It’s true, I live 30+ miles from Chicago. Chicago is a great city. I enjoy trips into the city to do touristy and non-touristy activities. I’ll even help you plan the perfect day/night/weekend to make the most of your time in Chicago (do I sense a future blog post? maybe!).
But, the thing is, I live in the west suburbs, and I happen to think that they are pretty cool too. When friends and family come to visit, the first time of course we’ll trek into the city and do the standard items required of us. But after awhile, I start slipping in some local suburb recommendations. Now that I’ve lived here almost 6 years, my family can spend entire trips here and we never go into the city. You know why? Because there’s so much to do right here where I live. And I think that’s pretty cool.
(Note: There are some super cool things that I love to do in other nearby counties like Kane County and even parts of Cook County outside of the city, but I had to draw the line somewhere, so, I’m sticking with the county I live in. For now.)
Here are the things I love to Eat, Drink & Do in DuPage County*
Disclaimer: Everything on this list I’ve actually tried/been to/eaten, etc. I’m not being paid or compensated to say anything of these things.
- Fire & Wine: ( Glen Ellyn) If you’re looking for a classy, romantic night out, this is your place. The food is always on par, and they have an excellent variety of specialty drinks and menu items that vary with the seasons. The atmosphere is a huge part of what makes this place special, and the bar area feels festive too. Definitely order their olive oil and rosemary flatbread as part of your appetizers, or to go with your entree. It’s delightful.
- Gia Mia’s: (Wheaton) A sister restaurant to Fire & Wine, this place is still nice and a respectable date night, but you don’t feel out of place in casual clothes either. I recommend sitting at the bar for personal attention from the bar tender and to scope out their local drafts. This place is small and gets BUSY almost any night of the week. Similar to Fire & Wine, small plates are a big part of the menu, but brick oven fired pizzas also round out their repertoire. Get the mozzarella flight and thank me later.
- Front Street Cantina: (Wheaton) The coziest Mexican restaurant ever in downtown Wheaton. My favorites are the skinny margarita (made with real agave), fresh chips and salsa, and the chicken fajita soup! This place is great to come with friends because it is loud and festive.
- Gnarly Knots: (Winfield) This tiny place serves stuffed pretzels, pretzel dogs, and homemade soups. That’s it! But that’s enough. They have rotating, seasonal daily specials, as well as some standards (such as pretzel dogs, regular and cheese pretzels). My favorite so far has been a chicken pesto pretzel. Add a cup of homemade tomato bisque soup and make it a lunch.
- John’s Buffet: (Winfield) This is one of the oldest bars in the area (almost 100 years old!) and it has a classic “hometown” feel to it. The bartender knows everyone’s name. On Friday evenings, regulars gather at the bar and bring in cookies and brownies to share. It’s doesn’t look like much more than a diner in atmosphere, but the food is a mix of pub-style and comfort food, and they always have an excellent selection of craft beers on draft.
- Egglectic Cafe: (Wheaton)If you’re into breakfast food and farm-style, chicken-themed decor, then this is the place for you. Some of the best coffee and breakfast in the area.
- Brick’s Pizza: (Wheaton) Quick service, delicious brick oven-fired pizza with unique combinations. My favorite is the arugula and prosciutto. Sit outside or by the large windows in the summer and watch the trains go by. They also offer a variety of toasted sandwiches and appetizers, and frequently have BOGO Groups available.
- Kimmer’s Ice Cream: (Wheaton)There is something to love about Kimmer’s for everyone. Do you love sparkly things? Get their hot pinked sparkly waffle cone. Do you want dozens and dozens of options when choosing ice cream? You’re in the right place. Do you want to try unique flavor combinations, like “Parent trap”, which is Oreo and peanut butter mixed together? Go for it. Do you prefer dairy-free options? Get the cantaloupe sorbet! This is a great place for after dinner ice cream to stroll around town.
- County Farm Bagels: (Winfield) Start your day here with some bagels still warm from the oven. Classic plain, Parmesan rosemary, chocolate chip, or even an egg and cheese bagel sandwich. These are some of the best bagels I’ve ever had! Most days they are only open until 1 or 2 p.m., so plan accordingly.
- Warren’s Ale House: This neighborhood restaurant is family friedly and pays as much attention to how it crafts its delicious entrees as it does which craft beers it has on tap. Both are reasons for stopping by.
- Arrowhead: This is a golf course, but their restaurant on site is surprisngly awesome. Eat outside on the patio overlooking the course on a nice day, and feel utterly relaxed. Get the grilled chicken sandwich with tater tots as a side and perhaps a cold beer or glass of sangria and be happy with your life choices. This is a lunch meant to be enjoyed and not rushed.
- Solemn Oath Brewery: (Naperville) This fairly large local brewery has a disproportionately small tap room, but that’s part of it’s charm. Go there for a flight or a pint and huddle around a beer barrel for a table. Listen to the rock music selection of the day, chat with friends during happy hour or stop by for a drink on the way to dinner. Either way, you’ll be sure to find a beer that’s interesting and unique.
