The Run Down
There is no shortage of outdoor markets when summer rolls around. For today's guide, we'll visit a wonderful farmer's market in Woodlawn, just south of the University of Chicago campus. You'll stroll through the market with your family and pick up fresh produce, pies, and a smorgasbord of items from a local French chef. After feeding our bodies, you'll feed our minds at the Museum of Science and Industry nearby.
1. 61st Street Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday from May to October, this quiet street near the University of Chicago campus is transformed into a bustling market. There are loads of fresh produce vendors, food stalls, and a big open lawn for a picnic. Before we get into it, here is some logistics information to be aware of and other interesting facts.
– Market runs from 9 am – 2 pm on Saturdays
– Outdoor season runs from May to October
– The market is run by Experimental Station. This is a non-profit focused on building cultural infrastructure on the South Side. Their headquarters is on the market grounds, and inside their building, they house several different businesses like the South Side Weekly, Build Coffee, and Invisible Institute.
The entrance is at the corner of 61st and Dorchester. If you have trouble finding it, look out for this imposing steam plant that overlooks the market. There are 20+ vendors, and here is a spotlight on just a few places we stopped by.
If you head straight from the entrance, the street will bend, and right around the corner, you’ll find another section of vendors and a line of folks outside of Build Coffee. This is a gallery, coffee shop, and bookstore all rolled into one.
Keep this place on your radar. In addition to the coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and freshly baked bread they sell from Publican, they serve as a cultural hub, hosting music performances, book clubs, art exhibitions, and other specially curated events.
Pleasant House Bakery
At the end of the farmer’s market is where you’ll find Pleasant House Bakery. They operate a restaurant in Pilsen known for their savory meat pies called ‘Royal Pies.’ These things are the ultimate comfort food. It’s a flaky, buttery pie crust filled with meats and veggies.
The legendary Chef Didier is a popular presence at the market. He’s been a staple of the French cooking scene in Chicago since he arrived from Paris in 1986. He brings coolers full of classic French dishes, including his specialty foie gras and duck terrine. Pair the duck terrine with the freshly baked publican bread you just picked up, and you’ve got yourself the beginning of quite the picnic.
Speaking of foie gras, you may also want to thank him because he can be credited with helping overturn Chicago’s foie gras ban in 2008.
Supreme Bean Pie
As you go through all the vendors, you’ll inevitably run into Supreme Bean Pie. This is a South Shore bakery that specializes in the almighty bean pie. It’s made from the simple navy bean and tastes similar to sweet potato pie but with a slightly milder flavor profile. After scarfing down one of their mini-pies, I’ve officially converted from team sweet potato to team bean pie.
The bean pie also has a fascinating history to go along with it. It’s been a staple dish of the black Muslim community since the 1960s after the founder of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad, published his book, How to Eat to Live, which instructed his followers to adhere to a healthful diet with a particular focus on the navy bean.
After you’ve made your rounds through the market, hang on the big lawn and have a picnic feast.
2. Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is just a few blocks from the 61st Street Farmers Market, which is all the reason you need to visit with the family. If you’ve never been, it’s basically a giant interactive science playground for young kids and adults.
Here are some tips for your trip:
– Pricing: The price of basic admission starts at $22 for adults and $13 for kids (3 – 11 years old). It can get pricey if you tack on additional exhibits, which cost extra. The basic admission is enough to keep you entertained if you’re wondering. Pricing details here.
– Kids Passport: You can get free passes to the museum through the Chicago Public Library. A pass covers admission for a family of 4 (2 adults max, and the group must have at least one child under 18). You check out passes in person at any library just like you do a book. Each library has a limited number of passes. You can check availability by location here.
At over 400,000 square feet of space, they pack all sorts of exhibits on things like robotics, the human body, nature, aviation, and other natural phenomena to keep you learning and interested.
If you’re looking to plan out your route in advance, here’s a link to their complete list of exhibits and activities that you can filter by age and type.
With so many exhibits, it can be easy to miss a few along the way, and that’s okay. An exhibit you don’t want to miss, though, is the mirror maze. This is part of a larger exhibit exploring how math can help us understand patterns in nature.
At the center of it is this 1,700-square-foot maze filled with repeated patterns and mirrors that make the room seem endless. As you navigate from one end to another, you’ll run into dead ends where you’ll find mathematical puzzles to solve, and if you’re persistent, you’ll find a hidden room with some bonus experiences.