A leafy suburb on the north side of Chicago, Morton Grove is on the banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River.
The river’s floodplain has been kept completely free of development, and the 20-mile North Branch Trail makes its way through a string of forest preserves with wildflower-rich prairie and oak woodland.
A few important Chicagoland attractions are in or near Morton Grove, like the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Westfield Old Orchard and the original branch of Pequod’s, famed for its Chicago deep dish pizza.
The Morton Grove Civic Center is the stage for a super farmers’ market in the summer months, and is also home to the village’s historical museum.
1. Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
The world’s third-largest museum devoted to the Holocaust can be found on Morton Grove’s northeastern margins.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center moved to its current site in 2009, in a building designed by Stanley Tigerman (1930-2019).
The main ongoing exhibition is a thorough presentation of the Holocaust, explaining its origins, details and aftermath, and interwoven with some 500 artifacts and survivor stories.
This concludes with a film linking the lessons of the Holocaust with other genocides over the last 80+ years.
Aimed at younger visitors is Make a Difference!, an inspiring hands-on exhibit designed to kindle empathy, leadership, self-esteem and positive decision-making in the next generation.
2. Pequod’s Pizza
Morton Grove is the original location for one of the most famous names in Chicago deep dish pizza.
Despite being limited to the Chicago area, Pequod’s has gained widespread attention, appearing on a number of TV programs as well as in the national press.
If you’re from out of town, this is an opportunity to go to the source of this indulgent pizza style, and Pequod’s offers 7”, 10”, 12” and 14” pans, with a dizzying choice of 22 toppings.
Something that makes this spot so popular is the caramelized crust, much lighter than you’d expect for a deep dish.
There’s also traditional thin crust pizza, and a host of appetizers, pastas and, naturally, Chicago-style sandwiches including Italian beef and Italian sausage.
3. North Branch Trail
Being on the North Branch of the Chicago River, puts Morton Grove on the route of a 20-mile trail system, leading from Gompers Park in Chicago all the way to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.
The North Branch Trail is the most important biking route in the northern suburbs, and in Morton Grove is contained by Cook County forest preserves, crossing main roads like Caldwell Avenue via bridges or safe intersections.
On your journey you’ll be treated to lovely scenery, entering restored prairie and oak woodland, with places to stop for picnics every few hundred yards.
The trail is also a convenient and eco-friendly way to get to major attractions, from the Illinois Holocaust Museum to the Skokie Lagoon, the Leaning Tower of Niles and, of course, the Chicago Botanic Garden.
4. Harrer Park
On the east flank of Linne Woods, and home to the Morton Grove Historical Museum is the expansive Harrer Park.
This space is used for a wide variety of community events during the summer. Mid-June through mid-August there’s a series of outdoor concerts on summer evenings, held around the pavilion at the park’s north side.
These shows are usually accompanied by food trucks from local restaurants, as well as family activities.
On Saturdays through October Harrer Park is also the setting for Morton Grove’s French Market, for farm-fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, baked goods and tempting specialty foods.
Among the amenities at the park are a walking path, playground, softball field, baseball field and sand volleyball court.
5. Linne Woods
On both banks of the North Branch of the Chicago River is a forest preserve providing a natural sanctuary in the very center of Morton Grove.
The North Branch Trail weaves through Linne Woods on paved and unpaved sections, connecting with a web of other paths with something different to see on each one.
For instance, on the west side of the preserve is the Linne Prairie, where 30 acres of tallgrass prairie have been rescued from agriculture and garbage dumping.
Linne Woods also has two picnic groves with shelters for 200 and 300 people, as well as a canoe landing on the North Branch.
6. Morton Grove Historical Museum
The Morton Grove Historical Society operates this museum, open in the summer to coincide with the French Market at Harrer Park, as well as on select Sundays in the winter. There are two buildings side-by-side here.
Most impressive is the Haupt Yehl House, a restored farmhouse dating to 1888 open for guided tours, and with an exhibit space in the basement.
Next door is the education center, designed in a matching style and opened in 2008. You can visit the museum for long-term exhibits, dealing with topics as diverse as farming, local life in the 1920s, Morton Grove during WWI and how local newspapers in the northern suburbs documented WWII.
7. Classic Bowl
Recently given a makeover, Classic Bowl in the heart of Morton Grove is a 38-lane, high-tech alley, with brand new Brunswick Pro Anvil Lanes.
This is a great choice for nights out with friends, family outings, birthday parties, as well as competitive league bowling.
There’s booth-style seating to relax between frames, as well as an updated concourse and a spacious bar/lounge area, video game parlor, pro shop, pool tables, outdoor patio and numerous HD screens throughout.
Classic Bowl shares its storefront with Boba Burger, a unique Asian-style fast food concept, worth a try even if you’re not here to bowl.
