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Uncovering the Best-Kept Secrets of the Chicago Southland

By published May 14, 2024


Sometimes the suburbs are overlooked. People think it’s nothing but strip malls and fast-food spots. Here in the Chicago Southland, that couldn’t be further from the truth. At the very least, it’s less windy down this way, plus there’s always available parking.

From the Pullman National Historical Park to an abundance of hiking/biking trails, there’s something for everyone in the Chicago Southland. While I could write a book on all the best spots to eat and places to see, here are just a few of my favorite best-kept secrets of Chicago Southland.

 

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

Affectionately known as the Nate, this 100-acre park has over 30 large-scale sculptures, including a four-story-tall Paul Bunyon. Governors State University tends to this park and is proud to offer free parking and admission every day of the year, from dawn to dusk. You can find maps and artist information on the sculpture park’s website.

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

The Chicago Red Stars

SeatGeek Stadium, located in Bridgeview, is home to Chicago’s Women’s Premier Soccer League team. Women’s sports and soccer have both gained traction lately and with good cause. The Chicago Red Stars play from March to November, and tickets sell for as little as $20. Don your red and blue and get ready to cheer for the home team.

Sand Ridge Nature Center

Part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Sand Ridge Nature Center is truly a hidden gem in South Holland. The nature center boasts hands-on exhibits, wildlife ambassadors, demonstration gardens, and even replica log cabins. All this alongside four miles of trails, wetlands, prairies and woodlands.

Sand Ridge Nature Center is closed on Fridays but operates during normal business hours throughout the rest of the year.

Oh, and just a short stroll away, there’s ample camping at Camp Shabbona.

Pro tip: These mosquito control tips will help when you’re hiking or camping.

Sand Ridge Nature Center

La Banque

Established in a historic 100-year-old building, the boutique La Banque Hotel is the ultimate destination for refinement and relaxation. Nestled in Homewood, La Banque is home to La Voute Restaurant, a French-inspired eatery. We recommend the brunch menu! Staying at La Banque is just as luxurious, if not more, and doesn’t come with the hassles of being in downtown Chicago—traffic congestion, limited parking and all-night noise outside your window.

Chicago Gaelic Park

You’ll need to keep an eye on the calendar, but there is always something interesting going on at Chicago Gaelic Park. Committed to furthering Irish culture in and around the Chicagoland, Gaelic Park hosts everything from plays and dance programs to heritage festivals and concerts. If you’re in the area for a longer stay, you can even register to learn the Irish language. And if you only have an afternoon, stop by the Carraig Irish Pub for an expertly poured Guinness.

Irish dancers at Chicago Gaelic Park

Swallow Cliff Woods

For a workout with a view, Swallow Cliff Woods is the perfect place to visit. Also part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Swallow Cliff Woods is best known for its 125 limestone stairs that were erected in the 1930s and provide an amazing view of a 100-foot bluff. This park is also ideal for cross-country skiing and is considered a hotspot for birding.

Chicago Southland, covering Chicago’s south and southwest suburbs, is full of classic Chicago experiences and unique places you’ll only find here. You can get some famous Lou Malnati’s pizza, or you can try something even more local at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant (there are two Chicago Southland locations: New Lenox and Orland Park. You can try a classic 312 brew or check out a tour at Blue Island Beer Company.

Everything you love about the Windy City is right here, along with countless unique experiences you’ll only find in Chicago Southland.

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