A small section of downtown Chicago that combines urban with residential; couture with cuisine; and Chicagoans with the occasional spotted celebrity; the Near North neighborhood features many of the city's most notable shops, restaurants and residents. The culinary backdrop in the Near North is anchored by a blend of trendy, new hotspots and treasured mainstays. Whether you crave a good ole' burger, or would rather a nice, juicy porterhouse, the restaurants around here are sure to suffice. The Near North is also quite the site for a mini shopping spree, especially for the literary types as there are a disproportionately large number of bookstores in the area. Fashionistas will find their fill of en vogue styles, too, but the real draw to the Near North is its fun nightlife. Many of the neighborhood restaurants double as late-night bars and dance clubs. Once the midnight hour approaches, Near North hangouts heat up.
Back in the olden days, the Near North neighborhood was just another unnamed, undeveloped Chicago area. That is, until Potter Palmer got his hands on it (yes, the Palmer of Palmer House Hilton fame). Palmer bought some land near the lakeshore in 1882. Back then, the area was covered in ponds, grass and greenery, but Palmer changed all of that. He built himself a cute little mansion on what would later be known as Lake Shore Drive and one of Chicago’s most heavily-trafficked roadways.
Other wealthy folks followed suit with mansions of their own, putting this neighborhood in the category of elegance and luxury since its inception. Within a decade, the value of the land in this area had increased by 400 percent, and soon some of Chicago’s wealthiest citizens, like the McCormicks and the Wrigleys, were moving from their Prairie Avenue homes (on the south side) to new digs near the center of the city.
Fast-forward a hundred years and the vibe in the Near North neighborhood has largely remained the same. Sure, there are more shops, trendier restaurants and hipper bars, but it is still home to many wealthy Chicagoans, and though it’s located right near the heart of the city, there is enough grass, trees and flowers (mostly on the residential side streets) to make you feel like you’re at least slightly in touch with nature.
While the area has the occasional art gallery, this neighborhood is more about the hustle and bustle of shopping and dining. So if you are a foodie, a fashionista, or if you just like to be in the middle of things, Near North is definitely your neighborhood.
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