8. Austin Park
On a couple of blocks and close to amenities like Morton Grove’s public library is a fine park edged by beautiful mature trees.
Shaded in summer, a mixed-use trail meanders in and out of that grand line of trees, and on the north east side leads to a children’s playground, with equipment spread across a large area and surrounded by neat landscaping.
For active recreation, Austin Park has a basketball court, sand volleyball court and a baseball/softball diamond, as well as abundant open space for soccer.
9. Kappy’s American Grill
Named among the best spots for breakfast in Chicagoland, this family-run Greek-American restaurant in Morton Grove has been going for more than 40 years.
Kappy’s has made a name for its eggs benedict, available throughout the day and served six different ways, from traditional to southwestern style, with chicken.
Other breakfast favorites include sweet or savory options, from skillets to French toast creations, crêpes & blintzes, a variety of buttermilk flapjacks, three-egg omelettes, and more than we can list here.
The lunch and dinner menu is equally extensive, running the gamut from Grecian specialties like Athenian chicken, spanakopita and beer tenderloin kabob to BBQ, prime rib, honey double-fried chicken and a big choice of sandwiches and wraps.
10. Miami Woods
South of Linne Woods, on the west bank of the North Branch Chicago River, is Miami Woods, with 113 acres of restored woodland and prairie.
This landscape has been carefully brought back to life since the 1970s, and is embellished by wildflowers like coneflowers, bergamot, blazing stars and rattlesnake-master in summer and fall.
The North Branch Trail runs through here, and connects with a short mixed-use path that can be accessed from N Caldwell Avenue, at the east end of Cleveland Street.
If you’re arriving by car there’s a long access road/parking lot, lined with picnic tables and a picnic grove with a 200-capacity shelter.
11. Westfield Old Orchard
One of the top upscale shopping destinations in the Chicago area is in easy reach of Morton Grove. Mostly set outside on neat little alleys, Westfield Old Orchard goes back to 1956 and was taken over by the Westfield brand in 2002.
A few of the stores to be found here are Apple, Banana Republic, Barnes & Noble, Bloomingdale’s, Foot Locker, Gap, L’Occitane, Lush, Michael Kors, Rolex, Sephora, Tiffany & Co and Zara.
Combine a shopping trip with a movie at the CMX Old Orchard Market cinema, while food-wise you’ve got Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, Buffalo Wild Wings, Nando’s and Maggiano’s, to name just a few.
12. Oriole Park
In the care of the Morton Grove Park District, Oriole Park packs a wide range of amenities into a small-ish plot.
The foremost of these is the outdoor pool complex, which dates as far back as 1969, but was given a thorough revamp in the 2010s.
Open during the summer, this boasts an eight-lane lap pool with a drop slide, next to an activity pool featuring a host of little attractions like a current channel, kiddie pool, lily pad, water walkway and spray guns.
Away from the pool, Oriole Park also has a basketball court, tennis court, sand volleyball court, concessions and a playground.
13. Chick Evans Golf Course
Praised for its high level of upkeep, this public 18-hole course in Morton Grove is operated by Forest Preserves of Cook County, and is named in honor of the trailblazing, Chicago-based amateur golfer, Chick Evans (1890-1979).
The North Branch flows right through the middle of the course, which is a relatively short track at 5,691 yards, but highly regarded all the same.
The fairways are wrapped in tranquil oak woodland, and the cart paths linking the holes will lead you through forest.
A standout hole is the tricky 3rd, where the river comes into play, forcing you to drive over water, avoid water along the fairway and find ways over yet more water.
14. King Spa & Sauna
Something brand new to the United States but a way of life in Korea for centuries is a Jjimjilbang (24-hour traditional bathhouse), and you can find out what the fuss is about at the King Spa & Sauna moments away in Niles.
As with all Jjimjilbangs, King Spa & Sauna has sex-segregated baths, where, as a heads up, patrons are expected to be nude.
These are combined with communal saunas and steam rooms, along with a host of other spaces including a food court, movie room and relaxation lounge.
During your stay you choose from a long menu of treatments, including facial massages, scrubs and foot and body acupressure massages.
15. Harms Woods
The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center fronts this Cook County forest preserve on the east bank of the North Branch and only acquired by the forest preserve district in 2019.
Harms Woods completes a stunning natural corridor running through Morton Grove along the floodplain.
Much of the habitat here is oak forest, ranging from upper moraine areas, growing white and bur oaks to the riverbank and lower, damper portions where red oaks and swamp oaks are prevalent.
The best time to come to Harms Woods is early spring, when the likes of hepatica, toothwort, trout lily and bloodroot are in flower, followed by spring beauty, golden alexanders and yellow pimpernel later in the season.