Photo courtesy of Tina Harle, @tinyrectangles
The holidays have come and gone but decorations are everywhere. The Christmas tree is in the living room. Lights are hung around every corner. Plastic top hats from NYE are scattered throughout the place. All serving as reminders that the most enjoyable part of winter has passed you by. Now the realization is setting in that it is time to get back into the daily routine in frigid temperatures when all you want to do is scream.
There are two ways you can view your current predicament. You can either procrastinate putting the decorations away in an ongoing struggle with the post-holiday blues. OR… You can clean up the place and make the most of the cold weeks ahead. Don’t let Jack Frost distract you from the fact that you chose to live here for a few reasons- following in Hemingway’s footsteps, Firecakes Donuts smells great, the diversity, the FLW architecture, and there’s always something to do, even in the middle of winter. Read on for ideas if you don’t believe me.
1) VISIT THE OPRF MUSEUM
After opening its doors in September 2017, the Oak Park and River Forest Museum has been educating visitors on the history of the area dating back to the great Chicago Fire of 1871. The most popular exhibit, “From the Home Front to the Battle Front: Oak Park, River Forest and World War I,” encapsulates the centennial of the United States entering into the First World War, and more specifically the impact the communities of Oak Park and River Forest had in the international conflict. The museum is located at 129 Lake Street, Oak Park. Admission is only $5 with a valid ID.
2) PLAN A TRIP TO ESCAPE FACTOR
If you like solving puzzles and new experiences, you might want to check out Escape Factor. This venue provides groups of participants with puzzles, riddles, and cryptic messages. The goal is to have everyone work together within a confined room to solve clues that will eventually allow you to “escape” before time runs out. Escape Factor is great for private parties, team building, and even date nights (unless your date is claustrophobic). The venue is located at 7228 Madison Street, Forest Park. For more information, visit escapefactorchicago.com.
Oak Park has a wide variety of eateries to suit your appetite. Check out the following for quick bites:
- Nando’s PERi-PERi – 1138 Lake Street, Oak Park – South African spices and Portuguese-style eatery best known for its flavorful chicken dishes.
- Slice Factory – 421 N. Harlem Avenue, Oak Park – One of six Chicagoland locations, Slice Factory is a great spot for jumbo pizza slices, wings, and salad.
- Q-BBQ – 124 N. Marion Street, Oak Park – The spot for Southern-style barbecue. The expansive menu has anything you can want from a barbecue joint (including sides).
If you’re looking for more of a traditional dining experience, consider the following restaurants:
- Citrine Café – 100 S. Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park – Mediterranean influenced cuisine with American flair, including braised and brined meats and vegetables cooked in a brick oven.
- Amerikas – 734 Lake Street, Oak Park – American cuisine with Latin roots. The eclectic menu brings flavors together from across the world.
- Cucina Paradiso – 814 North Boulevard, Oak Park – Contemporary Italian place with a full bar known for serving stone baked pizzas, pasta, and creative entrees.
Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you started. By doing a quick Google search, you’re poised to find many other options.
4) VISIT THE CONSERVATORY
All of nature might be dead, cold, and white on the outside, but inside the Oak Park Conservatory, you will find a rich atmosphere of plant life throughout three indoor showrooms: Mediterranean Room, Tropical Room, and Desert Room. The Conservatory is free, open to the public, and the perfect oasis to visit during the winter months. Visit the conservatory at 615 Garfield Street, Oak Park.
5) SEE A MOVIE AT LAKE THEATRE
One of Downtown Oak Park’s most noted landmarks are those four vertical letters you can see while driving down Lake Street. But when was the last time you actually stopped in to see a movie at the historic Lake Theatre? Believe it or not, the Lake is a fully functional modern cinema that still sustains its classic charm. For showtimes, visit classiccinemas.com. Lake Theatre is located at 1022 Lake Street, Oak Park.
I used to write for a publication that focused on things to do throughout Chicago. One of the activities we would do on a monthly basis was a neighborhood-specific pub crawl. The group would stop in for at least one drink per bar and each writer was assigned to review one of the stops. Somehow I always ended up getting the last leg of the tour, but that’s only because I write better under the influence. I’m taking a page out of my own history book by suggesting a modest Oak Park bar crawl, with all stops in a relatively close distance so nobody ends up like Jack Nicholson in The Shining:
- START – Poor Phil’s – 139 N. Marion Street
- SECOND – Two Brothers Social Tap – 100 S. Marion Street
- THIRD – Wild Onion Tied House – 1111 South Boulevard
- LAST – Bar Louie – 1122 Lake Street
Once again, consider this as a jumping off point. There are plenty of other great bars in Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park.
7) FIND A WINTER SPORT/ACTIVITY
The Park District of Oak Park offers a wide variety of sports and activities during the winter season. There’s ice skating, basketball, volleyball, pickleball, fencing, aquatics, yoga, martial arts, and more. Getting involved with an activity you are genuinely interested in will give you something to look forward to instead of the “same old, same old.” Visit pdop.org to learn more about programs that might appeal to you and how you can get started.
8) GET FIT
Winter is a dreadful time to go for a jog around the neighborhood. It’s entirely up to you, of course, but Oak Park has a number of gyms to make working out a comfortable experience, depending on what you’re looking for and how much you want to pay. You can choose to go the traditional route by joining a gym with standard equipment, free weights, and machines. However, Orangetheory Fitness, The Barre Code, and Village Pilates provide a variety of other options for anyone seeking new ways to work out in 2018.
9) PLAN A SNOWSHOE HIKE
Trailside Museum of Natural History, 738 Thatcher Ave., River Forest, is organizing free snowshoe hikes on the following dates: Friday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 21 at 1:30 p.m., and Friday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. These walks will be guided tours through the woods with snowshoes provided if you don’t have a pair of your own. After each hike, you can warm by a fire. All you have to do is register by calling 708-366-6530.
10) GO TO BITE NITE
Mark your calendars for Friday, Jan. 26 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. so you can go to Bite Nite at the Nineteenth Century Club, 178 Forest Avenue, Oak Park. Now in its 4th year, Bite Nite is a celebration of outstanding local dining. This annual mid-winter event attracts 400-ticketed attendees sampling small bites from 50+ local restaurants, caterers, and food brands during an evening of music, drinks & goody bags. For more information, visit oprfchamber.org.