Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hyde Park, Chicago for Dummies (Lesson 1)

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Hyde Park locals, bear with me, but I think it would be worthwhile to take a minute to provide some basic information about Hyde Park for those who don't know much about it. (If this is all old news to you, feel free to roll your eyes and skip to my next entry..)

Ok, so first of off, let's talk about the location. Many northsiders seem to be very confused about this. I cannot tell you how often I see articles in the Chicago Tribune and Suntimes that describe events as having taken place in Hyde Park when, in fact, they were in Woodlawn or Washington Park. According to most maps, Hyde Park goes East to West from the lake to Cottage Grove, and North to South from about 50th to 59th (i.e. the "Midway"). Just north of Hyde Park is Kenwood, home of Mr. Obama and some of the most beautiful homes you've ever seen. Hyde Park and Kenwood are sort of like Siamese twins and are often considered a single community, even though they are technically separate neighborhoods.

Knowing and understanding the boundaries of Hyde Park is important, I think, because misunderstandings about it often cause people to make inaccurate generalizations about the crime rate in Hyde Park. Yes, the nearby Washington Park neighborhood can be a little rough around the edges and you do hear frequent news of crime in that area. Same with Woodlawn. You might be surprised to learn, though, that the crime rate in Hyde Park-Kenwood is about the same as it is in Lincoln Park-Lakeview, i.e. extremely low. The local public schools-- Ray and Hart-- are some of the best (and most multicultural) in the city. [I'd also like to add that, in spite of some enduring problems with crime, Washington Park and Woodlawn have been revitalized in past years and really have a lot to offer, including new businesses and beautiful parkland].

Another common misconception about living in Hyde Park is that you're removed from most of the goings-on in the city. Not at all true. The neighborhood is literally less than 10 minutes from downtown, and rarely more than 20-30 to any part of the northside. The #6 bus will take you to Michigan Avenue in 15 minutes, or you can hop on the #55 and take it to the Green or Red lines.

There's also tons to do within the neighborhood (see my upcoming posts for a list)-- from live music to museums to bookstores to great restaurants to the beach. What I love most is that you can live locally and walk pretty much anywhere you'd need to go.

Check out this HydePark/Kenwood travel wiki for more info. I'm not a contributor to the wiki and take issue with some of their comments about local dining, but otherwise they provide a pretty thorough guide to the area.

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