Lake Forest in the summer … there’s nothing like it.
By Wendy Wood-Prince
Sometimes, when the world seems crazy, and packing your suitcase once again gets old, it’s nice to stay home. And one of the best places to call home is Lake Forest, Illlinois, especially during the summer months, when the skies are sunny, it’s warm and everyone is enjoying the season. A beautiful city, Lake Foresters enjoy a bucolic setting, alfresco dining, a lakefront reminiscent of European beaches, and golf courses, pools and tennis courts to play in and on.
Homes built by prominent architects, such as this 1942 Ralph Millman home, are an integral part of Lake Forest history.
According to the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society, “The captains of industry and WASP elite first settled in Lake Forest and sought a refuge from a Chicago teeming with, in their view, immigrants with their dangerous socialist ideas and sinful alcoholic libations.” The railroad, started in 1855, allowed for an easy commute to the city. The town was first laid out in 1857, but the seclusion and beauty that was intentionally created with limited access roads leading in and out, remains. Lake Forest, and especially East Lake Forest, remains fairly secluded. The train is still a central part of the community with many residents and visitors using it every day.
Market Square is the center of activities during the summer months.
By 1900, the population had reached just over 2,000. Many prominent Chicagoans had built country estates by such notable architects as Henry Ives Cobb, David Adler and Howard Van Doren Shaw, who designed Market Square in 1917. Designed to complement the grand abodes being built at the time, Market Square opened up onto the railroad station and was planned to accommodate cars before the automobile age was fully established. At this point, Cyrus McCormick, Louis Swift and J. Ogden Armour were among residents. In 1978, Market Square was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the nation’s first planned shopping center. Today, more than 100 years after Market Square was completed, it continues to be enjoyed. Kids play in the grassy square and the city hosts concerts on Thursday nights during the summer months. Concerts in the Square are free weekly events with live music. Food vendors serve up burgers and dogs. Locals bring their lawn chairs, their kids and their dogs, and hang out visiting and enjoying the music.
Another gem hidden behind the Marshall Field’s building in Market Square is Amidei Mercatino. This open air market is teeming with beautiful flowers, plants and fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as for the palate. Also in Market Square is Market House Restaurant. With its outdoor dining and delicious menu featuring American cooking, Market House is popular year-round.
Amidei Mercatino, tucked in the alley behind the original Marshall Field’s building.
Another special feature of Lake Forest is its extensive prairies and nature preserves. Twelve residents of Lake Forest had the foresight to form Lake Forest Open Lands Association (LFOLA) in 1967. LFOLA purchased its first parcel of land of over 140 acres in 1970. Today, LFOLA oversees 800 acres of land that contain six nature preserves, and they also run an active environmental program. This September 25, LFOLA will hold its 29th annual Bagpipes & Bonfire in the Middlefork Farm Nature Preserve. Kilted skydivers float down from the sky over a picnic feast, while families enjoy Scottish entertainment, games and libations. A dramatic bagpipes procession precedes the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire at sundown. For more information and tickets, email email@example.com
Lake Forest Open Lands has miles of trails to explore.
Summertime would not be complete without a little time spent at Forest Park Beach. This beautiful feature of Lake Forest is reminiscent of the European beaches of yesteryear, but it took planning, time and money to get it that way. By the mid-1980s, Forest Park Beach had seen better days. Battered by storms, high lake levels and left with a measly four-foot wide swath of gravel, the beach was not an attraction.
One of the gems that makes Lake Forest special is Forest Park Beach.
In 1987, a committee was formed and the question of restoration was put to a vote. With a “Yes” vote by the public, an $8.5 million bond was issued, and, along with $300,000 in private donations from residents, the restoration began. Fast-forward to today, and the beach is wildly popular with an estimated 40,000 visits every year between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Visiting the beach in the summer is strictly regulated and allowed only to residents that display a valid Lake Forest City sticker or other proof of residency. Non-residents can buy a usage fee of $10 per person per day to visit the beach.
US Sailing, alongside Lake Forest Sailing, hosted the USA Junior Olympic Sailing Festival at Forest Park Beach on June 25 and 26 of this year. This event was a skill builder clinic, designed to encourage young sailors to develop their skills and help develop the skills of coaches and program directors. Of course, walking the boardwalk, going for a swim or a paddle board ride, or just lounging on the beach itself are enjoyed by many. Many residents gather on full moon nights to watch the moon rise over the lake just after sundown.
The classic French cuisine of Froggy’s French Cafe is a quick 10-minute drive from Lake Forest.
Lake Forest remains a vibrant city 150 years after it was originally conceived. It’s teeming with families and people of all ages. There are lots of things to enjoy within the city and very close by. A 10-minute drive from Lake Forest is Highwood, which has a myriad of restaurant choices, from the classic Froggy’s French Cafe to Buffo’s for pizza and beer. Lake Bluff, just on the northern edge of Lake Forest, has an amazing farmers market on Friday mornings during the summer months. You can pick up fresh berries, tomatoes, farm fresh cheeses and beautiful flowers. During the summer months, I would have to agree with Dorothy, “There’s no place like home.”