First settled by Euro-Americans almost 200 years ago, Plainfield is a village in Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs.
This is a fast-growing community, with a population that has increased ten-fold to 44,000 since 1990.
Yet in the center of Plainfield is an amiable downtown with preserved old buildings, adjacent parks, diverse restaurants and enticing little shops.
People visit Plainfield from far afield for the Lake Renwick Preserve, an important rookery for wading birds, while around the village are family amenities, fabulous parks and walking trails along the DuPage River.
1. Downtown Plainfield
Plainfield has one of only 22 downtown areas in Illinois on the National Register of Historic Places.
Found along Lockport Street on either side of the DuPage River, this was developed across more than 100 years from the 1840s to the 1960s and has more than 50 contributing buildings.
There’s a fantastic diversity of styles here, from Greek Revival to International, and you’ll also be struck by how much life there is in downtown Plainfield.
If you’re hungry it can be tough to choose from the many independent restaurants, offering Southern cuisine, diner classics, pizza, Asian fusion, New American, Cajun, pub food, ice cream, and Mexican, all in the space of three or four blocks.
All around are wonderful specialized stores for antiques, flowers, one-off gifts, pet supplies, farm-raised meat, cakes, tea, jewelry, diving equipment and boardgames.
2. Lake Renwick Preserve
The Will County Forest Preserve District cares for this 836-acre preserve close to downtown Plainfield.
What elevates Lake Renwick is its status as a nesting site for great blue herons, black-crowned night herons and other wading birds such as great egrets and double-crested cormorants.
Until the 1980s this space was a chain of aggregate quarries, which flooded soon after they were abandoned.
The lake has a number of characteristics, from its abundant fish to its gravel bed, that have resulted in the state’s most important wading bird rookery.
The preserve is open year-round, but during the nesting season, from March to mid-August, visits are restricted to a dedicated bird-watching area at Copley Nature Park on the west side.
The rest of the year you’re free to cross the lake system on a three-mile network of trailways, once used by loading trucks at the former quarry.
3. Settlers’ Park
Hand-in-hand with downtown Plainfield, this 20-acre park behind the village hall was landscaped to provide a green space within walking distance of the shops and restaurants.
Settlers’ Park is on the west bank of the DuPage River and serves as the setting for Plainfield’s summer concert series and open-air movies.
These take place at the Richard A. Rock amphitheatre, next to a beautiful ornamental lake with a fountain.
You can stroll along Settlers’ Park’s pathways, installed with interesting interpretive signs. One trail has been taken over by the Plainfield Public Library District, which has set up the StoryWalk, telling a different children’s story each season.
4. Werk Force Brewing Company
Using experimental hops and yeast strains, this small-batch brewery in Plainfield is at the vanguard of Chicagoland’s burgeoning craft beer industry.
You can visit Werk Force’s brewery Thursday to Sunday to try some of the large range on tap, or buy cans to go.
The selection changes by the week, but will usually include IPAs (American, New England, Hazy), a Mexican-style lager, a Saison, a Pilsner, a Stout, a sour and a range of hard seltzers.
The taproom bar is large and also comes with a nice outdoor patio. On weekend evenings there’s almost always a food truck outside, and you can check the website for live music, new releases and other events.
5. Sable Creek Winery
This boutique winery in Plainfield sources grapes from vineyards across the United States to produce a range of red, white and rosé wines.
Sable Creek Winery uses vineyards in California, Missouri, New York, Michigan and Illinois, crafting varietal wines like Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vignoles, Traminette, dessert wines and an array of well-balanced red and white blends.
At the tasting room you can order from a menu of bites, such as cheese plantes, charcuterie trays, hummus, pretzels and indulgent desserts.
There’s always something fun going on at Sable Creek, be it live music, themed trivia nights, wine bingo or special tasting sessions.
6. Mistwood Golf Club
On the other side of the Lake Renwick Preserve is one of the best public golf courses in the region.
Following an intricate multimillion-dollar redesign by Ray Hearn, Mistwood Golf Club brings the Scottish links experience to the Southwest Suburbs.
Among the many design elements borrowed from famous courses like St Andrews are the intimidating, sod-wall bunkers that cause many golfers sleepless nights.
Water is almost omnipresent at Mistwood Golf Club, with two lakes and the twisting Mink Creek. There’s no better way to close out a round than at the clubhouse, designed like a Scottish lodge, and hosting the cosy McWethy’s Tavern.
7. Flanders House
One of three landmarks in Plainfield on the National Register of Historic Places, the Flanders House (1841) sits at 507 W. Main St.
In the Greek Revival Style, this handsome residence is a testament to the wealth in Plainfield in the years before the Illinois & Michigan Canal opened.
