Fountain in Old Orchard Trade Center in Skokie, Illinois 2014 / Wikimedia Commons

Skokie is known as “the world’s largest village,” but Ysa Quiballo, a Medill second-year student who grew up there, calls it “the most suburban suburb that has ever suburb-ed.” Unlike Chicago, though, it’s only five miles from campus. Below, Northwestern students from the area share recommendations for their favorite spots and share how to have a perfect day in Skokie.

Kneads & Wants | 8042 Lincoln Ave |

Kick off your perfect day with pastries and specialty lattes from Kneads & Wants Artisan Bakery and Cafe, a family-owned café downtown. Each morning, classically trained croissant baker and co-owner Maria Kozi prepares fresh baked goods. To wash those down, the café offers seasonal spring drinks like a black sugar latte – made with molasses that gives a smokier flavor to the coffee – which co-owner Dylan Kafizov said “you can’t get anywhere else.”

Skokie Public Library | 5215 Oakton St |

While the renovated indoor areas are great places to cram for midterms, the courtyard spaces of Skokie Public Library are great spots to soak in the much-needed sun. Relax on a bench under green trees while chatting with friends, playing outdoor chess or enjoying a new book. NU students can take advantage of the free craft tools on hand, including a laser engraver, sewing and embroidery machines and 3-D printers, said spokeswoman Christie Robinson.

Alexander’s Breakfast and Lunch Skokie | 5025 Oakton St |

From hot cakes to pork belly tacos, Alexander’s Breakfast and Lunch satisfies midday cravings. Quiballo recommends any of the French toast options, but especially the churro rendition – a decadent custard toast topped with cinnamon and sugar. Outdoor seating makes for a sunny spot to dine as you debrief last night’s drama.

Old Orchard Mall | 4905 Old Orchard Shopping Center |

Harms Woods | Harms Rd, Glenview, IL 60025 |

For post-midterms retail therapy, check out the Old Orchard shopping mall. Curate your Dillo ‘fit at stores like PacSun and Sephora before resting at nearby a koi fountain and treating yourself to a sprinkled confection from Molly’s Cupcakes. To escape city life, Weinberg second-year Julianna Tia suggests strolling around Harms Woods forest preserve.

“You could go there any season of the year, and it would still be really nice,” she said.

Portillo’s Skokie | 9400 Skokie Blvd |

Every NU student needs to try Portillo’s – a “local delicacy” with a “nostalgic atmosphere,” said Mercedes Sandu, a Weinberg third-year. The citywide fast-food chain, with a location only a 10 minute walk from Westfield Old Orchard mall, sells hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, burgers, pasta and vegetarian options like plant-based “garden dogs” and desserts.

“The big thing they do is they take their chocolate cake and [blend] it into a milkshake,” Sandu said. “It sounds disgusting, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever have.”

Ignite Gaming Lounge | 8125 Skokie Blvd |

Ignite Gaming Lounge takes the online fun of video games IRL. A block from the Oakton-Skokie CTA station, Ignite features an arcade, desktop gaming rigs, Xbox and console booths and Rock Band for $6 an hour. Need to power up? Check out the full-service bar with video game-inspired cocktails and concession stand snacks like loaded fries and chicken wings. It’s convenient for students who may want to tune up their Guitar Hero skills or prove their Mario Kart mastery without paying for brand-new equipment.

The bottom line: Skokie may seem dull compared to Chicago, but it’s worth spending a full day there.

“People, including myself, look down on the suburbs,” Quiballo said. “But I think there is a certain element of home and regular-ness that is OK to embrace.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article referenced Alexander's Breakfast and Lunch Skokie wrong by incorrectly identifying it as Alexander's Café. We have corrected the article to show the correct restaurant. NBN regrets this error.