- 2 Fools Cidery: (Naperville) This new-ish tap room is located in the same industrial park as Solemn Oath, making it an easy two-birds-one-stone situation. 2 Fools sets themselves apart by brewing craft ciders only, and across a wide spectrum from hopped to dry to sweet. I recommend a flight so you can try several styles and learn what you like! The tap room is quite large and spacious, but this place is a bit hard to find, since their primary sign is on the roll up garage door that is usually rolled up during business hours. Still, they are worth the trip.
- Two Brothers Brewery: (Warrenville)There’s so many good things to say about Two Brother’s, it’s had to fit it into a few sentences. Go for lunch and order the fish tacos. Stay for the 1 pm (FREE) tour of the brewery. You’ll get (FREE) samples of their standard beers afterwards. Order a pint of your favorite, or try a taproom only exclusive beer and feel fancy. Check out the
- Dry City Brew Works: (Wheaton)
- Wheaton’s only brewery is worth checking out for the history (Wheaton used to be a dry city, thus the name), the atmosphere (super tiny! Plus a small beer garden/patio), and the friendly employees. Try any of their dark beers and you’re sure to find a winner.
- Tasting DeVine: (Wheaton)
- This tasting room of Lynfred Winery is worth stopping by for a flight of red, white, or mixed, and a small cheese plate. The owners and staff are lovely and you’ll always feel welcomed. Come by during the summer for mimosa tasting, or sign up in the winter for their chocolate and wine pairing around Valentine’s day. Browse the unique selection of gifts and knick knacks and grab a bottle of wine or two to go.
- Lunar: (Lombard) This bar/brewery has a wide selection of drafts and bottles from local breweries, as well as a few of their own made on site. It’s a dark and somewhat “hole-in-the-wall” type place that’s good to go with fellow beer-loving friends.
- Noon Whistle Brewery: (Lombard) This newer brewery feels huge and lavish compared to some smaller taprooms in the area. The space is welcome, because Noon Whistle has some fresh, crisp and refreshing beers to try. They are also right next door to a Whirly Ball location, if that’s your thing.
- River City Roasters: (Wheaton) Time to caffienate! River City Roasters is a small, local coffee shop with great coffee, pastries, and even craft beer on site. Picture your most hipster coffee shop, and add 10000.
- My Half of the Sky: (Wheaton) This is a brand new coffee shop to Wheaton, and I’m already in love. Set up inside a historic home in downtown Wheaton, this coffee shop does brewed coffee and lattes well (get the toffee latte!), but they also offer homemade baked goods, like delicious English muffin bread and empanadas. There are dozens of cozy nooks for studying or working, and the environment is clean, fresh and welcoming. It’s a little on the pricey side, but the proceeds support women who have been “affected by extreme poverty, trafficking, addictions and teen moms,” according to their website. It’s worth stopping by!
- Suzette’s Creperie: This is a restaurant ( which is worth a try, too), BUT, I think they really shine is a cafe. I enjoy stopping by their cafe side and getting a coffee (they brew Intelligentsia coffee), and a piece of their quiche of the day to go. They have a fully stocked pastry counter if you’re feeling in the mood for a croissant, too.
- Cafe on the Park: This is the cafe inside the Wheaton Library, but it stands on its own as worthy of other coffee shops, in my opinion. They bake all of their own pastries in house, daily, as well as have a selection of sandwiches available for lunch. They also serve “I have a bean” coffee, which is another local coffee bean/roastery company that helps support and employ post-prison individuals.
- Wheaton French Market: (Wheaton)
- Plan to stop by on a Saturday between 8 am and 2 pm (April-November). Get your fresh fruits and veggies, buy yourself a bouquet of flowers, find a unique gift or two, and get a snack. Spend 15 minutes, an hour, or the whole morning. Check out my blog post on my favorite things about the French market!Cosley Zoo: (Wheaton)
- This small local zoo is the perfect way to spend an hour. If you have small children and the thought of a whole day at a large zoo frightens you, just come here instead. See the barn animals, say hi to the bunnies and the birds, browse the gift shop, and then head home. The llamas and the goats are my favorite. Admission is always a steal at $5 a person, or free if you’re a Wheaton resident. Here are 8 more reasons I love the Cosley Zoo. The Wheaton Library: (Wheaton)This is a beautiful library and worth a visit if you’re not here for an event or to check out any books. Go up to the send floor and (quietly) poke your head into the quiet reading room to get the best view of Adam’s park out the large glass windows. Grab a coffee at the coffee shop and spend some time browsing, or stay for one of their many events, groups, or clubs.
