Summer is the absolute best season to explore the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The vibrant area puts their Puerto Rican heritage on proud display, from the colorful murals to the welcoming restaurants to the huge iron flags welcoming you to the neighborhood. And while the sprawling park is the area’s crown jewel, there’s so much to explore beyond its borders.

Here’s how to spend a day exploring Humboldt Park.

Take a stroll through the park

The centerpiece of the Humboldt Park neighborhood is, well, Humboldt Park. This lush green space, spanning more than 200 acres, features a beautiful lagoon, a historic boat house, playgrounds, tennis courts, baseball fields, and the city’s only in-land beach.

Humboldt Park
See the historic boathouse in Humboldt Park. Photo by Adam Alexander

In the summer, the park comes to life with locals taking a scenic stroll, families grilling and picnicking in the grass, and food trucks and street vendors selling paletas and shaved ice. In the heart of the park, the lagoon is the perfect spot for birdwatching, fishing, and paddling in the charming swan-shaped boats.

Stop by Humboldt Beach, a natural swimming pond where you can sprawl out on the sand or take a dip. It’s framed by the gorgeous field house building, which houses a fitness center and two gymnasiums. A short walk away, the small hill on the west edge of the park offers a surprisingly stunning view of the park and Chicago skyline.

If you want to continue exploring outdoors, try taking a stroll up Humboldt Boulevard, a wide and grassy street flanked by beautiful historic homes. Or head to The 606, the elevated trail that hugs the northern edge of the neighborhood.

Walk the Paseo Boricua

Just south of the park, you’ll find the lively Paseo Boricua, which loosely translates to “Puerto Rican Promenade”. This six block stretch of Division Street between Western and California is known for its array of Puerto Rican food, culture, and history. 

Paseo Boricua during the annual Puerto Rican parade. Photo by Adam Alexander.

The Paseo Boricua is flanked by two massive Puerto Rican flag sculptures that serve as gateways into the neighborhood. Along the route, you’ll see a variety of colorful murals dedicated to Puerto Rican culture and history, along with traditional Puerto Rican and Spanish colonial architecture.

In the center of the Paseo Boricua, you’ll find La Casita de Don Pedro. The small house, a replica of a typical 1940s rural home, holds a community photo gallery and is used as a classroom for bomba dance and drumming workshops. It also features a small park and garden, which was designed to resemble the Puerto Rican flag when viewed from above.

The street also features a walk of fame with more than a dozen bronze medallions, dedicated to the outstanding contributions of notable Puerto Ricans. There’s also an abundance of Puerto Rican shops and restaurants (check the next section for some dining ideas).

Get a bite to eat

You can’t leave Humboldt Park without stopping at one of the many fantastic neighborhood restaurants. Your dining options include everything from traditional Puerto Rican fare to casual French cuisine to dishes created right here in Chicago.

Photo by Daniel Kelleghan
  • Cafe Colao: Grab a coffee and some Puerto Rican pastries at this neighborhood cafe on the Paseo Boricua.
  • Nellie’s: A neighborhood staple, Nellie’s blends Puerto Rican and American fare into an unforgettable breakfast menu. Order their signature “avena de coco”, coconut oatmeal.
  • Roeser’s Bakery: Known as one of the best bakeries in Chicago, Roeser’s has been in business for more than a century. They’re a go-to spot for celebratory cakes, plus a full selection of pastries.
  • Papa’s Cache Sabroso: This tiny BYOB spot serves up an excellent jibarito (a Chicago invention) — your choice of chicken or steak sandwiched between garlicky plantain.
  • Turkey Chop: Choose from grilled chicken, turkey, and more at this casual counter service restaurant. Plus, 25% of every dollar they earn goes to someone in need.
  • Cafe Marie-Jeanne: This cozy French restaurant is a neighborhood favorite, perfect for a Sunday brunch or Saturday date night. Enjoy duck frites, flaky croissants, steak tartare, and more.
  • Arepa George: Try Colombian specialties at this casual and colorful spot. Don’t miss their namesake dish, the arepa — a corn patty stuffed with your choice of cheese, meat, and vegetables. 
  • Rootstock: This welcoming wine bar offers organic wines, a seasonal menu, and exhibits from local artists.
  • Spinning J: A vintage-inspired cafe and bakery, Spinning J features a 1928 soda fountain bar and a creative selection of pies, whole or by the slice

Learn about Puerto Rican culture

Note: The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19. Contact the museum or check their website for reopening information.

Inside the park, you’ll find a unique-looking structure that was constructed as horse stables in the late 1800s. Today, the historic building has been restored and now houses The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts

The museum bills itself as the only museum in the nation completely dedicated to Puerto Rican arts and culture. The one-of-a-kind institution has transformed each room in the former stables into a part of the museum, including three galleries, performance spaces, arts classrooms, and a gift shop.

Along with permanent and rotating exhibits featuring Puerto Rican art, music, and performance, the museum offers a variety of community programming. Stop in for hands-on arts workshops, films in the park, and their annual fine arts and crafts festival.

Explore more Humboldt Park.