Just north of Chicago along beautiful Lake Michigan sits the lovely North Shore. Ranging from Evanston along Chicago’s northern border to the tranquil lakeside community of Lake Bluff, the area is renowned for superior public education, stunning natural beauty, and excellent quality of life.
One of the most affluent areas in the entire country, the area is renowned for its charming downtowns, picturesque parks and beaches, and excellent public schools. A great area for families, there’s also plenty for adults to do, including great restaurants and bars, theaters, and, of course, nearby Chicago’s attractions.
In quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods, residents enjoy a variety of lovely homes at several price points. While the area has its fair share of condominiums, apartments, and townhomes– the majority of housing is detached single-family homes. In a variety of styles, these range from modest, brick ranches to historic lakeside estates.
Many residents commute to Chicago for work. With the Edens Expressway, the Metra’s Pacific North Line, and CTA (Wilmette and Evanston), getting to the Loop is a breeze!
North Shore History
Early Settlement (1830-1870)
Before Euro-American settlement, the North Shore was a stretch of swamps and forests supporting several semi-permanent settlements of Potawatomi Native-Americans. With the establishment of Northwestern University (1855) and Lake Forest College (1857), the region began to be developed into small villages. The construction of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad tracks (now used by Metra) spurred greater growth, including the arrival of Chicago elite. Until the 1940s, the western portion was spacely settled and dominated by celery farms.
Development Years (1870-1940)
In the 20th century, many of the area’s main attractions and claims to fame were constructed. These include many of the area’s beautiful homes, including many designed by famed “Prairie School” architects including 12 homes by Frank Lloyd Wright. In the 1920s. Evanston became known as the shopping center of the North Shore, with new department stores and movie theaters. Other major additions in these years included New Trier High School (1901), the Bahai Temple (1920s), and Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival (1904).
The Modern North Shore (1940s-Present)
After World War II, the North Shore more than doubled in population as many moved from Chicago. Many new developments in the former western portion of the area were built including new schools, recreational facilities, and parks. In recent years, notable North Shore residents have included actor Bill Murray (Wilmette), basketball legend Michael Jordan (Highland Park), and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder (Evanston).
Top 6 Things To Do in the North Shore
Downtown Evanston Shopping and Dining
North Shore residents flock to Downtown Evanston for a night out. The area is a top shopping and dining destination, featuring more than 275 shops and restaurants! Shops range from local clothing boutiques and record and book stores to big-name retailers (Barnes and Nobles, Cost Plus World Market). The main attraction might be the 18 theater movie complex, showing blockbusters and art films alike!
Stroll the Northwestern University campus
When you’re done with your movie or your meal, walk a few blocks north to the Northwestern campus. With historic buildings and vibrant collegiate energy, the campus is an attraction all to itself. Be sure to check out The Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, Northwestern’s own fine-arts museum. And if it’s a nice day, a walk along the rocks at the campus’s lovely lakeside park is perfect for a peaceful afternoon. The rocks are painted with hundreds of multi-color marriage proposals!
A Night of Music at Ravinia Festival
Operating for over 100 years in Highland Park, the Ravinia Festival is a North Shore gem. The oldest outdoor music venue in the United States, one can see shows in all genres. While the pavilion seats can be pricey, many prefer to pack a picnic and blanket and sit on the lawn. Nothing beats great music on a summer day under the stars!
Chicago Botanic Garden
Along Highland Park’s southern border, The Chicago Botanic Garden is a North Shore treasure. The park along offers visitors s 385 acres of manicured gardens, including a tranquil Japanese garden. In the summer, there are concerts in the park Monday through Thursday nights. Bring a picnic blanket and enjoy!
Gillson Beach and Bahai Temple
Gillson Park and Beach is the crown jewel of Wilmette’s remarkable park system. The park features one of the area’s nicest swimming beaches, a dog beach, a playground, and plenty of open space. Just across Sheridan Road from Gillson, the Bahai Temple is a stunning architectural masterpiece. The temple is open to the public.
Ranging from classic dives and ice cream places to world-class fine dining, North Shore restaurants serve their communities well. Downtown Evanston has the greatest concentration of restaurants, but every community has its fair share of good eats. Some local favorites include Wilmette’s Walker Bros. Original Pancake House, for incredible breakfast food, Lake Forest’s Inovasi, with delicious seasonal fine-dining, and Winnetka’s Avli Estiatorio, for authentic Greek cuisine.
North Shore Homes
The North Shore suburbs offer prospective residents a variety of housing options and price points. These range from courtyard apartments and high-rise condominiums in Evanston to sprawling lakeside estates in Winnetka and Lake Forest. As with most suburbs, the majority of the homes in the area are detached, single-family residences. The area is defined by quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods walking distance to cozy parks and elementary schools. Depending on the community, the architectural styles will range but one can find stately Tudors, Cape Cod, Victorian and Colonial homes and mid-century moderns and modest bungalows throughout the area. Apartments, rental properties, and townhomes are less common but are certainly available. At the top of the market, you can find luxury, modern lakeside mansions, sprawling estates, and historic homes designed by famous architects such as George Maher, Howard Van Doren Shaw, David Adler, and Frank Lloyd Wright.