The popular Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown has been transformed from hip to hipster baby almost overnight. Only about 2½ miles northwest of the Loop, right off the Kennedy, Bucktown rivals other Chicago neighborhoods with its easy accessibility to nearly everything in the city and a diverse offering of activities for artists, foodies, club-goers and families alike.
Bucktown is especially great for walking and parking and parks are abundant. You’ll easily find a spot on a side street to start your tour at one of Bucktown’s best parks for kids, Holstein Park (2220 N. Oakley St. between Lyndale and Shakespeare streets.) Holstein Park encompasses more than two acres of playground facilities, athletic fields, a lap-sized pool for advanced swimmers and a wading pool for those just learning. You can take a rest on one of Holstein’s many benches while your kids let off some steam on the renovated jungle gyms. Then get some adrenaline going yourself on the south side of the park where the one-acre field makes for a great impromptu soccer game.
You can either bring a bag lunch and picnic on the shady, grassy stretch of Holstein’s playground area or walk a short distance to some of Bucktown’s great sit-down or carry-out lunch options.
Just three blocks west of Holstein Park on Damen Avenue is the Bucktown outpost of the popular brunch spot Toast (2046 N. Damen Ave. at Dickens). Toast specializes in innovative egg dishes and even serves Julius Meinl coffee. The restaurant can get crowded on weekends, however, so either go during off hours or be prepared to wait.
There are, however, more casual options for the post-park crowd. Head to Doc’s Juice and Smoothies (2246 W. Armitage Ave. at Oakley). The five-block walk from Holstein Park will definitely build your appetite for one of Doc’s creative fruit smoothies. You can also order sandwiches, paninis and pastries. And everything at Doc’s is organic.
If you’re feeling a little more indulgent with your post-park meal, walk southeast to George’s Hot Dogs (1876 N. Damen Ave. at Cortland). You can take the scenic route through Bucktown’s tree-lined side streets, such as West Homer, one block south of Armitage Avenue, or take the business route down Armitage. Either way, once you hit Damen, turn south and you’ll see George’s on the west side of the street.
After eating, you’ll definitely want to stroll to Churchill Field Park (1825 N. Damen Ave. between Churchill and Willow), an open field in the heart of Bucktown’s business corridor. Whip out that soccer ball again or take your kids for some running races around the field.
While in Bucktown’s business corridor, you’ll want to check out some of its retail hot spots. Bucktown’s shops have changed over the past several years to include some popular chain stores, but still include boutique favorites. For the kids, walk five blocks south on Damen to the funky kid’s boutique, Psycho Baby (1630 N. Damen Ave. between Concord Place and Milwaukee). The items are a tad on the pricey side, but it’s just about the only place in the city where you can find the perfect ‘70s rocker T-shirt. Psycho Baby often has sidewalk sales, so call ahead to ensure you can shop the sale racks during your walk.
The Bucktown location of the chain Lululemon (1627 N. Damen Ave.) is a must-see for parents who like to walk. Their comfortable clothes are long-lasting, made of breathable fabric and are a step up from your average gym pants.
When your kids have had enough shopping, take them for a quick snack around the corner at Red Hen Bread (1623 N. Milwaukee Ave. just north of North Avenue). Be sure to try the pecan chocolate chip cookies and other homemade goodies.
Afterward, your kids will be happy to have an activity all their own at Easel Art Studio (1830 N. Milwaukee Ave. between Oakley and Leavitt). The spacious studio offers classes for every interest from painting to "Green Art." Easel does not offer formal classes on the weekends but has open art if there are no scheduled birthday parties.
When you’re ready to head home, walk north up Milwaukee to Leavitt and then north on Leavitt about five blocks to Holstein Park. The nearly three-mile loop may have tired your legs but will definitely leave your mind refreshed with all the possibilities of Bucktown’s vibrant community.
LEARN TO CANOE
Take a Chicago River Family Canoe Trip. Equipment and instruction provided by Friends of the Chicago River. Mail-in registration required. Call (312) 742-5039. 6 p.m. July 16. Families with kids 6 and up. $10 family. Jackson Park, 6401 S. Stony Island, Chicago. (773) 685-3351, chicagoparkdistrict.com.
STUFF YOURSELF WITH PIEROGI
The Pierogi Fest features food, entertainment, Kids’ Korner with pony rides and games, polka parade and a pierogi eating contest. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. July 24-25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. July 26. Downtown Whiting, Ind., on 119th Street. (888) 659-0292. pierogifest.net.
Archery Open House introduces the family to archery. Learn about the history and equipment, then cover some fundamentals. Kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 18. Free. Blackwell Archery Range, Blackwell Forest Preserve-McKee Marsh, Winfield and Butterfield roads, Warrenville. (630) 942-6200,
Sara Fisher is a Chicago mom and freelance writer.