Published October 02, 2008
CHICAGO – Better known as the home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigleyville is also one of the most popular neighborhoods in the city for young singles and couples to live and play in the Windy City.
During baseball season, locals will tell you that living here is one big party with a ballpark in the middle. But even when the Cubs are on the road or hibernating for the winter, their stomping ground has plenty to offer that doesn't revolve around beer and baseball, making it a top tourist destination for out-of-towners looking to soak up the scene.
5. Lose the Uniform
Wade through the sea of stores selling nothing but Cubs wear to Clark Street and you'll find Strange Cargo (3448 N. Clark St., 773-327-8090). The shop is a T-shirt lover's mecca, with hundreds of shirts and designs to choose from.
The store sells 1,500 shirts a week and the design possibilities are endless. You can buy one off the rack or design your own. As Strange Cargo's owners put it, their designs range from "stupid to artsy to political."
If you're not in the mood to wear Kurt Vonnegut on your chest, you can check out the store's collection of trading cards including cult classics like "Garbage Pail Kids" and "Saved by the Bell."
Stroll a few blocks west on Addison Street to Southport Avenue and you'll find one of the city's newest trendsetter shopping destinations.
The Southport corridor is sandwiched with original boutiques, where local designers can show off their latest creations. A couple of shops to explore include Perchance (3512 N. Southport Ave.) and M2 (3527 N. Southport Ave.) — where you'll find one-of-a-kind accessories, dresses and shoes — and Francesca's Collections (3539 N. Southport Ave.) a retail chain with a boutique feel and trendy items at a reasonable price.
4. Giggles and Ghosts
In the middle of bar-cluttered Clark Street sits one of Chicago's premiere comedy venues, iO, formerly named the ImprovOlympic (3541 N. Clark St., 773-880-0199). If you are in need of some laugh-out-loud fun, this club is a must-do. The creative cast puts on multiple shows seven nights a week and even performs free shows during Cubs games.
If you think you have what it takes to crack up a crowd, check out one of iO's improv classes. (Warning: It isn't as easy as the pros make it look.) Be sure to keep a close eye on who's on stage since many of iO's seasoned comedians and writers have gone on to successful television careers on "Saturday Night Live," "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."
Movie buffs wanting to catch a good flick while taking a step back in time should stroll east to Southport Avenue and the Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.). You won't find any blockbuster hits, stadium seating or cup holders in your seats, but this landmark has a historic charm all its own.
The theater features independent and foreign films seven days a week. It also hosts film festivals and premieres for movies produced in Chicago. The theater opened its doors in 1929 with 800 seats and is reportedly haunted by the ghastly spectre of the theater's original manager, whose nickname was "Whitey."
3. Dine Where It’s Fine
If you're looking to grease your appetite before the big game, any of the dozens of sports bars in the area will do. But if you're craving a real meal to brag to your friends about, check out Uncommon Ground (3800 N. Clark St.). This cozy restaurant, within a short walk of Wrigley Field, focuses on locally grown organic produce.
Dinner choices include small and large plates, but brunch is really the specialty at this neighborhood favorite. With options like organic buttermilk pancakes with yogurt and granola, or the farm chicken breakfast burrito, just reading the menu is enough to make your mouth water. As an added bonus the restaurant features live music from local musicians nightly.
To toast a special night out on the town, Mia Francesca is the place (3311 N. Clark St.). This sophisticated Italian eatery is a hot spot for both the home team and visitors, so be sure to call ahead for reservations.
The restaurant offers a social scene of its own with tables placed fairly close together, so try not to eavesdrop on your neighbor's table conversation. For a more intimate dining experience request a table in the coach house out back, or breathe easy with some alfresco dining on the patio during the warmer months.
2. A Side of Lake
After chowing down on some great food, put on your walkin' shoes and head to the closest thing Chicago has to an ocean, Lake Michigan. Just a 20-minute stroll from Wrigley Field, you can check out one of the most beautiful sights in the city, Belmont Harbor.
During the day, take advantage of the lakefront's breathtaking bike and running path that stretches north along the lake and south into the heart of the city with a quick jog or ride. Want a different type of workout? Dozens of tennis courts and a nine-hole public golf course can be found nearby (Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course, 3600 N. Recreation Dr., 312-742-7930).
If you're feeling a little lazy, pack a picnic and enjoy the calming view of sailboats making their way out for a sunset cruise.
1. Run the Bases
If you can't score tickets for a Cubs game and don't have a seat inside the "Friendly Confines," your best bet is to join the loyal fans cheering on their beloved Cubbies at one of the four famous watering holes that sit on each corner of the streets surrounding the ballpark.
The best view of Wrigley Field's original marquee can be seen from the Cubby Bear (1059 W. Addison St., 773-327-1662). A visit to this sports bar has been a pre-game ritual for Cubs fans dating back to the 1950s. Thanks to recent renovations, it is also one of the most spacious smaller venues to catch great live music. Past performers include Soul Asylum, Los Lobos, Cracker and Rusted Root.
Casey Moran's (3660 N. Clark St., 773-755-4444) at the corner of Waveland Avenue and Clark is the MVP of outdoor space. Casey Moran's has multiple patios plus a garden rooftop deck facing the baseball field where you can sneak a peek of the on-field action, if you're lucky.
Murphy's Bleachers at the intersection of Sheffield Avenue and Waveland Avenue (3655 N. Sheffield Ave.) has been a Wrigleyville institution since the 1930s. It's changed names and owners over the years but its location remains the same, directly across from the entrance to Wrigley's bleacher section. Once voted America's Favorite Sports Bar by ESPN, Murphy's crowd consists of die-hard fans and occasional celebrities who are in town to cheer on the Cubs.
Last, but surely not least, the newest addition to the perimeter party is Harry Caray's Tavern at Addison and Sheffield (3551 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-327-7800). Named for the late broadcasting legend, the bar opened in the spring to rave reviews for its 53 flat-screen TVs and "Holy Cow" burger bar.
The outdoor patio is a prime people-watching spot during games, where you never know who you may see walking into the neighborhood's biggest beer garden, better known as Wrigley Field.