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A Field Guide to

Forest Park

Just past Oak Park is the other near-west burb with a solidly urban feel.

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Above: Madison Street Photo: Chris Guillen

One glance down Madison Street on a balmy summer evening and you’ll wonder why you haven’t spent more time in Forest Park. The charming burg boasts a thriving main drag with eclectic stores (a handcrafted-guitar maker, a teensy chocolate shop) and ample choices for an alfresco dinner or drink. It’s also the home of Ferrara Candy Company’s factory, which makes such treats as Boston Baked Beans and Lemonheads. (You can smell its handiwork in the air, but alas, it no longer gives tours.) Note to city dwellers who don’t like to venture far: Forest Park is easy to get to—it’s right off the Eisenhower and has two Blue Line stops.

Forest Park map
Team Blonde
Team Blonde

1. Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame

Pay homage to semiathletic sluggers such as Stan “Rabbits” Zajac and Don “Ducky” Dulbis at this converted gas station. 16inchsoftballhof.com

2. Forest Home Cemetery

This verdant 220-acre graveyard features the tomb of Russian anarchist Emma Goldman, the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument, and—of course—a monument to the Ancient Order of Druids. graveyards.com/IL/Cook/foresthome/

3. Forest Park Aquatic Center

It’s summer, and they’ve got four water slides. Do you need another reason? forestparkaquaticcenter.org

4. Illinois Prairie Path

This 61-mile trail kicks off near the Des Plaines River and passes through meadows, forests, and marshes. ipp.org

5. St. Bernardine Catholic Church

What you will see: a stately Spanish mission–style church built in 1940 that’s supported by 14-ton wooden trusses. What you won’t: stained glass windows in the convent’s private chapel that mobster Sam Giancana dedicated to his wife, Angeline. stbern.com

Chairs at Yearbook
Chairs at Yearbook Photo: Courtesy of Yearbook

6. Happy Feet

Everything you need to know is in this massage spot’s name.

7. The Old School Records

This husband-and-wife-owned record store is a must for vinyl junkies. theoldschoolrecords.com

8. Team Blonde

Find eco-friendly women’s clothes and accessories (vegan handbags, anyone?), then visit the spa in back. teamblonde.com

9. Yearbook

Get vintage collegiate home accessories with a modern twist (that pewter flask is pretty tempting). Or hang with the house bulldog, Henry. yearbookstudios.com

Eat & Drink
Piggyback Tavern
Piggyback Tavern Photo: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune

10. Blue Max Coffee

You know those cozy two-story coffee shops, usually found in cool college towns, that feature freshly baked treats and house-roasted beans? This is totally that. facebook.com/BlueMaxCoffeeFP

11. The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor

Up for a challenge? Devour the seven-pound Trough—that’s one scoop each of all 21 flavors for $50—and get a T-shirt. browncowicecream.com

12. Gaetano’s

Eccentric Sicilian chef Gaetano Di Benedetto updates Old World Italian in his amiable little spot. Tip: Don’t skip the crabmeat-stuffed pork chop sautéed with garlic and shrimp and accompanied by Gorgonzola fondue. gaetanos.us

13. Jimmy’s Place

Classic Italian fare—regulars swear by the linguine à la Jimmy’s, with fresh mozz, basil, and garlic—in a snug atmosphere decorated with Blackhawks and Fenwick High School memorabilia. jimmysplaceforestpark.com

14. Piggyback Tavern

With a chef who’s an Arkansas native, this local fave has won raves for the meticulously smoked dry-rubbed ribs, as well as the wood-grilled burger topped with pulled pork and a fried egg. piggybacktavern.com

15. Scratch

Want a huge bowl of homemade mac and cheese? Head to Scratch Kitchen & Lounge. Want to top it off with a salted bourbon caramel cappuccino? Cross the street to sister spot Scratch Deli & Cafe. scratchfp.com


August 6:Adoptable pooches and contests for cutest pups highlight Madison Street’s Dog Days of Summer.

August 7:International Clown Week caps off with a clown funeral at Showmen’s Rest, the section of Woodlawn Cemetery devoted to performers who died in the 1918 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train disaster.

August 17:At the Forest Park Public Library, historian John Rice offers a deep dive into that circus tragedy.

August 22:Evan Silva, senior football editor at the website Rotoworld, talks fantasy league domination at the library.

Did You Know?

With more than 800,000 buried in its five major cemeteries, Forest Park has a 56-to-1 ratio of dead to living residents.

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Tour Forest Park with Joel Reese

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If You Want to Live Here

Population Median houshold income Median sale price (house)
(50% white, 32% black, 10% Hispanic, 6% Asian)
$50,800 $165,000

Listing of the month

529 Beloit Ave.

529 Beloit Ave.
Photo: Cynthia Howe Gajewski

Asking price:$725,000

Specs:5,600 square feet, four bedrooms, five baths

Sure, it’s been totally renovated, complete with a fully outfitted chef’s kitchen and a private deck outside the master suite. But the best part? The walk-up workspace above the heated two-car garage.

NOTE: Real estate data are for April. SOURCES: U.S. Census Bureau, Zillow
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