Hyde Park combines a top attraction for kids—The Museum of Science and Industry—with the University of Chicago’s 175 acres of gorgeous Gothic buildings and some of the city’s most distinctive residential architecture. It’s a truly racially integrated neighborhood and well worth visiting, but be aware that some of the neighboring areas have experienced crime and blight.
START: Take the Metra to 56th St. and walk 4 blocks south to 60th St.
1. Midway Plaisance: The heart of the University of Chicago campus is a broad (1-block-wide), grassy thoroughfare designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect behind New York City’s Central Park. The mile-long stretch was the site of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition’s Bazaar of Nations, which featured the world’s first Ferris wheel and carnival sideshow attractions. The term “midway” has been used ever since to refer to the heart of a carnival. At 60th St. and Stony Island Ave., west to Cottage Grove Ave.
2. Frederick C. Robie House: Considered a masterpiece of 20th-century American architecture, this National Historic Landmark features the open layout, linear geometry of form, and craftsmanship that are typical of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School design. Completed in 1909 for inventor Frederick Robie, a bicycle and motorcycle manufacturer, the home is also notable for its exquisite leaded- and stained-glass doors and windows. It’s also among the last of Wright’s Prairie School–style homes: During its construction, Wright abandoned both his family and his Oak Park practice to follow other pursuits, most prominently the realization of his Taliesin home and studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Docents from Oak Park’s Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio Foundation lead tours here. After a massive, 10-year restoration in honor of the house’s 100th anniversary, it looks better than ever. A Wright specialty bookshop is located in the building’s former three-car garage—a structure that was highly unusual for the time in which it was built. Time: 1 hr. 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. (at 58th St.). Tel: 312/994-4000. http://www.flwright.org. Admission $18 adults, $15 seniors, students and military, free for children 3 and under. Thurs–Mon tours 10am–3pm. Museum shop Thurs–Mon 9:30am–4:30pm. Bus: 6 or Metra Electric train to 57th St. and Lake Park Ave.
3. Rockefeller Memorial Chapel: John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in cooperation with the American Baptist Society, and his bequest to the university included funds for this magnificent Gothic minicathedral (a mere chapel, it isn’t). The building was designed by Bertram Goodhue (who was also the architect behind Cal Tech’s campus) and dedicated in 1928; it was renamed for its benefactor upon his death in 1937. Outstanding features include the circular stained-glass window high above the main altar, a series of statues depicting important figures in religion, and the world’s second-largest carillon (72 bells). 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave. Tel: 773/702-2100. http://rockefeller.uchicago.edu. Free admission. Tues–Fri when school is in session, 11am–6pm. Bus: 6.
4. The Oriental Institute: The Oriental Institute houses one of the world’s major collections of Near Eastern art (some of the exhibits here date back to 9000 B.C.). Many of the galleries have been renovated since the Institute’s opening in 1931, but this is still a traditional museum: lots of glass cases, very few interactive exhibits. The must-see Egyptian Gallery includes a monumental 17-foot solid-quartzite statue of King Tutankhamen (the boy king who ruled Egypt about 1335–24 B.C.), the largest Egyptian sculpture in the Western Hemisphere (tipping the scales at 6 tons). The highlight of the Mesopotamian Gallery is a massive, 16-foot-tall sculpture of a winged bull with a human head, which once stood in the palace of Assyrian King Sargon II. Many of the gallery’s other works have become one-of-a-kind since the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad in 2003. Time: 1 hr. 1155 E. 58th St. (at University Ave.). Tel: 773/702-9514. www.oi.uchicago.edu. Free admission; suggested donation $10 adults, $5 children. Tues–Sun 10am–5pm (Wed until 8pm). Bus: 6 or Metra Electric train to 57th St. and Lake Park Ave.
5. Take a break: The casual Medici Restaurant, near the university campus, has fed generations of students, who’ve carved their names into the tables while chowing down on the house specialty—pizza. Also great for salads and insanely delish apple pie. 1327 E. 57th St. Tel: 773/667-7394. www.medici57.com. $.
