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23 FASCINATING THINGS TO DO ON CHICAGO'S NORTH SHORE

  1. VISIT THE HOME OF A FORMER VICE PRESIDENT Walk in the footsteps of former U.S. Vice President Charles Gates Dawes when you step into his historic mansion overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Michigan. This National Historic Landmark, which captures Evanston's rich history, boasts its original furnishings and artwork. www.evanstonhistorycenter.org
  2. BIKE THE GREEN BAY TRAIL TO THE CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN It's easy to stop and smell the roses, lilacs and other fragrant flora as you pedal through the Chicago Botanic Garden. Rent a bike at Wheel & Sprocket in Evanston, hop on the Green Bay Trail in nearby Wilmette, and cycle your way up to the Garden through some of the North Shore's most picturesque towns. www.chicagobotanic.org/visit/biking
  3. AMERICAN TOBY JUG MUSEUM Featuring over 8,000 jugs from around the globe, the American Toby Jug Museum is home to the world's largest collection of Toby and Character jugs. Your journey begins in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, England and leads you through 20 countries over 250 years. www.tobyjugmuseum.com
  4. BARKING LOT The most popular doggie destination on the North Shore, Pooch Park, is a 2.7-acre off-leash fenced recreational facility. Not only is there an “agility” area, there's also a place for pups and other small dogs. Home of the annual “Woofstock” celebration, the park provides separate drinking fountains for both people and their pooches. www.cityofevanston.org/parks-recreation/parks/pooch-park
  5. BIG 10 FOOTBALL Nothing beats college football on a crisp, autumn day and the Northwestern Wildcats, Chicago's Big 10 team, promise to deliver some excitement at the majestic Ryan Field. Tailgaters welcome. www.nusports.com/sports/m-footbl/nw-m-footbl-body.html
  6. GROSSE POINT LIGHTHOUSE After several shipwrecks on the shores of Lake Michigan, this historic structure was built by the U.S. government in 1873 as the lead lighthouse marking the approach to Chicago. Grosse Pointe Lighthouse is the first lighthouse on the Great Lakes to be named a National Historic Landmark, and the Garden Club of Evanston's wildflower and butterfly gardens bloom proudly on its property. www.grossepointlighthouse.net
  7. THE SPICE HOUSE How many varieties of cinnamon exist in the world? Just ask Tom and Patty Erd, second-generation spice merchants who import the most dazzling array of sweet and savory spices from their countries of origin. Their weekly small batch grinding process ensures the freshest quality for all your favorite recipes. Be sure to try their "Saigon" cassia cinnamon, which boasts a sweet and spicy heat and is so popular that they grind about a hundred pounds each week. All spices are gluten-free. www.thespicehouse.com/info/evanston-spice-store.html
  8. A FAMOUS SUFFRAGETTE LIVED HERE Step back into 19th century America and tour the Frances Willard House, home to one of the most prominent social reformers of her time. Frances Willard bravely rallied for women's suffrage, women's economic rights and labor reforms. She lived in this historic homestead from its construction in 1865 until her death in 1898. www.franceswillardhouse.org
  9. NATURE'S TREASURES AWAIT YOU AT THE GROVE A wondrous world of nature's treasures awaits you on this 123-acre ecologically diverse prairie land. Venture through mature oak forests, wander past wetland pools and stop to watch a family of turtles sunning themselves on a log. Don't forget to check out the Kennicott House and Redfield Estate, The Grove Interpretive Center, a Native American Village, Log Cabin, One-Room Schoolhouse and the Wetland Greenhouse. www.redfieldestate.org
  10. IS CABLE INCLUDED? A massive 85-inch Samsung Ultra HD TV can be yours for just $40,000 at Abt Electronics, one of the largest independent single-store appliance and electronics retailers in the country. Voted “The Greenest A/V Retailer in the Country” for their recycling efforts, Abt's 80,000-square-foot showroom features an Apple and Sony boutique, a 7,500-gallon salt-water aquarium and a soaring atrium that evokes the famed Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. www.abt.com
  11. LET THE KIDS DO THE SHOPPING Kohl Children's Museum is a must-see for children ages birth to 8 as each hands-on exhibit is designed to make learning fun and fascinating. Kids can fill up their carts at the replica grocery store or ring up purchases as cashiers at checkout. They can care for pets at a veterinarian's office, explore the properties of water, and learn how to take care of babies at a day care center inhabited by dolls. www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org
  12. GREEN THUMB NOT REQUIRED You don't need a green thumb to appreciate the wonder that awaits you at the world famous Chicago Botanic Garden. Climb a waterfall garden, discover hidden rooms inside the English Walled Garden and cross 11 bridges spanning sparkling lakes. Marvel at the Japanese Garden and discover a railroad paradise with 18 model trains chugging across bridges, through tunnels and past miniature American landmarks. Open every day of the year, the Chicago Botanic Garden has 385 acres and 26 gardens for you to explore. Highlights include seasonal festivals, the Plant Science Center, art exhibitions and hands-on classes. www.chicagobotanic.org
