The South Side of Chicago seems to get a bad rep for excessive violence and lack of things to do, but as a true Chicagoan that was raised on the south side, I know otherwise. If you are visiting and refuse to venture south then you are making a big mistake, huge (in the words Julia Roberts).
If your knowledge of the South Side of Chicago is limited to the Family Matters intro then get ready to explore this area that is vibrant, rich with history, and full of culture. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you the south side!
1. Visit a Museum
While I love the Museum of Science and Industry it is often the only museum discussed on the south side and there are plenty of others! Here are three more that you can choose from
The DuSable Museum of African American History
740 E 56th Place
The DuSable Museum of African American History is dedicated to the study and conservation of African American history, culture, and art. The museum was founded in 1961 and houses various exhibits, host events, and plays. If you’re an educator and have a classroom full of eager minds the museum is a great place for a field and they will also bring African American History to your doorstep via their mobile museum. The mobile museum explores the life and times of Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, an African Haitian, who in 1779 became the first non-native person to establish a permanent settlement in Eschikagou
The Oriental Institute Museum
1155 E 58th Street
The Oriental Institute was established in 1919 with the goal of being the world’s leading center for the study of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. The museum offers a mix of events, activities, gallery tours and workshops.
The Smart Museum of Art
5550 S. Greenwood Ave
The Smart Museum of Art opened in 1974 and is a site for discovery, inquiry, and exchange that encourages the examination of complex issues through the lens of art objects and artistic practice. Entrance is Free
There are plenty of places to shop on the south side but two of my absolute faves are Essential Elements and The Silver Room.
1640 E 87th Street
Essential Elements one of the hippest boutiques on the South Side. The shop owner is well known and loved by her constituents and regularly sources unique collections from around the world.
The Silver Room
1506 E 53rd Street
The Silver Room is an eclectic mix of locally and internationally sourced handmade jewelry, clothing, artwork, accessories, and home goods. You also don’t want to miss the Silver Room Sound System Block Party in the summer!
3. Take in a Play, Musical or dance performance
These well-established community staples bring some of the best plays, comedy shows, and dance performances to the south side of Chicago.
The Court Theater Hyde Park
5535 S Ellis Avenue
Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts
915 E 60th Street
Harold Washington Cultural Center
4701 S King Drive
4. The South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S South Shore Drive
Join other park-goers in a variety of cultural programs and classes for all ages in dance, music, art, health, culinary arts, fitness, and more. Recently, the community center added new adult art classes including textile art, drawing & painting, mixed media art, and ceramics.
7059 S South Shore Drive
While you’re visiting the South Shore Cultural Center make sure to take in a tour of golf if it’s your sport of choice!
Thrifting is one of my absolute favorite past times (well, shopping in general) and the resale shops on the south side are on par or exceed most.
Encore resale store
1553 E Hyde Park Blvd
The Silver Umbrella
5305 S Hyde Park Blvd
The South Side of Chicago is bursting with art and culture, even some of the buildings are tagged with some of the most thought-provoking and colorful graffiti and artwork in all of Chicago.
The South Side Community Art Center
3831 South Michigan
Known for its showcases that highlight African American artist and history, the center opened in 1940 with support from the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project in Illinois and is free of charge.
The Fountain of Time
6000 S Cottage Grove
Dedicated in 1922, the expansive Washington Park installation depicts 100 human figures from across the age spectrum, it is quite a sight to behold.
The Hyde Park Art Center
5020 S Cornell Ave
Take a sculpting class, view an art exhibit or simply chill at the attached cafe with a Masla chai tea latte. The Hyde Park Art Center is a place for artists and art lovers alike!
8. Promontory Point
5491 S Shore Drive
Take in the Chicago skyline at one of the most popular parts of the lake. The scenic skyline view is wonderful and even better to view fireworks.
9. The Rink
1122 E 87th Street
If skating is your thing then get your roll bounce on at The Rink. If you’re a beginner, there are lessons that lead into a fun skate session. Everyone is friendly and super helpful. Sunday and Friday nights were always the best nights to me because the floors are packed with seasoned skaters that are a joy to watch and learn from.
If you’re a foodie then the south side is where you’ll want to be. Home to some of the best chicken, the infamous Harold’s (but don’t tell any West Siders) which can now be found in other parts of the U.S. In addition stop by Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles (Bronzeville), an Uncle Joe’s if you’re in the mood for Jamaican or Rajun Cajun in Hyde Park if Indian food is your thing. I go to some of these places so much that I don’t even have to tell them what I want because they already know my order. If you don’t eat meat there are plenty of places to choose from including Soul Vegetarian (Chatham) which happens to have some of the best vegetarian greens and cornbread around!
11. The Promontory
5311 S Lake Park Ave
The promontory offers comfort foods that are slightly off the beaten path while pairing with great events such as ‘A Different Vibe’ based off of the hit show A Different World. Much like in college, cards are given out and you can enjoy a game of spades with complete strangers that you’ll usually wind up making friends. In addition, there are plenty of concerts, events, and parties (including silent parties) that take place daily.
12. seven-ten lanes
1055 E 55th Street
If you’re looking for a fun night out with friends stop by and bowl or play some pool while enjoying a delicious meal, my favorite is the chicken tenders.
13. Jackson Park
South Shore/Hyde Park
6401 S Stony Island Ave
The Japanese Garden
Waterfalls and footbridges dot this small piece of heaven if you’re looking for a place of peace and tranquility amidst the bustling city then you’ve found it. Take time to clear your head or walk along the paths within the beautifully designed garden. There is plenty of green space and the best part is you aren’t far from the lake.
6000 S Lake Shore Drive
As a dog lover Jackson Bark is a great place to visit if in the city with my fur babies. It is a community dog park located in Jackson Park. The dog park is an adaptive reuse of four abandoned tennis courts built with over 90% recycled materials, making it the largest 100% enclosed dog park in the city.
14. Chill at a coffee or tea house
There are plenty of coffee and tea houses dotting the south side other than the mainstream selections. If you have some work to do or just desire to people watch you’ll enjoy any one of them.
15. Pier 31
3101 S Lake Shore Drive
During the summer you can find people doing all types of activities at The Pier including beachfront spin classes, taking stepping lessons, listening to music. You can grab food and drinks and participate in water activities such as canoeing and paddleboarding.
16. Read a Book
While many big-box book stores have succumbed to the trend of online shopping there are numerous book stores hidden like gems throughout the south side of Chicago. These are a few of my favs.
5206 S Harper Ave
Be prepared to inhale the sweet aroma of incense and partake in great conversation as you enter this Rastafari & Pan-African bookstore which has been in Hyde Park for many years prior to the recent changes in the area. The owner and employees are awesome and full of knowledge, so make sure you have a chat while you’re there, I’m quite sure you’ll learn something new!
57th Street Books
1301 E 57th Street
As you step down into this mazelike bookstore it’s like being transported into another world where books rule the world. There are areas to sit and read which is great because there are tons of books to choose from!
Powell’s Books Chicago
1501 E 57th Street
This independent used book store caters to University students as it includes a wide selection of academic titles, but there are also plenty of general interest selections to choose from.
Coming Soon !
the Obama Presidential Center
The center is a 501(c)3 Nonprofit and is to be locate in Jackson Park.
South Shore Entertainment Complex
7054 S. Jeffery Blvd
Plans for a dine-in cinema, bowling alley, and event space are currently underway and the center can hopefully open by November 2020.