Just north of where Lake Shore Drive ends, past the noisy apartment buildings and redundant stop lights in Rogers Park, Sheridan Road transforms into a whispering road lined with manicured parks and glistening beaches. Welcome to the North Shore, where you can take a scenic drive down Sheridan Road, the perfect day trip for city dwellers tired of obnoxious neighbors and tailgating neanderthals.
First, take Lake Shore Drive all the way north and past Rogers Park. The first lakefront park you’ll encounter is Clark Square Park in Evanston. The small park is far enough away from the cluster of main beaches up ahead, making it the ideal spot for an intimate walk with your love or a soul-replenishing talk with a friend. Waves crash softly against rows of large rocks, the perfect spot to sit and gaze at the rippling lake. Continue north on Sheridan, where you’ll soon pass several larger and more crowded parks and beaches, equally beautiful and home to several summer festivals. While the beaches in Evanston are gorgeous, they’re also expensive: stepping onto the sand requires buying an $8 daily pass. Farther north still is Northwestern University, a beautiful campus with amazing architecture, and the 137-year-old national historic landmark Grosse Point Lighthouse. Want to explore Evanston a bit more? Downtown Evanston, a few blocks west of Sheridan, has a slew of diverse restaurants, popular shops, and a large movie theater with an awesome jazz lounge. Evanston is notorious for parking enforcement, so park legally and feed the meters. Trust me.
Continue north on Sheridan Road into Wilmette. You’ll know you’re in Wilmette when you see the Baha’i House of Worship. It’s impossible to miss. The famous landmark is a required pit stop. Ahead of the temple is Gillson Park, 60 acres of gorgeous green and beach. Make sure to grab a bite next because the next pit stop will be seven miles away. Try Convito Cafe & Market in Plaza del Lago just north of Gillson Park. At Convito, you can get some of the best Italian food north of Little Italy. In the mood for a picnic? Pick up some groceries at Jewel or some coffee and prepackaged eats at Starbucks, also in the plaza.
Winding Through the North Shore
Keep driving north on Sheridan, where you’ll wind through some of the wealthiest suburbs in Illinois: Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Ravinia. You’ll undoubtedly gawk at the incredible multimillion dollar mansions with yards that look like forests. What do these people do with so many rooms?! Seriously. Drive carefully through these areas and don’t blow off the deer signs. I’ve had too-close encounters with deer leaping into the road like gazelles out of some National Geographic documentary. Not cool. My favorite part of Sheridan Road is when you cross from Winnetka into Glencoe. Sheridan Road carves through bluffs, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into the mountains of rural New Mexico, minus the mansions towering over you. You’ll pass a number of beaches along this strip, including the spectacular Glencoe Beach.
Once you pass Ravinia Park, you’ll land in Highland Park, home to my favorite spot, Rosewood Park and Beach. The 11-acre park was once part of a family estate designed by famous architect Jens Jensen. Rosewood is small but stunning. Trails on the savanna bluff lead to a wooded ravine with a rocky creek. Across the lush green field, past the playground, is another trail leading to the shoreline. This park is simple and elegant, tranquil and rich, and romantic at heart. I visit it no matter the season, and it never ceases to be beautiful. Two miles north lies another secluded and little-known place called Millard Park, once voted one of the best romantic picnic spots in Illinois. The long trail along the bluff overlooking the lake is breath-taking. Highland Park also has tons of chic shops and award-winning restaurants you can check out. Again, beware overzealous traffic cops. When you go to Rosewood, park in downtown Ravinia near the Metra stop and walk five blocks east to the park to avoid being ticketed for not having a parking pass.
On your way back, I recommend stopping by Rogers Park for some good eats from around the world. Then make your way back to Lake Shore Drive, back to the long-forgotten noise surrounding your beloved humbled abode. You’ll return a lot more relaxed and a lot more replenished, ready to take on whatever the city throws at you next.