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day trip from Chicago, travel around Chicago

  1. By kevin
  2. On May 17, 2018
  3. North America
  4. Travel Tips

Travel around Chicago and schedule a day trip from Chicago with your family on the weekend. Chicago's West Side is a cultural melting pot, housing Greek, Mexican and Puerto Rican communities, among others. Although West Chicago is more residential than the Loop and the North Side, the districts on the Chicago River's west bank are worth exploring – especially if you like to eat.

West Loop

Accessible via the Green and Pink lines' Clinton, Morgan and Ashland L stops.

As its name suggests, West Loop sits immediately west of downtown Chicago. This former industrial area is now one of the city's edgiest, with former factories and warehouses sheltering galleries, boutique shops and restaurants. For a wide selection of bars and eateries, head to West Randolph Street: Nicknamed "Restaurant Row," this thoroughfare near the Fulton Market is lined with bars, bakeries, breweries and a host of dining venues. Meanwhile, interspersed between the trendy condos along West Monroe Street and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway are the Hellenic craft stores and lively tavernas of Greektown. In addition to good food and lively nightlife venues, Greektown also features the National Hellenic Museum, where you can learn more about Greek culture. Hotels are not as plentiful here as they are in downtown, but lodging in the West Loop does cater to a variety of budgets.

West Town

Accessible via the Blue Line's Grand, Chicago, Division and Damen L stops.

North of the West Loop is West Town, home of Chicago's Ukrainian Village. This small section of town – bordered by West Kinzie Street, the Chicago River, West Bloomingdale Avenue and North Kedzie Avenue – features the Ukrainian National Museum, some interesting 19th-century architecture and a smattering of shops, restaurants and bars. However, lodging is limited here, so consider staying in the Loop and crossing the river when you want to visit.

day trip from Chicago, travel around Chicago

Humboldt Park

Accessible via bus Nos. 52, 53, 65, 66, 70, 72, 82 and 94.

Continue east from West Town and you'll reach Humboldt Park, Chicago's Puerto Rican district. Humboldt Park lures visitors with its Puerto Rican cuisine, local shops and various cultural institutions, such as the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture. You'll also find the two largest monuments to a flag in the world anchoring Humboldt Park's Paseo Boricua, a six-block section of Division Street located at the eastern edge of the neighborhood, as well as colorful murals on many of the area's buildings.

Little Italy/University Village

Accessible via the Blue Line's UIC-Halsted and Racine L stops and the Pink Line's Polk and 18th Street subway stations.

If you've come to Chicago for the pizza, head south of the West Loop to Little Italy. Also known as University Village because of its proximity to the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, Little Italy is the place to go for a plate of pasta or a slice of pie. Some of the restaurants here have been handed down from generation to generation. But Italian isn't the only cuisine represented in Little Italy: This is also the place to go for a bite of Polish sausage. Head over to the Maxwell Street Market just east of the neighborhood for sausages and other street foods.

Because of demand from the university, you will find some hotels here – but not nearly as many as you would if you looked in the Loop or North Side neighborhoods.

Lower West Side and Little Village

Accessible via all Pink Line L stops between 18th Street and Central Park.

If you go to the West Loop for Greek food and Little Italy for Italian fare, continue south to the Lower West Side for Mexican specialties. Referred to as Pilsen by locals, this part of town has long acted as a haven for immigrant communities. Although it was originally dominated by Europeans, somewhere in its 150-year-long history, the population of the Lower West Side shifted; today, the area comprises vintage shops, cafes and numerous bodegas serving up authentic Mexican dishes. Between shopping and dining, you should peek in at the incredible murals that grace the walls throughout this neighborhood. You'll even find some in the 18th Street L station.

Continue west from the Lower West Side and you'll find yourself in Little Village, another primarily Mexican-American district. Like its eastern neighbor, Little Village is a great place to go to sample authentic south-of-the-border cuisine.