Thanks to public transportation, owning a car doesn't always have to be a necessity. If you've decided to forgo owning a car, whether for financial reasons or in an effort to go green, or if you're visiting Chicago's North Shore and would prefer to leave your car behind, it's still easy to visit some of the area's top destinations using the CTA or Metra. Here are some of our favorite places to visit, as well as the distance from the nearest train stations.
Get Outside in Glencoe Glencoe is home to two must-visit North Shore destinations: Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Road) and Writers Theatre (325 Tudor Court). It's easy to spend an entire day at Chicago Botanic Garden — the garden sprawls over 385 acres with 27 gardens, four natural areas, and nine islands. Don't feel like walking all of that? Take the Grand Tram Tour, which covers 2.3 miles and is narrated, so you'll leave knowing a lot more than when you arrived. Or rest your feet with a stop at one of the garden's restaurants. The Garden View Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch, plus brunch on the weekends, and offers grab-and-go options until 5 p.m. Or enjoy outdoor dining at the Garden Grille or Rose Terrace Beer Garden. Of course, there's always something going on at the garden, so check the calendar to see what festival or event is scheduled during your visit. After a day outside, spend your evening at Writers Theatre. This company was once called the No. 1 theater company in the country by The Wall Street Journal, and its gorgeous space, which opened in 2016, was designed by Studio Gang Architects. The 2019/20 season will include "Into the Woods" (now through Sept. 22), "A Doll's House" (Sept. 25 to Dec. 15), "The Niceties" (Nov. 6 to Dec. 15), and "Stick Fly" (Feb. 5, 2020 to March 15, 2020).
Transportation: Chicago Botanic Garden is 0.8 miles away from Metra's Braeside station on the Union Pacific North Line, and you can walk following the North Branch Trail. The garden is also 2 miles away from Metra's Glencoe station, also on the Union Pacific North Line. A shuttle to and from the Glencoe station is offered on Sundays from May through August, or you can take a Pace bus or rideshare service. Writers Theatre is a convenient 400 feet from Metra's Glencoe station.
Writers Theatre, Glencoe
Shop in Skokie With roughly 140 shops and restaurants, Westfield Old Orchard (4905 Old Orchard Center) is a must-visit shopping center for anyone on the hunt for a unique birthday gift or looking to update their home or wardrobe. Start your day on the south end of this outdoor mall at Nordstrom, where you'll find everything from shoes, handbags, and fashion for the whole family to electronics and beauty items. When you're done, take your time exploring the variety of shops here, or see what events are coming up. End your evening with Carne Asada or Roasted Garlic Chicken pizza at California Pizza Kitchen, Chicken Parmesan or Fettuccine Alfredo at Maggiano's Little Italy, wings or a Chicken Caesar Wrap at Nando's PERi PERi, or Crunchy Spicy Tuna Maki or Glazed Pork Ribs at Roka Akor.
Transportation: Westfield Old Orchard is 1.4 miles away from the CTA Dempster-Skokie station on the Yellow Line. Take a CTA bus or rideshare service from the station to the shopping center.
Westfield Old Orchard, Skokie
Eat in Evanston Downtown Evanston is brimming with hot restaurants with expansive menus waiting to be explored. Start the day at Cupitol (812 Grove St.), where you can order a coffee or tea plus pastries, omelettes, pancakes, or other breakfast items before finding a table or comfy chair to get some work done or start that new book. For new takes on tavern fare, head next door to Bangers & Lace (810 Grove St.), which serves up sausages like Duck BLT and Texas Garlic along with Steak Frites and Fish & Chips. Or visit Edzo's Burger Shop (1571 Sherman Ave.) for a burger or hot dog with a side of Loaded Fries and a hand-dipped milkshake. Looking for lighter fare? Turn to Blind Faith Cafe (525 Dempster St.). At lunch, this vegetarian restaurant serves entrees like Thai Peanut Noodles and Pesto Pasta Primavera (and you can order breakfast items like Chilaquiles and Spinach Feta Omelette until 3 p.m.), while dinner options include Yellow Coconut Curry and Stuffed Avocado with Quinoa. Find even more dining options here. Wherever you go, make plans to walk around after to explore everything Evanston has to offer.
Go to Glenview For a fun night out, look no further than downtown Glenview. Here you'll find Oil Lamp Theater (1723 Glenview Road, Glenview), a three-time North Shore Choice Awards winner. Oil Lamp "is dedicated to the presentation of traditional theater in a unique, inviting and intimate venue." You'll find free freshly-baked cookies in the lobby and you're welcome to bring your own drinks to enjoy during the show. The current production, "A Kind of Love Story," runs through Sept. 8 and follows a couple that's perfect for each other, except they've never met. The rest of the season features Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Nile" (Sept. 26 to Nov. 10) and "It's a Wonderful Life — A Live Radio Play" (Nov. 29 to Dec. 29). Want to make it dinner and a show? There are multiple restaurants within walking distance of the theater, including Grandpa's Place (1868 Prairie Ave.), Gusto Italiano Ristorante (1834 Glenview Road), and Middy Mags Pizzeria (1875 Grove St.).
Transportation: Oil Lamp Theater is 0.5 miles from Metra’s Glenview station on the Milwaukee District North line, and it’s an easy walk to and from the theater.