Above:Hanging out in Humboldt Park Photo: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune
On the city’s West Side, you’ll find two Humboldt Parks: There’s the actual park, a 219-acre jewel with baseball and soccer fields, a boathouse, and even a beach (yes, a beach—you don’t have to go all the way to Lake Michigan to feel sand in your toes). Then there’s the neighborhood, a collection of quirky shops, storied bars, and restaurants serving everything from organic breakfasts to the Chicago-invented jibarito sandwich. When the area was founded in the late 19th century, it was popular with Scandinavians, but it became the city’s Puerto Rican enclave in the 1950s and hosts the boisterous Puerto Rican People’s Parade each June. Even as it gentrifies, Humboldt Park is one Chicago community that hasn’t lost its cultural identity.
1. Puerto Rican Flags
The arching 59-foot flags that bookend Paseo Boricua (Puerto Rican Promenade) are made of steel—each weighs 45 tons—as an homage to immigrants who worked in Chicago’s steel plants.
2. National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture
Located in a lavish Queen Anne–style building constructed in 1896, this is the country’s only standalone museum of its kind.
3. Humboldt Park Murals
Colorful folk art adorns walls across the neighborhood. Stroll the 2400 and 2500 blocks of Division to see a cluster of murals, including one that features the Humboldt Park coat of arms, designed by local artist John Vergara.
4. Humboldt Park Boathouse
Look out over the serene lagoon from the Jens Jensen–designed building, or cause some havoc by tossing in a line to pull out a largemouth bass.
5. Illinois National Guard Northwest Armory
This 1940 art deco stone monolith might seem foreboding, but take a closer look to check out its subtle artistic touches, like the metal reliefs featuring wartime figures with a definite WPA-era feel to them.
6. Richard’s Fabulous Finds
If Jay Gatsby came to Chicago, he’d hit up this eccentric shop filled with plaid blazers, mallard-print ties, and vintage cocktail sets.
7. Adams & Son Gardens
Sure, it’s got your standard flowers and seeds for the green-thumbed, but it’s also got hard-to-find plants, like the Rojo Congo, a philodendron native to South America.
8. Humboldt House
Part bohemian (incense), part rustic (Turkish rugs), part pragmatic (Chicago-made wallets). Our pick: the cheeky “Feminist as Fuck” necklaces.
A former hardware store, this whimsical gift shop is stocked with eclectic jewelry, artistic cards, and fake mustaches.
10. Mosaicos Jalisco
Add some color to your home with gorgeous hand-painted Talavera tile from Mexico.
Eat & Drink
11. Roeser’s Bakery
Keep your schmancy doughnut places with their trendy organic sprinkles. This old-school bakeshop has been churning out cakes, eclairs, cookies, and even ice cream since 1911.
12. Papa’s Cache Sabroso
These folks may not have invented the jibarito, but they’ve certainly perfected it. For the unacquainted, it’s a sandwich with fried green plantains instead of bread, stuffed with meat and cheese. (Also: Go eat one.)
If there’s a better steak in Chicago than the 55-day dry-aged rib eye at this intimate German- and French-influenced brasserie, we don’t know what it is. Beef-fat fries: a must.
14. Flying Saucer
Much of the fare at this beloved breakfast and lunch spot is organic, but the pillowy homemade biscuits with pork sausage gravy probably aren’t. And we couldn’t care less.
15. The California Clipper
Settle into a red vinyl booth at this gin joint that dates back to Prohibition, order a Pago Pago with shaved ice, and watch for the resident ghost.
16. Spinning J Bakery and Soda Fountain
You’ll be charmed by this lovingly restored soda fountain and its unexpected treats: Thai tea egg cream, anyone?
April 7:Groove to the soul-jazz-blues trumpet of Sam Trump (no relation) at the California Clipper.
April 14:For a taste of Honduran folk-rock, head back to the Clipper when Radio Free Honduras takes the stage.
April 22:Get outside for Earth Day and help spruce up Humboldt Park at the 28th annual Parks and Reserves Clean Up (tools, bags, and gloves provided).
June 15 to 18:The annual Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, or Puerto Rican Festival, brings four days of street food, carnival rides, and music.
June 17:Join the revelers at the Puerto Rican People’s Parade on Division.
June 23:UrbanTheater Company brings Los Angeles noir to Chicago in Richard Montoya’s Water & Power.
Did You Know?
Humboldt Park was named after German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Funny thing—he didn’t even set foot in Chicago the one time he visited the States.