Even though it's home to the esteemed University of Chicago and former President Barack Obama, Hyde Park can be overlooked during a Chicago tourist's first tour around the city. With a university, local public and private schools, and quiet, manicured neighborhoods, this region is popular with students, young families, and retirees. Despite its suburban feel, there's plenty to do and see in Chicago's quaint South Side community.
Whether you bike, drive or take public transportation, you can be in central Chicago in less than 45 minutes, making the South Side Hyde Park neighborhood a great place for those looking to be close to the action but not in the thick of it.
History buffs, bookworms, fans of architecture, and science geeks will all enjoy Hyde Park's best attractions: historical monuments, a plethora of locally-owned bookstores, historic, beautifully crafted homes and buildings, and, perhaps the biggest draw, The Museum of Science and Industry, which, makes many "top" and "best" lists when stacked against other museums in the nation.
Roads and sidewalks in the Hyde Park area are well-maintained, though you may find some pot-holes and cracks, which are unavoidable in a region that receives annual snowfall. Due to the proximity of the University of Chicago, there is a large body of students traveling to and from class on foot. This means that there are plenty of pedestrian-friendly walkways and crosswalks, that are also well-lit at night, keeping you and Fido feeling safe during late evening strolls.
Ray Bixler Park is nestled between student-friendly eateries, apartments, and an elementary school. Perhaps not as impressive as Washington Park where size is concerned, Bixler is a great pit-stop on a walk through the neighborhood, with bench seating and paved walkways.
While typically a place of learning, the University of Chicago also offers beautiful public spaces for Hyde Park visitors and residents. On warm spring afternoons and breezy fall days, you're likely to find students splayed out on the grass and under oak trees, socializing or cramming before an exam. If you plan a walk with your pup to the campus, be courteous to others: your dog must be leashed and you must clean up after them. Any of these destinations are great for a leisurely ramble and quiet sit-down:
An unofficial dog park, Florence Stout Park is great for a well-trained, non-reactive pet to frolic. A large, open green lot gives a dog plenty of space to run or fetch. And a small hill makes for opportune sledding in the winter.
Over 10 acres of structured gardens and open, grassy lots, Nichols Park is a local favorite. Although there are no designated off-leash areas, Nichols, due to its size, offers a lot of space to any dog owners who enjoy jogging with their pet. This vast green space also has community flower and vegetable gardens, as well as a wildflower field.
Just northwest of Nichols Park is Elm Park. Pocket-sized and petite, this public space blooms with colorful tulips in early spring and sometimes is host to neighborhood concerts.
Along the bank of Lake Michigan is Promontory Point, located in East Hyde Park within Burnham Park. Burnham Park spans a 600-acre distance, tracing the coast of Lake Michigan, offering great paths for walking, jogging, skating, and biking. It also has multiple access points to beaches. Leashed pets are permitted in the park and on its beaches as long as they're up to date on vaccinations and have the tags to prove so.
Like a long, extended arm, Midway Plaisance Park reaches east as if trying to touch the Chicago coastline. Protruding from Washinton Park, this additional limb of recreational space is known for its winter activities, specifically its ice skating. Its most notable attractions are:
Midway Plaisance has stretches of paved footpaths, bench seating, statues, and public art, making it a beautiful destination for dogs and their owners. The University of Chicago, in all its Gothic glory, peeks playfully over the hedges of the park adding to the picturesque scenery of the area, giving you and your furry companion a walk worth taking.