The Loop gets a lot of attention, but downtown Chicago isn’t the only spot in the area worthy of attention. Sitting just north of Chicago, Evanston serves up a diverse menu of things to do and places to see.
Northwestern University calls Evanston home, adding the distinct vibe of a college town, along with a variety of public entertainment options. With so many places to go in Evanston, you may have trouble figuring out where to start! Hopefully this guide can help you out.
Museums You Don’t Want to Miss
Evanston proves that museums don’t have to be boring! The American Toby Jug Museum is the perfect example. The museum displays over 8,000 pieces of Toby Jug history.
What is a Toby Jug, you ask? It’s a ceramic pitcher shaped like the head of a historical figure. It’s something you have to see in person to truly appreciate. The jugs originated in England, but this museum boasts the largest collection of the pitchers anywhere in the world, right here in Evanston.
Another option in Evanston is the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. The permanent displays in the museum come from a variety of Native American tribes from all across the country. Temporary exhibits change throughout the year, providing fresh displays for visitors. This museum is unique in that very few museums focus only on Native American history, art and culture.
Find inspiration at the Frances Willard House Museum, home of activist Frances Willard — a prominent voice in social reform in the 19th century. The house turned into a museum in 1900 and does an excellent job of preserving that period in history. Many of the original furnishings still exist in the home.
The culinary scene in Evanston keeps you wanting more. There is no shortage of dining establishments in this suburb. With so much variety and so many options, it’s impossible to list them all, but a few stand out for offering unique flavors and exceptional quality.
Explore the flavors at these Evanston favorites:
- Bat 17, 1709 Benson Avenue: This pub-style eatery ranks high on the list of favorites in Evanston. Bat 17 serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with an emphasis on sandwiches. Another local favorite, Bennison’s Bakery, delivers bread daily that’s baked specifically for Bat 17.
- Found Kitchen and Social House, 1631 Chicago Avenue: Find your new favorite food at Found, a restaurant with an emphasis on all things local. Owner Amy Morton lives in Evanston, and she sources as much as possible from the local area, including spirits found in the cocktails. The menu often includes seasonal dishes. The décor features many “found” pieces, giving the restaurant a homey feeling.
- Table to Stix Ramen, 1007 Davis Street: Experience ramen noodles like never before at Table to Stix Ramen in Evanston. The gourmet bowls of delicious noodles come with a variety of topping options to customize your bowl. This is definitely not like the ramen noodles you lived on in college!
- Cheesie’s Pub & Grub, 622 Davis Street: Plan to run a few extra miles after a trip to Cheesie’s Pub & Grub. The main focus on the menu is the grilled cheese sandwich. You can go simple with the classic grilled cheese or shake things up with one of the many variations, including different kinds of cheese and other ingredients.
- Creperie Saint Germaine, 1512 Sherman Avenue: Whether you want savory or sweet, Creperie Saint Germaine has you covered with French-inspired crepes that blow your mind. The restaurant focuses on flavor with simple combinations made from high-quality ingredients.
- Farmhouse Evanston, 703 Church Street: Embrace the farm-to-table movement with this tavern-style restaurant. With locally sourced ingredients and dishes made from scratch, Farmhouse offers a quality dining experience. The menu changes frequently.
- Unicorn Café, 1723 Sherman Avenue: Sip your brew while supporting a locally owned business at the Unicorn Café. In addition to coffee, the Unicorn offers loose leaf teas and pastries. For lunch, nosh on a panini or soup. Don’t let its location near the university fool you — while it does attract plenty of students, everyone is welcome at the Unicorn Café.
- YaHala Inn, 825 Church Street: Head to YaHala Inn for lunch or dinner to experience the best in Lebanese and Mediterranean food. The restaurant focuses its meals on fresh, quality ingredients. The menu includes several gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options, so everyone in your group can find something that works.
- Giordano’s, 1527 Chicago Avenue: You always need that go-to pizza place, no matter where you live or visit. We have you covered with our Evanston location. Get your Italian fix with our famous pies, sandwiches and classic Italian fare. With pick-up, delivery and dine-in options, you can get your favorite pizza on your terms without leaving Evanston.
You can find plenty of culture without skipping town! Northwestern supplies a variety of cultural exhibits and performances, but Evanston offers up a variety of other options for arts and cultural experiences. The suburb boasts many galleries where you can find art from local artists on display. The city also has many museums and art centers to inspire your creativity.
Consider these cultural experiences in Evanston:
- Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art: Located on the Northwestern University campus, this art museum takes an innovative approach to the creative process. In addition to the permanent and traveling art exhibits, the museum offers lectures, symposia and workshops. It even has an in-house cinema for screening classic and contemporary films. Everyone is welcome to explore the museum, which offers free admission.
- Evanston Art Center: Another artistic option in this suburb is the Evanston Art Center. The center appeals to all ages, from kids to adults, with classes, exhibits and interactive art options. Even the outside is interesting, with assorted lawn sculptures to intrigue visitors.
- Noyes Cultural Arts Center: The city of Evanston runs the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, home to a full stage and two galleries. Several different art organizations and artists converge on the center to experience the creative process. The center also offers studios and programs for music, theater and visual arts.
Grosse Point Lighthouse
The Grosse Point Lighthouse proves you don’t have to go to the ocean to see amazing historical lighthouses. The U.S. government built Grosse Point Lighthouse in 1873, and it still stands today on public ground. Wander around the grounds any time of year to take in this historical site.
If you want to tour the inside of the lighthouse, you need to visit on a Saturday or Sunday from June until September. Tours for up to 12 people happen at 2, 3 and 4 pm. During the tour, you’ll climb 141 stairs to reach the top of the lighthouse.
