Following in the Steps of Hemingway in Oak Park
By Heike Bachmann
I had heard that one of Chicago’s biggest attractions is its accessibility to Oak Park, a picturesque and affluent historic Illinois neighborhood. What was a surprise to me was that Oak Park is also the birthplace of a famous American icon: Ernest Hemingway. On my recent trip to Chicago, I boarded the Green “L” Line and went out to Oak Park to see for myself.
Ernest Hemingway Birthplace
My first stop took me to the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace, which is the actual house Hemingway was born and raised in, located on Oak Park Avenue just down the road from the Hemingway Museum. After hundreds of hours of restoration, the home has been returned to its Victorian-era beauty. I learned a lot about Hemingway’s early years, his family and the inspiring environment he grew up in. His time truly comes to life in this fascinating and beautifully preserved Victorian house. I highly recommend taking a tour to appreciate the history of this home.
Ernest Hemingway Museum
The Hemingway Museum 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. You can even feel for a moment what it must have been like to be in the great author’s skin: Along the right-hand wall is an old desk with a typewriter, exactly the type Hemingway used, and visitors are encouraged to sit down and type away on a white sheet of paper inserted by the staff.
The Hemingway Birthplace and Museum is an absolute must for any Chicago-area visitor. What a wonderful glimpse into the life of a locally born and world-famous American author!
By the way, the entrance fee is valid for both locations and the hourly tour at the birth house is included.
Unique Dining in Oak Park
Oak Park offers not only nourishment for the mind, but also nourishment for the body. For refined European cuisine, I recommend Hemmingway’s Bistro across the street from the museum. Here you can feast on dishes such as coq au vin, cassoulet and duck a l'orange while enjoying the historic French bistro ambience. Most of the popular local restaurants are found in downtown Oak Park. I had a lovely al fresco lunch at a charming local eatery, which served great farm-to-table fare as well as a fine selection of microbrews.
Idyllic Oak Park – with its historic sites, inviting restaurants, lovely shops and tree-lined streets – is truly a gem. I loved that you could spend a day exploring Oak Park’s history, then take in the local shopping and dining scene downtown. This is an absolute must for your next trip to Illinois!