale residential area transforms into holiday magic: a tree that goes through a three-story home, animated gingerbread men, and an elf-filled treehouse to name a few (much cuter than it sounds).Inch along in your car and gawk as long as necessary; don’t worry, because everyone else is doing the same. It’s been a family tradition since I was little, and while participating houses seem to have dwindled, kids (and grownups) will still be blown away.

So there you have it: my very unofficial guide to Lincolnwood. What did I miss?

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