In summer, Chicago’s largest green space, Lincoln Park, provides a much-needed respite from the gridded pavements of the rest of the city. Unlike Grant Park to the south, it’s packed with leafy nooks and crannies, monuments and sculptures, and has a couple of friendly, family-oriented beaches at the eastern ends of North and Fullerton avenues. Near the small zoo at the heart of the park (late May to Oct Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, Sat & Sun 9am–7pm; Nov–May daily 9am–4.30pm; free), renowned for its menagerie of African apes and curious red pandas, you can rent paddleboats or bikes. If the weather’s bad, head for the pleasantly humid conservatory, 2400 N Stockton Drive (daily 9am–5pm; free), or bone up on Chicago’s captivating past at the Chicago History Museum, at the south end of the park at 1601 N Clark St (Mon–Sat 9.30am–4.30pm, Sun noon–5pm; $14; T312 642 4600, Wchicagohistory.org), with comprehensive displays on regional and national history, including some rather twee dioramas depicting the Great Fire of 1871 and the World’s Columbian Exposition.
The Lincoln Park neighbourhood, inland from the lake, centres on Lincoln Avenue and Clark Street, which run diagonally from near the Historical Society Museum; Halsted Street, with its blues bars, nightclubs and myriad restaurants, runs north–south through the district’s heart. Any of these main roads merits an extended stroll, with forays into the many book- and record stores. Look for the Biograph Theatre movie house (now a live theatre stage), 2433 N Lincoln Ave, where John Dillinger was ambushed and killed by the FBI in 1934, thanks to a tip from his companion, the legendary Lady in Red.