Beaches and Waterfront Views
Evanston’s prime location means you get to enjoy the beautiful waterfront views and relaxing beach days along the shores of Lake Michigan. If you want a quiet experience, head to the Greenwood Street Beach, where you’ll pay an admission fee but enjoy fewer distractions away from Lake Shore Drive. The beach also offers access for individuals with disabilities.
If you want a different view of the water, head to the Northwestern University Sailing Center, where you can learn how to sail or rent catamarans, stand-up paddle boards and kayaks.
Distilleries and Breweries
Evanston boasts its own distillery and breweries, giving you the chance to imbibe locally crafted drinks. FEW Spirits claims the title as the first distillery in Evanston since the prohibition era. The distillery uses grains grown right here in the Midwest to craft gin and whiskey. If you want a glimpse at the process, head to FEW Spirits on Thursday, Saturday or Sunday for a tour of the facilities.
Sketchbook Brewing Company serves up small-batch beers in a very unique way. The local brewery uses a community-supported brewery approach, which lets you buy a membership that includes a certain number of growler refills per month, depending on your level. Don’t worry — you can still stop by the bring-your-own-food brewery, even if you don’t want to commit to a membership. Sketchbook also distributes its beer locally to select restaurants and establishments.
Temperance Beer Co. is another local brewery, and one that features a comfortable tap room where you can enjoy all the local brews. Temperance also offers brewery tours once a month on the second Saturday at 1 pm. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery, plus samples and a souvenir pint glass with your tour ticket.
Another Evanston brewery option is Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. The signature brews at Smylie Brothers cover many different styles, offering the perfect variety for your group of friends. Schedule a tour of the brewery to see the brewer at work and to sample the beer.
The fun doesn’t stop in Evanston when the sun goes down! The suburb offers several options for late-night activities. You can catch a variety of live music, with many local bands performing at venues in Evanston.
Keep the party going at these Evanston nightlife options:
- SPACE: This music venue gives you an up-close experience with the artists who perform here. The venue offers state-of-the-art technology yet creates a warm, intimate vibe. Music performed at SPACE doesn’t fit one particular genre. The venue brings in a wide range of performers and styles.
- Celtic Knot Public House: If you prefer the pub environment, head to the Celtic Knot Public House. The Irish pub offers live music on Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, with an emphasis on local talent. Expect boisterous performances at this venue. The Celtic Knot also hosts monthly storytelling events.
- Rhythm Room: It might seem like a strange location, but the Rhythm Room inside the Cinemark Century Theatre offers live music every Friday and Saturday night with no cover charge. The cocktail lounge offers sweeping views of downtown Evanston. If you get tired of the music, the Rhythm Room also includes a billiards room and a 10-foot projection screen, perfect for watching your favorite sporting events.
Connections to Nature
Evanston offers several ways to enjoy nature, including several planned and groomed gardens. Wander the Merrick Rose Garden to see hundreds of rose bushes with the Centennial Fountain as the centerpiece. You can appreciate over 200 varieties of roses in the garden.
For a different take on flower gardening, head to the Shakespeare Garden on the Northwestern campus. The garden features more than 50 varieties of flowers, shrubs, trees and herbs, all mentioned in different works of Shakespeare. The garden features eight beds of plants and hides behind a double wall of hawthorn hedges. The Garden Club of Evanston established the garden in 1915, and still maintains it today. Everyone is welcome to explore the garden!
Shopping Hot Spots
Evanston holds its own when it comes to unique places to shop! This suburb boasts a variety of boutiques and shops with all sorts of creative products. Give yourself plenty of time to browse!
We suggest starting with these amazing shopping experiences in Evanston:
- The Spice House, 1941 Central Street: The name says it all with this shop. Walk into the Spice House for a sensory experience like no other. The store greets you with the aroma of freshly ground spices, sourced from the countries where they grow. Quality is never an issue, because the owners of the Spice House import only the finest spices to put on their shelves.
- Ten Thousand Villages, 719 Main Street: When you need a unique gift or want to add an artisan-crafted piece to your décor, head to Ten Thousand Villages. The shop stocks items from 38 different countries. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair-trade retailer, so you can feel good about your purchase.
- Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop, 711 Main Street: The name alone is enough to warrant a trip to this gem in Evanston. Dave started the store when he was only 20, selling many minerals and fossils he collected himself. Today, you can find gems, crystals, jewelry and more in the store. Dave’s store also includes a fossil museum, where you can see the fossils in his personal collection.
- Chalk Boutique, 2611 Prairie Avenue: Head to Chalk Boutique when you need to refresh your wardrobe. This high-end women’s clothing boutique gives you urban, edgy styles with a mix of European and American labels on the racks. You don’t need to head into the city to get a designer style!
- Bloom 3, 1503 Chicago Avenue: Fill your home with beautiful floral arrangements from Bloom 3. This independent flower shop offers a gorgeous setting for selecting your bouquets.
- Bookends & Beginnings, 1712 Sherman Avenue: Browse the shelves of new, used and bargain books at Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston. The owner of this independent bookstore selects titles with the local audience in mind. The store also hosts author readings, workshops and other events to enhance the experience.
Evanston offers up plenty of entertainment and dining options, both indoors and outdoors. What’s on your to-do list in the diverse suburb?
And whether you live in Evanston or you’re ready to visit, don’t miss the chance to sink your teeth into a fresh, hot Giordano’s pizza. A stop at our Evanston location gives you the fuel you need to continue your exploration as you continue through your list of things to do in Evanston!