Exploring Highland Park on Foot from the Metra Station

by crandell | 05/29/2010

Central Ave. at the Metra tracks in Highland Park
Central Ave. in Highland Park
Central Ave. in Highland Park
Central Ave. heading east toward Central Park
A gazebo in Millard Park
Stairs down to the waterfront in Millard Park
Icy waterfront in Millard Park
Ravine Drive heading west from Millard Park toward the Metra station
Highland Park Metra station

Highland Park has one of the most walkable suburban downtowns accessible by Metra train. Back in March, I had a day off and hopped on the Union Pacific North to check it out. If offers a pleasant downtown, great neighborhoods to stroll, some nice lakefront parks, a beach and outdoor concerts at Ravinia.

If you're looking for a nice bike ride from Chicago, you can also ride up the North Branch Trail to Highland Park, or the Green Bay Trail provides a bicycle connection through the other north shore suburbs north from Wilmette.

The UP-N Highland Park stop lets you off at Central Ave., which is Highland Park's main street. You'll find some boutique shops, a theater, a bakery, a cafe, as well as restaurants and bars.

If you walk east on Central Ave., you'll hit Lake Michigan at Central Park after about a half mile. Central Park is on a bluff with a great view, but you aren't at water level. I had picked up coffee and a pastry downtown and wanted a nicer spot to sit and enjoy it. A local at Central Park recommended I walk a little south to Millard Park, which has nicer views and better water access. I headed down Lake Ave., winding my way to a dead end (see map below), where you can enter the woods on a path. This path takes you to a gazebo on another bluff. From there you can follow a path down the bluff or go south along the top of the bluff, and you'll eventually hit a stairwell down to the water. At the waterfront, there's some kind of abandoned industrial building. It's not a place you'd probably hang out at the beach, but it's an interesting place and worthy of the walk. From there, you can take Ravine Dr. back west toward the Metra station. Ravine Dr. is a really beautiful walk winding through a ravine.

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If you're seeking better lake access with a nice beach to hang out at, you can walk a little further south down the Green Bay Trail (or get off at the Ravinia Metra stop) and hit up Rosewood Park and Beach.

Highland Park is also home to Ravinia Park, an outdoor music venue. While I personally prefer the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park for it's free picnic concerts, Ravinia is also a worthy paid venue. It's a bit over 2 miles south of downtown Highland Park, which would be a nice walk on the Green Bay Trail or through the neighborhoods, but the park also has its own Metra stop (only stops here during the summer concert season).

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You got my full attention.

You got my full attention. It's a marvelous place. I hope I'll get the chance to visit those streets with the nice boutiques on them. I love the idea of easy shopping, this seems like the perfect place to try it.