Best Local: Getting Around Wicker Park and Bucktown

Draw, sculpt and paint the town red, you trendy traveler

We’ve shown you around Wrigleyville in the past, and you survived. That deserves a sincere congratulations. Now it’s safe to trade in your baseball hat and experience Wicker Park and Bucktown.

The Bucktown neighborhood is located southwest of Wrigleyville and northwest of the Loop with a blurred, hardly visible line separating it from Wicker Park to the south. Together, this spread of land is the city’s unofficial hub of hip. Where the shot-happy, baseball-loving college crew finds solace in Wrigley, the artists, musicians, fashionistas and free spirits name Wicker Park/Bucktown as home base.

With some of the city’s most unique shops Wicker Park and Bucktown is the place to play style-setter like vogue-loving locals. Hit up Una Mae’s Freak Boutique (1582 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for eclectic vintage and contemporary apparel. Beneath a hanging sculpture of balled wire is Robin Richman (2108 N. Damen Ave.), your hotspot for one-of-a-kind jewelry and high-end clothes from notable area designers.

Don’t skip the defining accessory of a city-slicking hipster: knowledge. Squeeze through the over-packed and dangerously narrow aisles at Myopic Books (1564 N. Milwaukee Ave.). This triple-floored, late-night used book store is as good for obscure reads as it is for chatting up eager bookworms. For texts further off the radar, walk over to Quimby’s (1854 W. North Ave.), where zines, comic books and other unusual publications are in full stock.

Get a taste of what Chicago artists can do with some paint (or pencil, plaster, wire hangers, human hair…) at the Flat Iron Fine Arts Building (1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.). Swing by this historic 3-story, 88,000 square foot tower on the first Friday of the month and find hundreds of doors open to display artwork. You can come for the art, but stay for the light bites, live musicians and eternally entrancing people-watching.

The eateries are as eclectic as anything else in the ‘hood. Crust (2056 W. Division St.) is one of the four certified organic restaurants in the country, serving up sustainable, locally sourced American fare. The pizzas are the talk here; they’re even available with seitan, soy cheese and gluten-free, vegan crust. If you have months to wait, book an evening at Michelin award-winning Schwa (1466 N. Ashland Ave.). The tiny, nationally praised restaurant is known for an ever-changing menu with unusual ingredients, like the signature quail egg ravioli. Feeling adventurous? Try the pad Thai made with jellyfish tentacles as noodles.

The live music venues, most rocking seven nights a week, are another main area attraction. Whether we’re talking the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave.), Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.) or Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave.), all these hangout-type tune joints are dance-friendly, boozin’-friendly and tattered old t-shirt-friendly. Plus, the genres of music bumping from the stages run the gambit. Rap battle addict? Experimental jazz aficionado? You’ll get your night.

Your evening doesn’t end with a rock show when Chicago’s trendiest nightlife options are nearby. Take, for example, The Bedford (1612 W. Division St.), a casual lounge with a brunch and dinner menu. The refurbished bank building erected in 1925 lets you sip a Manhattan inside the old lockbox-lined bank vault, accessible through the original, oversized copper door. Something livelier awaits at Evil Olive (1551 W. Division St.), where the famed Monday night dance parties make other clubs look like libraries. With two stories, a disco ball measurable in feet, a go-go cage and an a busy DJ booth, all that’s evil here is the damage this joint does to your dancing shoes.

This hipster epicenter may be a touch intimidating, but the lure of all it has to offer should shatter any hesitation. Besides, you can’t feel like an outsider in Wicker Park and Bucktown; not fitting in is fitting in. Passing as a local couldn’t get any easier.

Blue line stops: Division, Damen, Western

How to Get There

From Presidential Towers (555 W. Madison): Walk to the Clinton Blue Line and hop on the train towards O’Hare. When you get to the Damen stop, you’ve hit one of the most popular areas in Wicker Park/Bucktown: Six Corners. This is where Damen Ave., North Ave. and Milwaukee Ave. intesect. Commute Time: 29 minutes.

From 180 N. Jefferson (180 N. Jefferson): Walk to Jefferson/Lake and hop on the 59 bus towards Jefferson Park Blue Line. Hop off at Milwaukee and Honore and you’ve hit Wicker Park. Commute time: 15 minutes.

Riverwalk Place (301 N. Riverwalk, Buffalo Grove): Drive or take a taxi to Lake-Cook Metra. Take the MD-N train towards Chicago Union Station. Hop off at the Mayfair Metra Stop and walk to the Montrose Blue Line. Take the train towards Forest Park and hop off at the Damen stop. Commute time: 1 hour 13 minutes.