The Run Down

As the summer heat hits Chicago, you’ll naturally be jonesing for two things: a sweet treat and time in the hot, outdoor air. In this guide, you’ll get both. Start the day at one of the oldest (and cutest) bakeries in Chicago before making your way across the street to catch some rays and hop on a pedal boat at one of the city’s most iconic parks.

1. Treat @ Roeser's Bakery

2. Pedal Boat Ride @ Humboldt Park Lagoon

1. Roeser’s Bakery

You’ll start your afternoon at Roeser’s Bakery on North Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. A large vertical sign blinking “ROESER’S” in red will have you feeling like you stepped back in time more than 100 years ago. It’s a welcome to the sweetest shop on the West Side.

Stepping into the space, its history jumps off the walls. A street sign honoring the Roeser family and framed newspaper clippings hang on the walls to preserve decades of history. Photos of different cake designs complement the antique paraphernalia. Baked goods line the space on any surface available.

It’s almost like you can taste the sugary delicacies just by being inside before you’ve even ordered anything.

Credited as the oldest family-owned bakery in Chicago, the establishment has been passed down through generations since its inception in 1911. Custom cakes and classic pastries have been Roeser’s bread and butter, and longtime fans who have moved out of state still visit the bakery when they’re back in town, according to shift manager Aracelia Lopez.

A small line of people gathers in front of the counter, ready to pick up their custom orders or place a new one for any combination of the dozens of ready-made cakes, cookies and pastries in a glowing bakery case.

The possibilities only end when your sweet tooth does. While it’s tempting to try all desserts, pace yourself. Don’t be afraid to save some for later, or purchase a smorgasbord to share among friends. The bakery is known for its sweetrolls and doughnuts, and for good reason. The apple sweetroll is a delicate balance of pastry and fruit, and flavor confronts you as soon as you take a bite. The lemon cupcake and turtle bites (mini or full size) are also good options to vary the flavor profile of your order.

Homemade ice cream has its moment near the end of the counter, and flavors like pistachio and classic chocolate beckon you to just try one bite, at least.

It might not be a bad idea, as Humboldt Park is your next stop. Making your way over to the park with an ice cream in hand might be a combination too serendipitous to resist.

2. Humboldt Park Lagoon

From Roeser’s, head east on North Avenue until you come across Humboldt Park (yes, the actual park, not the neighborhood). Here, you’ll enjoy a pedal boat ride in Humboldt Park Lagoon. Keep you eyes up because as you climb the hill near the intersection of Kedzie Avenue and Beach Avenue, you’ll be rewarded with a peak of the skyline as you make your way to the pedal boat rental.

As you walk through the park toward the boathouse, quintessential Chicago summer is underway all around. A pair of boys play catch and yelp to each other on a baseball diamond. Two teenage girls bike another path, swerving and dropping their hands to impress each other. A man holds the hand of his toddler child who insists on walking on his own.

Making your way to the center of the park, you’ll see the heads of the white swans that make up the pedal boats. The Wheel Fun Bike and Pedal Boat rental kiosk is right behind the boathouse.

A swan boat big enough to fit two adults and two children is available for $30 per hour, and various bikes are rentable for those who prefer to stay on land.

On the lake, take your time cruising and relaxing, getting a leg workout in, too. You can enjoy your Roeser’s treats along the way if you haven’t devoured them already. Let the sugar frosting dissolve on your tongue as you relax into the dog days of summer.

After the ride, the park is your oyster. It’s a huge park, spanning nearly 200 acres. Families swim at the beach near the fieldhouse, preppy-clad pals play tennis and locals take walks while enjoying the view of the larger-than-life skyline. If you’re looking for a place to remove yourself from that concrete jungle less than 10 miles east, find a spot in the shade, crack open a book and let the atmosphere do the rest.