Spend a few days exploring Oak Park's connections to architect Frank Lloyd Wright and author Ernest Hemingway.
Idyllic Oak Park, Illinois – with its historic sites, inviting restaurants, lovely shops and tree-lined streets set just west of Chicago and easily accessible via the “L” Green line or Metra – is truly a gem. There's much to see from Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway's time here, but make a point to enjoy downtown's shopping and dining scene, too.
Frank Lloyd Wright, Pioneering Architect
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park is a world-renowned complex where the famed architect lived and worked for the first 20 years of his career. From his living quarters to the adjacent studio showcasing original designs and drawings, the complex provides an intimate glimpse into the life of a man who shaped the course of architecture in the U.S. and beyond.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Wright is known for his organic architecture – structures inspired by nature and designed to maximize natural light. Art glass (stained glass), fabric walls, high-backed chairs, high ceilings instead of an attic; it’s amazing to see such a “modern” house that dates to the late 1800s.
Take a guided tour of the interior of his home and studio – the guides are very knowledgeable, pointing out meaningful architectural details that you might otherwise miss. Also, take advantage of the self-guided audio tour of the surrounding historic district, including 25 Wright-designed buildings. Oak Park has the highest concentration of his work in the world.
Ernest Hemingway, Legendary Author
Charming Oak Park is also the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, the famous American author and icon. Pay a visit to the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace, which is the actual house Hemingway was born and raised in. After hundreds of hours of restoration, the home has been returned to its Victorian-era beauty. Take a tour to learn about Hemingway’s early years, his family and the inspiring environment he grew up in.
Just down Oak Park Avenue from his birthplace is the Ernest Hemingway Museum, which will take you deeper into the writer’s life with a stunning collection of rare photographs, films and special exhibits. Here we see a sensitive young man portrayed in mesmerizing photographs, video footage, childhood diaries and personal letters. On an old desk sits a typewriter of the very sort Hemingway used – visitors are encouraged to sit down and type away on a sheet of paper provided by the museum staff.
By the way, the entrance fee is valid for both locations, and the hourly tour at the birth house is included.
Downtown Oak Park
For refined European cuisine, dine at Hemingway’s Bistro, across the street from the museum, where you can feast on such dishes as coq au vin, cassoulet and duck à l’orange while enjoying the French bistro ambiance. Or head to downtown Oak Park, where the welcoming streets are lined with charming shops and restaurants. If the weather cooperates, enjoy an al fresco meal of farm-to-table fare accompanied by a fine selection of microbrews.