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An aerial view of Evanston
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The best things to do in Evanston

With museums, a distillery, a lighthouse and more, there are tons of great things to do in Evanston

By Zach Long

Evanston’s proximity to Chicago makes it an easy place to reach, just a zip up the Purple Line or the Union Pacific North Metra. Like any good college town, it offers many things to do, including a historic lighthouse and several small museums. Learn about the process of making the booze that goes in your favorite cocktails at the FEW Spirits distillery, rent a kayak and paddle out into Lake Michigan at the Northwestern University Sailing Center, or look to the sky at the college’s Dearborn Observatory.

Best things to do in Evanston

The Doulton Lambeth Cabinet at the American Toby Jug Museum.
Photograph: Courtesy of the American Toby Jug Museum

American Toby Jug Museum

Museums Art and design Evanston

Dating back to the 1760s, Toby Jugs are ceramic pitchers modeled after the heads of historical and fictional figures. The decorative (and functional) pieces originated in England, but you can find the largest collection in the world by traveling to Evanston. Comprised of more than 8,000 pieces, the Toby Jug Museum hosts the personal collection of Stephen Mullins. The museum of is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays or by appointment.

Baha'i Temple

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Suburbs

It took 41 years to construct this jewel of Wilmette, after the cornerstone was laid by Abdu’l-Baha in 1912. That's a level of patience and detail only afforded by religious structures. One of seven Bahá'í temples on the globe, this structure has hosted Rainn Wilson of The Office and soft-rock duo Seals and Crofts.


Bienen School of Music

Things to do Schools and universities Evanston

One of the top music schools in the United States, Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music is named for retired University president Henry Bienen and his wife, Leigh Buchanan Bienen. Notable facilities include the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall and the ivy-covered Lutkin Hall. Construction of a $90 million lakefront building, which will contain a 400-seat recital hall, began in 2012 and is scheduled to be completed in 2015.

Charles Gates Dawes House

Museums History Evanston

Located in the former home of U.S. Vice President Charles Gates Dawes, the Evanston History Center features two exhibit rooms that touch on the city's past. The museum and house (a beautiful Victorian manse) are viewable by tour only, Thursday–Sunday 1–4pm.

Northwestern University, Dearborn Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy of the Dearborn Observatory

Dearborn Observatory

Attractions Towers and viewpoints Evanston

Northwestern University's Dearborn Observatory opens up to the public every Friday night, allowing visitors to gaze at the stars through the facility's vintage refracting telescope. The observatory takes reservations from 8–9pm, but walk-ins are welcome between 9–10pm.

Evanston Art Center

Art Arts centers Evanston

Founded in 1930, the Evanston Art Center provides classes, exhibitions and interactive arts activities to locals and visitors of all ages. The facility is known for its lawn sculptures and its annual art auctions. In 2015, the Evanston Art Center will move to a new space at 1717 Central St.


Evanston Century 12

Movie theaters Multiplex Evanston

The Cinemark Theater in Evanston may look like your average multiplex, but due to its proximity to Northwestern University, it attracts an impressive lineup of art films and limited releases. Whether you want to see the latest blockbuster or see something a bit more highbrow, Century 12 is your gateway to the world of cinema in Evanston.

FEW Spirits

Shopping Liquor stores Evanston

Evanston was the home of Francis Elizabeth Willard, who led the temperance movement in the United States, ensuring that the town remained a dry city. FEW Spirits is the first distillery to operate in Evanston since prohibition, making gin and whiskey using locally-sourced Midwestern grains. Visitors can schedule tours the facilities on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Greenwood Street Beach
Photograph: Martha Williams

Greenwood Street Beach

Things to do Evanston

You'll have to pay a small fee to enter this stretch of sand on the coast of Lake Michigan, but its worth the price of admission. At Greenwood Street Beach, you won't be distracted by cars zooming by on Lake Shore Drive—you can simply enjoy the water, the sun and the view.

Grosse Point Lighthouse

Attractions Towers and viewpoints Evanston

Built by the United States government in 1873, the Grosse Point Lighthouse was the primary beacon for ships traveling to Chicago. The structure was turned over to the Park District in 1935, which opened up the grounds to the public. Visitors can view the lighthouse year-round, but tours are only offered on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-May through September.


Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art

Museums Art and design Evanston

The museum’s permanent collection boasts 4,000-plus works by artists such as Shirin Neshat and Jasper Johns, and its Pick-Laudati Auditorium hosts the artsy Block Cinema.

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian

Museums History Evanston

The museum’s artifact-packed permanent displays include items from Native American tribes from across the country, as well as Canada. See baskets, masks, ceremonial dolls, wooden carvings and other historic items that span the centuries; most have been culled from local collector John Mitchell’s personal collection.


Northwestern University Sailing Center

Attractions Ships and boats Evanston

Want to sail the waters of Lake Michigan or learn how to learn the difference between port and starboard? The Northwestern Sailing Center offers classes for beginners in addition to catamaran, stand up paddle board and kayak rentals. Hours vary, depending on the season, so call ahead before you set out on your nautical adventure.


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