- Adam’s Park: (Wheaton)
- This is my favorite park in downtown Wheaton! It’s adjacent to the library and I always find a reason to stroll through it when I visit. There’s a lovely gazebo, a romantic fountain at the top of the hill, beautiful flowers, and a historical interest to boot! The park sits on the site of the original homestead of John Quincy Adams. A historical mark near the fountain will tell you all about it. The park is best enjoyed while eating ice cream.
- Classic Car night in Downtown Wheaton: (Wheaton) Every Friday in the summer is Classic Car Night in downtown Wheaton. Stroll up and down Main street, listen to the DJ play oldies, and chat with the car owners, if that’s your thing.
- Prairie Path walking/biking:
- (Various cities) The Prairie Path winds through main towns in DuPage county and is great for exploring the area. I’ve talked about my love for the Prairie Path before, so I won’t go on too much. Grab a bike and pick a path to explore, or walk a mile or two and photograph some wildflowers!
- Herrick Lake kayaking: (Warrenville) My new favorite summertime activity is to spend an hour or two kayaking on Herrick Lake. This is a relatively small lake, so it’s not too intimidating, and there’s a really cool old looking bridge you get to kayak under that leads to a smaller inlet part of the lake. Rental’s are affordable at $10 an hour, and it turns out kayaking is pretty easy! They have 2 person kayaks, single kayaks, canoes, and rowboats.
- Blackwell Forest Preserve kayaking/walking/archery: (Wheaton)
- Blackwell forest preserve offers a much, much larger venue for kayaking then Herrick lake. I would say it’s a lot more scenic, too. In an hour, you might only make it around the perimeter once. However, it’s a lot less shady, and there’s no cool bridge. So there’s pros and cons to both. The rental prices are the same as at Herrick lake. Blackwell is also a much larger park in general; it offers numerous walking trails, picnic areas, and even an archery range. You could easily spend an afternoon or a whole day here.
- Morton Arboretum: (Lisle)
- You’ve heard me extol the virtues of the Arboretum many a time before, so I’ll keep it brief! Go for one of many available walks on their trails. Explore their fabulous children’s garden and hedge maze. Have lunch in the super delicious cafe (the truffle mac and cheese and quiche are fan favs here). Catch a 30 or 60 minute tram ride to get an overview of the grounds and some history. There’s almost always an event going on, so check the calendar and come out to enjoy! Even if you’ve been before, it’s worth many return visits.
- Studio Movie Grill: (Wheaton) This dine-in movie theater is an excellent date night idea or place to bring the whole family. Go for dinner and a movie, or see an evening flick and grab an appetizer and some drinks. Either way, you’ll enjoy having a waiter at your service.
- Sippin’ Muse: (Wheaton)
- If you like to paint, do arts & crafts, or just drink wine with friends, then you should check out the Sippin’ Muse on a rainy day. Everyone has heard of the “wine and paint” parties these days, but what sets Sippin’ Muse apart is its’ permanent location rather than hosting at rotating restaurants and pubs. It’s BYOB and BYO-Snacks, and they have events almost every night of the week. They also host kid-friendly paint nights, too.
- Naperville Riverwalk: (Naperville) 1.75 miles of walkway follow along the DuPage river throughout downtown Naperville, making this an easy, casual place for a stroll. Along the way, stop to see the Millennium Carillon tower, which you can tour and climb up to the top for spectacular views of the area. There’s also paddle boats and a beach and swimming area for the aquatically inclined.
- Winfield Mounds: (Winfield) See some nature that is also of historical interest by visiting the Winfield Mounds. Follow the Prairie Path to the burial grounds of prehistoric Native Americans. It’s a lovely walk along the rive rand through the woods, but make sure you pack bug spray and sunscreen.
- Holes & Knolls Mini Golf: (Glen Ellyn) Who doesn’t love mini golf? This course is fun because there is an A course and B course. You can pay to play through both sides, or choose one. It’s a good mixture of challenging and fun.
- Sonny Acres Farms:
- Visit Sonny Acres in the farm for all of your fall festivity needs. Pick a pumpkin from their pumpkin patch, grab a dozen apples, sip some apple cider and munch on a fresh donut while sitting on a bale of hay, and don’t forget to take the hay ride through the forest! Maybe this is geared towards children, but I had basically the best time ever last Fall, and the best news is that it’s local and we didn’t have to driven an hour out to the country to get there.
- Cantigny Park:
- Cantigny has a lot going on. Lush gardens to stroll through. A golf course. And several historical buildings and museums to explore (including tanks you can climb on!). You could easily spend a day here. At the First Division Museum you can “Explore American history as seen through the eyes of the 1st Infantry Division.” This museum is currently under renovation, but will reopen later this year. You can also tour the Robert McCormick House, who was the former publisher and editor of the Chicago Tribune. Cantigny’s admission is priced per car at either $5 or $10, depending on the season, so bring the whole family and explore the grounds!
There you have it! Time to get eating, drinking, and doing all the fun things we’ve just read about! If you’re ready to come visit, just let me know 🙂
Did I miss anything? Tell me in the comments!