On a trip to Hyde Park, most folks stop by some of the neighborhood's star attractions: the Museum of Science and Industry, the Court Theatre, and perhaps a stop at the Medici on 57th Street for some pizza and conversation.
First-time visitors and seasoned South Siders might also do well to check out a few of the lesser-known gems (architectural and other) right nearby on the University of Chicago campus. Here's a quick tour of three fascinating moments that are worth your time.
On the South Side of the Quads, A Scholar Waits
Folks who've wandered around the UofC campus can attest to the elaborate carvings and grotesques that dot the campus with expressions that alternate between playful and austere. One of the real gems on campus is the serious looking scholar with a mortarboard on his head and a book in his hand. You can find him after wandering through the walkway between the Classics Building and Wieboldt Hall.
He's on the south side of the entrance to the main quad and you'll find yourself wondering: "Hmm, what book is he reading?" If you're with children, you might ask them to make up a story about him or any of the other carvings around campus. It will make the entire journey a bit more memorable.
Around the Corner, Some Ben Shahn
The University of Chicago is home to the very wonderful Smart Art Museum and that's definitely worth a visit. But not all of the university's fine artistic works are held there. After peeking at the scholar outside, you'll want to wander into Wieboldt Hall where you can see an elaborate set of prints by the noted artist Ben Shahn.
The prints were a gift to the University of Chicago and the art here was inspired by the words of the poet Rainier Maria Rilke. All told there are over a dozen prints on display and each one of them is worth close consideration. Don't miss his illustration of the Rilke's line "For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities" as it is playful and quite creative.
Look Up To Dig and Discover
After a bit of art-browsing, you should walk out of Wieboldt Hall and walk north to Rosenwald Hall for another building detail that's often overlooked. Right there above the entrance is a carving of a well-worn satchel underneath the words "Dig and Discover."
Surprising, you say? Not so, if you consider that this used to be the home of the geology department. If you look closely, you'll find that there are two nautilus shells that offer some hint at what else might be left for budding geologists.
After this, you might consider walking just a block away to the Oriental Institute where you can see a 16-foot tall winged bull sculpture from Mesopotamia and other wonders from the ancient Middle East.