It was built for Jason and Lucy Flanders, who had made their way here from Lowell, Massachusetts. The couple was affluent, and Jason served as Plainfield’s first constable.
The building previously stood at Routes 59 and 126, before moving to accommodate an office building. Close by at No. 503 you’ll find the Plainfield Halfway House (1836), which operated as a tavern and inn in the mid-19th century.
8. DuPage River Trail
This route is made up of numerous segments along the banks of the DuPage River through DuPage and Will counties.
You can walk several sections in Plainfield, and the long-term plan is for an unbroken, 40-mile path for hiking, jogging, snowshoeing, cross-country-skiing and bike riding.
South to North, you can join sections of the trail at Riverwalk Park, Maher Woods, Settlers’ Park, Electric Park, Riverview Park and Eaton Preserve Park.
Riverview Park is also one of a handful of places in Plainfield where you can launch a kayak or canoe for a paddle on the slow-moving DuPage River.
9. Plainfield Lanes
This bowling alley has been a long-term fixture in Plainfield, changing names from “Pioneer Lanes” following a change in ownership in 2014.
Since then Plainfield Lanes has moved with the times, introducing a state-of-the-art scoring system that lets you play Angry Birds in your lane.
As well as the usual leagues during the week, there’s black-light cosmic bowling on weekends, as well as an arcade with redemption games and a laser maze.
Another addition is an escape room with a bank heist theme, and you can stop by the bar & grill for craft-your-own pizza with Wisconsin cheese, as well as burgers, flatbreads, sandwiches, wraps and all kinds of sharable bites.
10. The Wandering Dragon Game Shoppe
Downtown Plainfield has a whole raft of unique stores, but maybe the most treasured is this game shop.
Opened in 2012, The Wandering Dragon Game Shoppe is the Chicago area’s premier store for tabletop gaming, and has become a destination in its own right.
There’s a massive range of games on sale, but the store also hosts numerous events throughout the year thanks to its large tournament rooms and eight individual game rooms.
And with an enormous game library, this can also be a place to hang out with a group of friends on a D&D campaign.
11. Norman Greenway
Over more than 100 acres and navigated by a system of trails, this neighborhood park is primed for passive recreation.
On the south side of Norman Greenway is the well-maintained and fenced Daisy Dog Park. Elsewhere you’ll find a sledding hill in winter, a playground for wee ones, a basketball court and a picnic shelter.
A little creek runs through the park, and at the northwest corner you can take a trail following this waterway north to Tamarack Settlement Park, which has yet more amenities, such as a baseball field and skate park.
12. C.W. Avery Family YMCA
An exceptional recreation facility for Plainfield and the Joliet area, the local Y is up-to-date, clean and loaded with facilities.
For families there’s an indoor water park, featuring slides, a wading pool and spray equipment.
This is complemented by a lap pool, as well as a state-of-the-art gym with cardio equipment and weights, a multipurpose hall, a kids’ zone with an indoor playground and a number of exercise studios and classrooms.
As you’d expect the Y runs a wide variety of programs throughout the year, from zumba to swim lessons and basketball camps.
13. Naperbrook Golf Course
Part of the Naperville Park District, the gorgeous Naperbrook Golf Course is in lovely rolling terrain in northwest Plainfield.
A par 72, the 6,755-yard course was laid out on former farmland, and features large patches of prairie interspersed with ponds.
This is another spot to have a links-style layout, completed with those massive greens, broad fairways and surprise bunkers.
Naperbrook Golf Course is handy if you need to get some practice in, as there’s a 10-acre driving range, a separate tee for lessons and putting greens covering 3,000 and 10,000 feet respectively.
14. Plainfield Hometown Irish Parade
One of the most popular annual events in Plainfield’s calendar takes place on the Sunday before St. Patrick’s Day.
Plenty of Plainfield residents have Irish heritage, but the Irish Parade is also a way of celebrating the upcoming arrival of spring at the end of the bitter Chicago winter.
The parade is attended by local businesses, the fire department and the Joliet Police Pipes & Drums group.
A Parade Princess is elected in the build-up to the event, and there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained, including Irish dancing displays and a family area with bounce houses and face painting.
15. Cruise Nights
A summer tradition in Plainfield is a weekly series of car shows from early June through late August.
Hosted by the village’s Chamber of Commerce, these cruise nights are free and boast a mix of modern and classic cars.
You can check them out on West Lockport Street and a section of South Des Plaines Street.
Both streets will be closed to traffic, and you can view beautiful old muscle cars and their modern equivalents. There’s a different theme each week, switching from Corvettes to Pontiacs, Fords, trucks and imports.