By Amber Holst of Concierge Preferred
Nestled along the tree-lined streets of the historic Hyde Park neighborhood is a low-key piece of presidential history: the private residence of Barack Obama and his family. Here’s how you can spend an ideal day exploring some of the 44th President's favorite local haunts.
While the Obamas are currently residing in D.C., this has been their South Side home since they purchased the property in 2005. While technically located in the Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago, the beginning of the adjacent Hyde Park neighborhood is across the street and where you can hit all of the local spots. I recommend starting your day here by snapping a few photos of the handsome, red-brick house located at 5046 S. Greenwood Ave. It’s also directly across the street from a stunning Byzantine-style synagogue, which makes it easier to identify. After, walk just a few blocks South and East and stroll past the Hyde Park Hair Salon to see where Zariff, President Obama’s trusted barber of over 20 years, works his magic.
This South Side treasure played host to the World’s Columbian Exposition back in 1893 and today is chock-full of beautiful parks, museums, and more. Where else can you walk through a Japanese garden, see a Frank Lloyd Wright house, and then take in a view of the Chicago skyline? It’s exactly for these reasons that I recommend you grab a Divvy Bike from the station next to the barber shop (there’s one at the corner of Blackstone and Hyde Park Boulevard), as you pedal past some of the Obama’s favorite sights.
Often frequented by the Obama family, this urban stretch of greenery actually starts just South of Grant Park and is best known for its beautiful harbor and 31st Street skateboarding park. For locals, though, we know it’s also home to Promontory Point, a peninsula designed by Prairie School landscape architect Alfred Caldwell that offers some of the most Instagram-worthy skyline views of the city. It’s a must-see on any visit to the neighborhood.
Continuing South along the Lakefront Trail, take note as you approach the Neo-Classical beauty that houses the Museum of Science and Industry, the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. A favorite among Chicago kids, Malia and Sasha being no exception, you could spend endless hours (and multiple visits) taking in all that this cultural gem has to offer. Stand-outs include the Boeing 727, 40-foot water vapor tornado, and baby chick hatchery. However, one activity I highly recommend doing is the tour of U-505 German submarine.
Since there are more sights to see, as you’re continuing South along the route, make sure to pull over just behind the museum. Located on Wooded Islandin Jackson Park you’ll find one of the city’s best-kept secrets: the Osaka Garden, or Garden of the Phoenix. This Japanese strolling garden is one of a few remnants from the 1893 World’s Fair and features calm ponds, peaceful trees, and gorgeous landscaping. Some would argue that the real beauty of the garden is in its secrecy, a characteristic that makes it truly an escape.
Jackson Park is also where the Obama Foundation is planning to open the Barack Obama Presidential Center, a project expected to be completed in 2020. Check back here at Enjoy Illinois for all the latest information whenever it's available.
From Jackson Park, ride West down the Midway Plaisance and take in the University of Chicago campus where Obama taught law for 12 years. This storied university simply oozes history and its gothic-mixed-with-contemporary architecture is worth a visit alone. Must-visits on campus include Stagg Field, the site of the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction; the Oriental Institute, a museum that showcases artifacts from the ancient Near East and Mesopotamia; and the iconic Frederick C. Robie House, which is Frank Lloyd Wright’s best known Prairie design and a masterpiece of modern architecture.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to head back North and dock the Divvy at Lake Park Avenue and 53rd Street to dine as the president does. Walk a few blocks West along 53rd street and head into Valois Restaurant. This neighborhood landmark is an all day diner-slash-counter-style cafeteria that offers up a plethora of comfort food. It has long been favorite of Barack Obama whose usual order consists of egg whites, turkey sausage, hash browns, wheat toast, and hot tea. While they have all of the breakfast staples you’d expect from a diner, they also offer a plethora of other fare. From beef goulash with noodles to lamb shank, there’s something for everyone. A meal here won’t break the bank, either, as the most expensive entree on the menu is under $12.
If you find yourself exploring Hyde Park in September, make sure to check out the annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. This year’s event will take place Sept. 29-30, 2018. With more than twelve boutique venues throughout the neighborhood playing host to live Jazz performances, it’s a beautifully-curated event that meshes music with a day of exploration.
Chicago's annual celebration of house music, Chosen Few takes over Jackson Park each summer. The 2018 event will take place on July 7, 2018. What began as a picnic for a group of friends from the early days of house to relive memories while connecting over burgers, baseball, and beats has evolved over the years and now plays host to over 50,000 fans each year.
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