Whether you’re staying in Evanston this summer for school, internships or lab research, don’t let your summer break to turn into just another quarter at Northwestern. Evanston (and most of Chicago) transforms into a different city in the summer. Shorts and sundresses replace boots and North Face jackets, and running into the lake isn’t just a frigid dare or a way to clean off after Dillo Day mud fights.
Even if you think you’ll be too busy to make your summer in Evanston special, there are plenty of options to make it memorable. Take Weinberg junior Ben Wang, for example. ”I didn’t have a lot of spare time,” said Wang, who stayed near campus to work last summer. “But me and my roommates did do a lot of running.” This was a bit of an understatement, considering they ran approximately 13 miles along the lake from Evanston to Chicago. Although you might not be training for the Chicago Marathon like Wang and his friends, if you’re one of the fortunate few that remain in Evanston after the dorms clear out there are plenty of ways to take advantage of your time here.
Since most Northwestern students are holed up in our dorms, classrooms and the Keg for the rest of the year, here are some great outdoor options for a summer in Evanston.
Evanston goes all out with arts festivals and other outdoor attractions during the summer. The Ethnic Arts Festival and the Lakeshore Arts Festival both make use of the beautiful lakeshore and feature art and food from local vendors. Whether you’re there to eat, shop or just walk around, it’s a great way to enjoy and appreciate Evanston. The residents here certainly do — summer events are widely attended and the atmosphere is lively.
Another way to enjoy art outside is the Sculpture on the Grounds exhibit at the Evanston Art Center, just a few blocks north of campus at Sheridan Road and Central Street. While their current exhibit, “The Nereid Beckon” will be deconstructed in June, a new one will be installed in August. “Trickle Down” will be a contemplation of the current economic crisis through art using images from folklore and children stories.
If you’re a fan of live music and evenings in the park, Evanston’s Starlight Concert series is perfect for you. The city invites upcoming and veteran talents to perform at different Evanston parks throughout the summer. Artists range from new local dance band Entourage to legendary Chicago bassist Bob Stroger. Admission is free, so stop by the website and see which of this year’s 16 concerts interest you.
There are plenty of concerts and shows for your favorite artists in and around Chicagoland, most of which you can find on TicketMaster. A quick ride on the El will find you Aragon Ballroom, right off the Lawrence stop, and the House of Blues, close to Grand on the Red Line or Merchandise Mart on the Brown Line. The Ravinia Festival is located just a few stops north from Metra’s Davis stop and you can enjoy a picnic on the lawn as you soak in the sounds of classical, jazz and contemporary icons. But of course, none of these single concerts could compare to the legendary Lollapalooza at Grant Park. This year it will take place Aug. 7-9 and feature over 80 artists covering an almost obscene number of genres, from Ben Folds to Rise Against, and Santigold to Snoop Dogg.
This may come as a surprise to out-of-towners, but many nearby beaches charge an entry fee of $5-10 during the summer. Before you head to a random beach you see on Google Maps, you should look it up on each suburb’s website for hours, fees and parking info. However, Chicago Park District beaches are always free.
That said, if you’re a Northwestern student, there’s no reason to not take advantage of the free beaches right here on campus. You might be surprised at how they change in the summer. “It feels more like a beach than it does during the school year,” said Jon Chao, a Weinberg junior who stayed in Evanston for an internship last summer. “There’s lifeguards and volleyball nets, and it’s really nice.” But if you crave an even beachier experience, head down to Chicago’s North Avenue Beach. It’s the closest you’ll get to Malibu life, with plenty of people and an awesome (but overpriced) boat-shaped beach house. Plus, somehow the water always seems warmer down there.
Evanston has a great variety of restaurants and lots of these places open up their patios and windows during the summer for an open-air dining experience. For instance, Tapas Barcelona has a beautiful patio where you can enjoy delicious Spanish-style tapas (appetizers). Head further south down Chicago Avenue and you’ll see Firehouse Grill, which has a patio outside of the restaurant that used to be an actual fire station.
If you’re looking for a lower price point, try Zoba Noodle Bar, which is just a slightly more expensive Cozy Noodle with homemade noodles and really comfy outdoor furniture. Or you could choose to sit outdoors at Dixie Kitchen and enjoy their daily specials (a full pound of wings on Thursdays for $4.95? Count me in).
While classes might be exactly what you’re trying to avoid, there are plenty of fun things to do that you might not have time for during the year. Giordano Dance Center offers world-class instruction for every level in all different dance styles. Or you can relax with some yoga, tai chi or meditation at the Heartwood Center. Before you sign up for these classes though, don’t forget to check Northwestern’s own services at Norris and SPAC to see what programs fit your needs.
Otherwise, it’s up to you to find your favorite ways to spend your (hopefully plentiful) free time during the summer. Even though school and work might hog your schedule, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the nice weather and the perks of being in Evanston and near Chicago. Some might do particularly summery things, like going to the Taste of Chicago or watching the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Grand Prix of Cycling. Others might visit restaurants, shop and hang out with friends at the usual Evanston spots. For those looking outside Evanston’s borders, Centerstage Chicago and Metromix feature reviews and information on places and events in every part of the city.
Whether you branch out from your normal Northwestern habits or not, summer is a beautiful season in Evanston. It only takes the right frame of mind to make it seem less like school and more like summer break.