Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Series 3: Portage Park

Back at it with more adventures around the city! This time we checked out Portage Park, a residential spot on the city's northwest side with lots of fun gems tucked between rows of charming Chicago bungalows.

This style of house accounts for 1 in 3 stand-alone houses in the city of Chicago—in Portage Park it's more like 99 in 100, probably why Portage Park is part of the "bungalow belt." I taught the Little Dragans the word "bungalow" and for the rest of the day they said "bungalow, bungalow, bungalow" every time we saw one. That only got old after 30 seconds.

Let's check out some of the fun places we visited in Portage Park!

Chopin Park

Portage Park boasts the highest concentration of Polish people in the city limits, and this park is named after the most famous Polish composer, Frederic Chopin. The park is just a pretty standard park with a water feature, but it was fun to tell the Little Dragans about who Chopin was and play a bit of Nocturne while we played there.

Chopin joke:
Q: What did the musician take to the store?
A: His Chopin Liszt!

(Grant: That is even worse than a Dad-joke, Kathleen. 
B: Seriously, Mom, that's not even a little bit funny.)

Portage Park and Epic Outdoor Pool

Now this park is worth the trip to the northwest side! Have you been wondering what a portage is? It's the land between two bodies of water. This portage was between the Chicago and DesPlaines rivers and before roads, sewers, and drainage systems it used to flood every spring. The Native Americans loved this area because they could portage (turns out you can also use it as a verb) from one river to the other without having to get out of their canoes! B's just up there portaging away through the playground which is great fun.

Once we worked up a sweat with all that portaging we headed over to the BEST PUBLIC POOL IN CHICAGO. There, I've said it. And I should know: I swam so much as a kid that my skin actually emanated chlorine.

Built in 1959 when Chicago hosted the Pan-American games, this Olympic-sized pool with full diving well was used again for the 1972 Olympic swimming trials where none other than Mark Spitz set a new world record! The facility is beautiful, there's also a kids' area, and it is so huge that even if it is crowded you will feel like you have the place to yourself.

A word of caution: The staff there are very protective of this space (understandably) and if you are wondering if you are breaking the rules, you probably are. I broke like 16 rules within the first five minutes of being there including (but not limited to): carrying a bag, taking photos, having my hair down, B's swimsuit possibly not looking like a swimsuit, Little Guy going down the slide head first, smiling, splashing, breathing, etc. I think we should put these Lifeguards to work on the rest of the city...

Hagen's Fish Market

I love checking out these tucked away little family businesses. I love that they just sell fish! It's tiny, but so friendly. And I loved my catfish po' boy, too! Little Dragans, notsomuch, but you can't win 'em all!
Do you think the fish were scared of Little Guy's shirt?

Fantasy Costumes

This. Place. Is. NUTS.

We spent almost an hour walking around in this monstrosity that is as big as a city block and has 1,000,000 items (not an exaggeration) in stock. Costumes, accessories, decorations, makeup, wigs, and even an "over 18 only" room that we reluctantly missed out on. I seriously can't wait to come back here and buy our Halloween costumes!
Room of masks. Just masks. Floor to ceiling. See also: wig room, weapon room.

Six Corners and Josi's Frozen Yogurt
We wandered around the Six Corners area for awhile, which has some great Art Deco facades, including the old Portage theater. At one time this was the largest retail area outside of the Loop. We were getting pretty hot, so we were extra excited when we stumbled upon Josi's Frozen Yogurt!
I just can't say enough great things about this place. It's a pretty standard frozen yogurt + toppings/pay by weight cafe (along the lines of Sweet Frog), but it's the little personal touches to the shop that make it so special.
Poem machine: for when the poem-cravings strike.
Wall of post-it note love. And we do love us some post-it notes...
Toy area!
This guy likes it too. I guess all those girls I knew in college were right: The froyo diet CAN make you skinny!

But the BEST part about Josi's is that they designed their cafe and business to be an Autism Friendly Business, one of the first of its kind in Chicago. They're all about inclusion and providing a safe space for families to get out and enjoy a treat together without worrying.

In fact, once a month they host a "No Apologies" play hour before the store opens for business. You're invited if you have a special needs child, just rsvp via their website. No name tags, no forced interactions, no apologies. Just a good time with your family and some delicious treats.

I hope someday every business will be mindful of the needs of families of all shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and abilities. And I'm glad Portage Park boasts at least one awesome one! If you can get to Josi's, stop in and show them some love and tell them how glad you are that they're doing what they're doing in our city! I know we'll be back!!

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