Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Sweet Summertime Reads Roadtrip! Each Wednesday this summer I'll be taking you on a virtual roadtrip to various places on the map and hopefully introduce you to some new reads along the way as well. This week we're heading back to the beautiful state of Illinois as Brittany from The Book Addict's Guide shows us around her hometown.
The suburbs of Chicago! Oh, what a… boring place?
In all honesty, I’m not really a city girl. I’ve lived in the suburbs of Chicago all of my life and never really had a taste for the city so as much as the suburbs may seem extremely dull without all the dazzling attractions of Chicago proper, we always find a way to make the weekends and daily life exciting!
The most obvious attraction for bookworms is probably Anderson’s bookshop in downtown Naperville. Anderson’s is the independent bookstore of choice for the suburbs and I’m SO thankful for that because they are incredible and have all sorts of amazing author events there. Fierce Reads and Dark Days almost always stop at Anderson’s and there are so many other amazing tours that frequent Anderson’s too!
For those of you who don’t know Naperville, it’s actually the 4th largest city in IL behind Chicago, Aurora, and Rockford (though depending on the year, Naperville and Joliet flip flop for 4th and 5th) and the downtown area is a big attraction for most of the people in the Western Suburbs although navigating it by car can be a bit of a headache. There are plenty of parking garages which usually have ample room if you’re up for a bit of walking since street parking is usually hard to come by!
The rest of downtown Naperville is also a great place to visit if you’re in the area! You could literally spend all day there if you wanted to! There’s a ton of shopping and lots of great restaurants – both chains and local for both categories – so it’s a nice mix of unique and familiar depending on what you’re in the mood for. There’s also a heavy concentration of bars and pubs from a more laid back atmosphere and outdoor patio at Jimmy’s to a more college-like crowd at Features, a dive-bar like atmosphere at Lantern and or a little smaller atmosphere with frequent live acoustic performers at Rizzo’s. There’s also a martini bar called Two-Nine if you’re up for a more upscale night!
Sometimes even downtown Naperville can be a bit much for me so usually Shane (my fiancé) and I will frequent our local dive bar & restaurant simply called The Bristol Tap. Bristol is just a few minutes from our house (past the subdivisions and through the cornfields) and the Tap is a no-frills place. The menu is literally a sign on the wall (with no pricing) and your choices of beer on tap are Busch, Busch Lite, and root beer. (Other options available by bottle or can.) The best food choices range from cheeseburger to hot dog to steak sandwich to brat burger and… that’s about it! There are more, but those are the really good ones. The prices are cheap, it’s cash only, it’s dark, and the food is good. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall kind of place with free popcorn and freely flowing beer and it’s just the perfect place for us tucked back in our little corner of the country.
If you enjoy nature, the suburbs have a lot of little forest preserves that are actually pretty neat. They’re nothing spectacular but there are a few little surprises like tiny waterfalls and some really nice paths. We’re actually going to try to go camping at the Big Rock Forest Preserve one night this weekend! They have small campsites and it’s so close to home that it’s great to sneak in a quick camping session when we don’t have the time to drive a few hours to our usual spots. Blackwell in Wheaton also has some camping spots and though I haven’t been, I know some of my friends have stayed there frequently!
And who would I be if I didn’t promote the local breweries and tap houses! The two biggest names in the suburbs are Two Brothers in Warrenville and Solemn Oath in Naperville (though not in the same vicinity as the downtown area – I told you. Naperville is BIG). If you decide to hit up the breweries (which I recommend), make sure you get directions because both of these places started out as small endeavors in warehouses and slowly built on from there so they are NOT on a main drag of road. They’re tucked back into little industrial parks, which also kind of makes it neat to go discover!
Two Brothers is a brewery and tap house so you can get a full meal there or just order some beers at the bar. They also do brewery tours which are free and no reservation required but just make sure you check their website for schedules! If you’re not close to Warrenville, you can visit Two Brothers Round House in Aurora, IL (further west and south) which doesn’t boast the brewery side but it is a pretty sweet facility and they have a full restaurant as well as banquet rooms (we considered having our wedding there)! Solemn Oath is a brewery and “tasting room”, not technically a bar, so that means that they can only sell you a certain amount of beer before it’s over their legal limit for “tasting” (I think it’s three glasses) but trust me – the beers are delicious but strong so you really shouldn’t have more than three anyway unless you plan on staying a while!
The attractions of the suburbs aren’t always as obvious as the city but there’s still a ton to do if you know where to look! If you ever find yourself out here outside of the city, let me know and I can help you pick out things to do (if these attractions aren’t your fancy)!
There aren’t a ton of books set in the Chicago SUBURBS. In fact, I can count them on one hand (I think). Most Chicagoland books seem to actually take place IN the city but here are the books in the suburbs that I know of!
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone: This is a perfect Chicago suburbs book. It takes place in Evanston which is just north of Chicago, kind of right on the border of still being city and starting to be suburbs. It takes place near the Northwestern campus and even though I’m not as familiar with Evanston as the Western & Northwestern suburbs, I still felt right at home!
Pointe by Brandy Colbert & Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert: I actually haven’t read these two yet but thanks for the heads up from Dahlia Adler when I was looking for books in the ‘burbs! I just added them to my TBR because they sound amazing (and have great reviews)!
Books in the city proper that I’ve read: Divergent by Veronica Roth & An Abundance of Katherines by John Green: Two books that I’m sure don’t need introductions by two incredibly famous authors but it’s always exciting to read books set in Chicago, a city I’m extremely familiar with!
I asked for a little bit of assistance when looking for books in the Chicago Suburbs (I’m surprised there aren’t more?) so I created a Goodreads list to catalog all of the suggestions you guys gave me! You can check out that list here.
(all photo credits to Brittany)
(all photo credits to Brittany)
Thank you so much, Brittany, for showing us a different side of Chicago. The suburbs get passed over in a lot of cities because they don't always house the most popular attractions. But, coming from a city full of suburbs (Houston, TX!), I know there is still just as much to see and do on the outskirts as there is in the city. If I'm ever that way, we must venture to a brewery so you can introduce me to your local favorites!
We're on the home stretch of this summer feature as our roadtrip only has two more stops! Be sure to come back next week as we venture around Philly with Jamie!