FULL DISCLOSURE: I probably picked the coldest and gloomiest day of this school year to explore Humboldt Park AND I have mono, but I still loved every minute of it.
The day began with an extremely long trek from Evanston to Chicago’s West Side. After an hour-long route of hopping on the Purple Line at Davis, transferring to Red at Howard and Lyft-ing from Fullerton, I was finally greeted by one of Chicago’s best hidden gems: Humboldt Park. It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood, with small shops opening rapidly. Humboldt Park also happens to be one of the biggest, most beautiful parks Chicago has to offer. My recommendation is to take my route and start on the corner of Augusta and California, walk north on California, and end up in the park, exploring at your leisure – plus, don’t forget to take in the awesome street art that this neighborhood has to offer.
What do coffee, spirits, and cigars have in common? I wouldn’t have known until I walked into CC Ferns. They’re known for their boozy steamers, which are basically lattes with booze – unfortunately, less than 21-year-old me couldn’t try them. However, their lattes are sublime. They make their own syrups, and right now they have a pumpkin latte with homemade pumpkin syrup that makes a Norbucks PSL taste like the toilet water in Bobb. Even though lattes are gonna cost you a little more than four dollars, they are well worth it. They also have a collection of fine cigars on their east wall if you’re into that.
This was the perfect store for finding knicknacks for your “quirky and cute” dormroom aesthetic. It had everything from used books to handmade jewelry and everything in between. It was extremely kitschy and a great place to shop for gifts. Everyone is bound to find something they like here. Shopping here supports small businesses and local Chicago artists.
Or shall I say heaven for those seeking out succulent plants. Seriously. I could not turn a corner without running into another wall of beautiful succulents – AND they were extremely well priced. It made me regret spending $10 on my tiny cactus in Downtown Evanston. In addition, the store had everything from beautifully arranged bouquets of vibrant flowers, to a variety of vegetable seeds to a small pumpkin patch outside. I walked into the store and was immediately hit by hundreds of shades of green and a distinct tropical smell.
Humboldt Park itself is magnificent. If you ever find yourself on the 606 trail (An elevated park built along an old railroad that extends from Bucktown to Humboldt Park), be sure to stay on until the very end: it spills out into the middle of Humboldt Park. In the middle of the park, there is a small pond and a boathouse. Alejo’s Cafe (Or Boathouse Cafe, which is used interchangably) recently opened up right inside the boathouse. It has a huge patio that looks out onto the lagoon and the park, but unfortunately it was too cold to eat outside. They have a small brunch and lunch menu that includes french toast, eggs cooked any style, and a veggie and regular burger. I had a breakfast burger topped with a fried egg, which was pretty good – it definitely knocked Sarge food right out of the park. It cost me about $15 total, too pricey for my weeping college wallet. But even though it wasn't best food I’d ever had, the scenery would entice me back again any day.
This park is huge – way too big to explore in a day. But if you have time, take a little stroll around. There is beautiful scenery, especially with the leaves changing colors right now. There is a garden, an arts center, a lagoon, a sledding hill and even a beach. I walked into the park on California and Division and walked towards the lagoon. There was a ton of art installed around the park, but it was really quiet because of the weather. There were friends hanging out on benches, a man selling elotes (corn) from a cart, and general merriment and happiness. I definitely want to go back on a busy day and see all that goes on.