  13. BIKER'S BONANZA Top cyclists and amateurs alike will enjoy the thrill of riding on this official outdoor quarter-mile bike track, one of the only few in the entire country. The Velodrome hosts weekly races in the summer and offers training sessions, special events and Friday bike races for amateur riders of all ages. www.northbrookvelodrome.org
  14. EMILY OAKS NATURE CENTER Get back to nature at this 13-acre savanna nestled in the woodlands of Skokie. You'll marvel at the oasis of native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees and beautiful 3-acre pond. Pack your picnic basket and enjoy a charming afternoon surrounded by nature. And don't forget your field glasses as you may even spot a great blue heron, coyote, flying squirrel, red fox or Cooper's hawk. www.skokieparks.org/emily-oaks-nature-center
  15. BAHA'I HOUSE OF WORSHIP Escape the hectic pace of everyday life and step into the serene setting of the only Baha'i House of Worship in North America. It is one of only eight such Temples world-wide. Rising high above the shores of Lake Michigan, the temple's lace-like ornamentation and 135-foot dome offer unsurpassed beauty surrounded by exquisite gardens and fountains. The Baha’i Temple is a symbol of the oneness of humanity and is open to all for personal prayer and meditation. A new Welcome Center, just west of the Temple, provides orientation displays and videos. www.us.bahai.org
  16. SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP AND THEN SHOP SOME MORE This shoppers' paradise is anchored by Nordstrom, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale's, and L.L. Bean and is complemented by a retail roundup of fabulous shops including the national brands you love plus unique local favorites. Westfield Old Orchard also offers a vast selection of dining options including the Cheesecake Factory, Roka Akor, California Pizza Kitchen, Maggiano's and Corner Bakery. After your shopping trip, catch the latest movie of your choice on one of the movie's theater 14 screens.  www.westfield.com/oldorchard
  17. ILLINOIS HOLOCAUST MUSEUM AND EDUCATION CENTER This museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching the universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference. The museum features an authentic early 20th century German rail car, an inspiring Hall of Remembrance for contemplation and reflection, and a youth exhibit for children ages 9-11 highlighting the lessons of the Holocaust. www.ilholocaustmuseum.org
  18. BLOCK MUSEUM Located on the sprawling campus of Northwestern University, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is dedicated to the study and exhibition of reproducible art forms including prints, photographs, film, video and computer-mediated art. Admission is free. www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu
  19. SKOKIE NORTHSHORE SCULPTURE PARK Modern art and nature make a great team at this stunning outdoor “museum” that combines recreational features with an incredibly diverse exhibition of large-scale contemporary sculptures. Lushly landscaped grounds feature paved paths where you can stroll, bike or rollerblade making this destination the ultimate walk in the park. www.sculpturepark.org
  20. WAGNER FARM Head over to Historic Wagner Farm and experience the inner workings of a genuine American farm. This 18-acre homestead was preserved for educational and recreational purposes, so you can get down on the farm and milk a cow, hear the rooster marking time with his crow and explore the world of agriculture and rural life as it existed in the early-to-mid 1900s. www.glenviewparks.org/facilities-parks/wagner-farm
  21. PLATFORM TENNIS & PADDLE HUT Serve it up at the Winnetka Park District Platform Tennis & Paddle Hut, one of the only public facilities in the Midwest. Not only is the sport easy to learn at any age, it's incredible exercise and can be played outdoors in spring, summer, fall and winter. With six courts in top condition and a state-of-the-art paddle hut, you'll definitely want to pay a visit to this athletic club. www.winnetkapaddle.com
  22. RAVINIA FESTIVAL If you're visiting Chicago's North Shore during the summer months, be sure to check out Ravinia, North America's oldest musical festival. The 36-acre venue presents more than 140 different events throughout the summer and is nestled in a gently wooded area that makes it an enchanting place to experience music. Guests can bring their own picnics or eat at one the park restaurants. With its musically diverse lineup, Ravinia has something for everyone to enjoy. www.ravinia.org
  23. ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT Located on the tranquil waters of the North Shore Channel, the Dammrich Rowing Center in Skokie allows you to explore the North Shore from the seat of a canoe or rowboat. The center also offers two state-of-the-art indoor sweep water tanks for off the water training. Fishing is allowed and a fish cleaning station is available. www.skokieparks.org/dammrich-rowing-center