[ The Alfresco Everywhere Guide to Summer ]

Lincoln Square

Kayaking on the North Branch

Kayaking on the North Branch

Make like a 17th-century voyageur and begin by exploring the neighborhood’s hidden gem: the North Branch of the Chicago River. Put your canoe or kayak in the water at River Park (5100 N. Francisco Ave.), just south of the little waterfall, which is also a great fishing spot. Drift with the current, spotting birds and other wildlife along the way. With any luck, you’ll see all three species of herons indigenous to the area: green, great blue, and black-crowned night herons. Don’t be seduced by the idyllic pace and go too far; you’re going to have to paddle hard upriver to get back to your starting point.

If you’re on foot, begin your journey at Montrose and Lincoln Avenues. Walking north up Lincoln, stop at Welles Park, where on Tuesday evenings you’ll want to bring a picnic dinner for the free concerts at the gazebo. Or grab a table outside 42 N Latitude (4500 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-907-2226; entrées from $11.50) and enjoy a cold beer with burgers and fries as you listen to the music and watch the crowds drift by. The Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-728-6000) has retooled its annual Folk & Roots Festival; it’s now called the Square Roots Festival (squareroots.org; see “Five Best Things to Do in July” for more info) and runs from July 20 to 22 this year. The new incarnation—still an outdoor craft beer and music extravaganza—moves from Welles Park to the stretch of Lincoln Avenue from Sunnyside to Wilson Avenues.

This part of Lincoln Avenue has a cluster of the area’s best alfresco dining options. Snare a sidewalk table at Tank Sushi (4514 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-769-2600; entrées from $13) or head two doors north for seasonal French fare on the pretty patio adjoining Bistro Campagne (4518 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-271-6100; entrées from $18). A neighborhood landmark, Café Selmarie (4729 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-989-5595; dinner entrées from $10.50) not only offers a full bakery selection and chicken pot pie on its dinner menu but also provides front-seat tables for the Thursday night concerts in Giddings Plaza (lincolnsquare.org/pages/summerconcertseries). Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen (4750 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-728-7243; meats from $2.99) opened its weekend rooftop beer-and-grill garden last summer and the crowds came; hours are quirky, so call ahead. But the neighborhood’s best-kept secret may be the sixth-floor terrace at the Dank Haus German American Cultural Center (4740 N. Western Ave.; 773-561-9181). On a clear night, sip a Pilsner and look southeast across Lincoln Square for a view of the lit-up skyline; on July 3 and August 1 and 31, the full moon should add extra magic.

Tim Klein

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