Attractions in Wicker Park and Bucktown
Wicker Park's eponymous four-acre recreation area may be a bit small, but when the weather is warm you'll almost always find some residents sitting by the fountain or playing a pick-up game on the basketball courts. A field house in the middle of the park contains a gymnasium and meeting rooms, overlooking a lush public garden that is tended by members of the community. Most importantly, it's perfect place to take your Big Star takeout if the outdoor tables at the popular restaurant are full.
A formerly abandoned stretch of elevated railway track that runs through Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown has found new life as the 606. Named after the first three digits in every Chicago zip code, the 2.7-mile path provides a quick way to travel east and west on the North Side, connecting several parks and public art installations. Prepare to dodge strollers, bicycles and residents out for a very slow jog on this popular throughway.
A ramshackle roadhouse of country-rock in an industrial stretch of the city wouldn't be complete without a few characters hanging out on the porch no matter the weather. Longtime local acts like Devil in a Woodpile play inside, but the music can still be heard over the cracking of PBR cans out front. It can be difficult to reach this juke joint via public trans, but it is worth it for the cheap beer, live music and DJs dropping nostalgia, from Prince to Devo.
Set right in the heart of Wicker Park, this venue has a place for those seeking concerts—and for those simply seeking beer. Upstairs, you'll find stage, which features live heavy rock and hip hop acts nightly, while the downstairs bar serves as a cozy den for a weekly lineup of reggae and house nights. Subterranean is also one of the best places in town for 17-and-up shows.
Each Sunday, a small horde of farmers, vendors and shoppers descend on Wicker Park for the neighborhood's farmers' market, which features fresh regional goods. The market typically begins in May and ends sometime in October when the chill of fall begins to set in.
Before Wicker Park became a sea of boutiques, chain restaurants and condos, the neighborhood attracted artists with cheap rent and trendy coffee houses. Established in 1985, the Flatiron Arts Building is a vestige of the area's bohemian past, containing a smattering of artists' studios and local businesses. The building is open to the public daily, but guests can take a look inside artists studios on the first Friday of each month.
In just the span of a few years, this Wicker Park space has become a vital three-story hub both for its own productions, resident companies the Hypocrites, Irish Theatre of Chicago and the New Colony and for rising young troupes like Jackalope, Akvavit Theatre and Pavement Group. At any given moment the Den may be hosting six different productions. It's also one of the few theaters where you might really want to stick around after the show; on one recent visit, we stepped out post-curtain to find a jazz singer and pianist entertaining a crowd in the cozy, well-equipped lobby bar.
Founded by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey in 2004, Corbett vs. Dempsey reflects its owners diverse interests: jazz, film, American modernist traditions, middle-American approaches to abstraction and contemporary art. Located on the third floor of the Dusty Groove building, the art gallery (like a fine record shop) places an emphasis on digging up undiscovered talent, often featuring great regional art.
WhirlyBall, a made-up sport that is played by two teams driving bumper cars, combines elements of lacrosse, hockey and basketball. Needless to say, it's a ton of fun after you've had a few drinks. The new WhirlyBall location in Bucktown doubles the size of its previous facility, adding 12 bowling lanes and a new laser tag arena, in addition to three WhirlyBall courts. Fuel up for an evening of fun at the revamped bar, which features food, a full cocktail menu and rotating selection of craft beers.
This small Bucktown park offers baseball fields, basketball courts, a playground, spray pool and one of our favorite (sparsely populated) swimming pools in the city. Holstein Park also hosts an array of programming for toddlers, elementary schoolers and pre-teens, from art and ABCs to summer day camps.