6. Cobb Gate: Enter the campus of the world-renowned University of Chicago (more than 90 Nobel Laureates have graced its halls) through Cobb Gate (movie buffs might recognize it as the place where Harry met Sally in When Harry Met Sally), which features lots of Gothic detailing. The mythic figures climbing to the tip of the gate’s pointed gable are said to represent the admissions counselor and college examiner, defying students an easy passage into the university. You, however, can pass through without problem, and can stroll around the campus’s dramatic stone buildings (most of them designed by renowned Gothic architect Henry Ives Cobb), patterned after England’s Oxford University. 57th St. between Ellis and University aves.
7. Joseph Regenstein Library: This building is a behemoth that was ostensibly designed to blend in with its neighbors, but does nothing of the sort. The building’s brutalist textured limestone looks like slab concrete and is not beloved by critics. In contrast, on the west lawn is the glass-domed Joe and Rika Mansueto library. Made of steel, aluminum, and glass, it’s a functional modern work of art. The library is generally closed to the public, but out-of-state visitors with a valid photo ID and research needs can get a day pass at the library’s Privileges Office (worth it if you’re a bookworm or a map fan). 1100 E. 57th St. (btw. S. University and S. Ellis aves.). Tel: 773/702-8782. www.lib.uchicago.edu.
8. Nuclear Energy: This abstract sculpture (representing a skull and a mushroom cloud) by Henry Moore was installed in 1967 to commemorate the site of the world’s first controlled nuclear chain reaction. In 1942, Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi supervised that historic event in a makeshift underground laboratory beneath what was then the grandstand of the university’s Stagg Field sports stadium. Ellis Ave. between 56th and 57th sts.
9. Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap is the University of Chicago’s most famous watering hole. Founded in 1948, Jimmy’s doesn’t offer much in the way of atmosphere (it’s famously rough around the edges), but it’s a great place to grab a drink, a burger, or a Reuben sandwich. 1172 E. 55th St. Tel: 773/643-5516. $.
10. Cobb Lecture Hall: This distinctive Gothic building, the first of 19 that Henry I. Cobb (1859–1931) designed for the campus, was all there was to the University of Chicago when it opened for business in 1892. Classes are still held here today (the interior was revamped in 1963), and the building is also home to the Renaissance Society, Chicago’s oldest contemporary art museum (founded in 1915). The Society holds frequent exhibitions that are open to the public in the Bregman Gallery on the fourth floor. 5811 S. Ellis Ave. Tel: 773/702-8670. www.renaissancesociety.org. Free admission. Gallery Tues–Fri 10am–5pm (until 8pm on Thurs); Sat–Sun noon–5pm.
11. Joseph Bond Chapel: Even nonbelievers applaud the exquisite interiors of this showcase for ecclesiastical architecture. The 300-seat chapel was donated to the university in 1926 in honor of the memory of Joseph Bond, a former trustee of the Baptist Theological Union. The structure is richly decorated with detailed carvings, etchings, sculptures, stained glass, and detailed woodwork. The picturesque chapel is a very popular venue for weddings. 1050 E. 59th St. Tel: 773/702-8200. https://divinity.uchicago.edu/bond-chapel.
12. Rosalie Villas: In 1883, a developer named Rosalie Buckingham purchased this land and planned to build a subdivision of 42 houses on spacious lots to re-create a semi-rural environment. She hired George Pullman’s architect, Solon S. Berman, who had recently completed building the Pullman planned community, just to the south. Today, many of the cottages they constructed remain, in various states of repair, and line both sides of the block. Their eclectic color schemes and overgrown gardens give the street a distinctive countercultural flavor. Harper Ave., between 59th and 57th sts.
13. Jackson Park: This 1,055-acre park was laid out in 1871 by Olmsted and Vaux, the team that designed New York City’s Central Park. The full plan for the park, however, wasn’t carried out until 1890, when Olmsted returned to Chicago to work with Daniel Burnham on the World’s Columbian Exposition. Together, the two architects mapped out broad boulevards and built fountains and temporary, ornate, white buildings (the park was nicknamed The White City during the fair). Today, few of the Beaux Arts structures and gardens erected for the Exposition remain (an exception is the Fine Arts Palace, which now houses the Museum of Science and Industry; though the park has aged gracefully and is a popular spot for strolling, tennis, golf, and birding. It’s also the future home of the Obama Presidential Center. 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. Bus: 1 or 6.
14. Museum of Science and Industry: Cap your walking tour with a stop at this museum’s stellar Henry Crown Space Center. If time allows, rest your legs while taking in a movie at the center’s giant dome theater.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.