Marathon Offers Runners An Eclectic Look at Chicago Neighborhoods

October 09, 2010

Here’s a cool way to experience a great mix of Chicago neighborhoods.

When the Bank of America Chicago Marathon runs through our town on Sunday, participants from all around the world will get to see more than two dozen different and unique Chicago neighborhoods throughout the 26.2 miles.

Here are the highlights:

*Grant Park: Often referred to as the “front yard” of Chicago, Grant Park, located just south of the New Eastside neighborhood, is the starting point for the marathon. Much of Grant Park and the New Eastside are located on landfill that was the Chicago Harbor.

Chicago Marathon

The grand Chicago Theatre in the Loop.

*Streeterville: The course moves north into this luxurious neighborhood that is home to the Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, the John Hancock Building, luxury hotels, fine dining and more than 400 high-end retail shops and boutiques.

*The Loop: Considered the center of the business district, the Loop is also a thriving theater and shopping district. This neighborhood is a good place to really appreciate Chicago architecture, including the grand Chicago Theatre, which was the first lavish movie palace in America when it was built in 1921.

*Near North Side: These are the neighborhoods located just north of the Loop. This is a good place for fans to gather, since miles four and 11 are just a block apart. This beautiful area offers tree-lined streets filled with homes, shops, restaurants and parks.

*Lincoln Park: Once called Lake Park because it’s so close to Chicago’s picturesque lakefront, this neighborhood that surrounds a park was renamed Lincoln Park after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.  This is one of the most expensive communities to live in Chicago.

*Wrigleyville: This North Side neighborhood contains the home of the Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field, which is the second oldest ballpark in the country. The stadium, and all its surrounding sports-themed establishments, is the northernmost point of the course.

*Lakeview East: This extremely diverse neighborhood throws one of the biggest parties on race day. Considered Chicago’s “Off-Loop” theater district, this neighborhood has an assortment of theaters including the famous Briar Street Theater.

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael's Church in the Old Town neighborhood.

*Park West: After looping back through Lincoln Park, runners will visit sub-neighborhood, Park West. Here you’ll find historic homes, boutiques and eateries.

*Old Town: As the course continues south through Old Town, you will see St. Michael’s Church, one of only seven buildings not destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This affluent and historic neighborhood is where you can find many of Chicago’s older, Victorian-era buildings and homes, as well as The Second City comedy theatre and school of improvisation.

*River North: This neighborhood is known as Chicago’s gallery district and has the largest collection of art galleries in the country outside of Manhattan. The Merchandise Mart is located here along the Chicago River and it’s a good neighborhood to find new residential construction.

*Near West Side: The race now moves west through several communities that make up the Near West Side neighborhood. First there’s the West Loop, or West Loop Gate, where the World’s Largest Block Party is held each year for Old St. Patrick’s Church, the oldest public building in Chicago. Here you’ll also find Union Station and the United Center, home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks.

*Greektown: This neighborhood proudly displays Greek culture and heritage. In 1968, gyros and saganaki (flaming cheese) were introduced in this country by Chicago’s Greektown.

*Little Italy: Also known as University Village because of all the schools nearby, including the University of Illinois at Chicago, this neighborhood offers Italian culture and cuisine and houses the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

*Illinois Medical District: This is the largest urban medical district in the country and includes the University of Illinois Medical Center, the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Rush University Medical Center, and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, to name a few. If you are going to pass out during the race, this would be a good neighborhood in which to do it.

*Pilsen: This is Chicago’s largest Latino community. As you run through, notice the vibrant and socially relevant wall murals painted throughout. The course moves through East Pilsen, which is known as the Chicago Arts District, and is filled with galleries and other creative businesses.

Chinatown Gate

The Chinatown Gate in Chinatown.

*Chinatown: As you run east, you’ll pass through the Chinatown Gate covered in red, a color that symbolized good luck in the Chinese culture. Chicago’s Chinatown is the largest in the Midwest.

*Bridgeport: Here you’ll have a chance to see the home of the Chicago White Sox, U.S. Cellular Field. No wonder Mayor Richard M. Daley is a Sox fan: He was born in this neighborhood.

*Bronzeville: Often called the “Birthplace of the Blues,” this neighborhood is where you’ll find the Bronzeville Children’s Museum, the only African-American children’s museum in the nation.

*Prairie District: If you lived here during the 19th century, you were rich. Called Chicago’s “original Gold Coast,” this area was home to more than 75 millionaires from the 1870s through 1900s. Many of the mansions were built after the Great Fire and some still remain for your viewing pleasure.

*South Loop: You’re almost done! The South Loop was one of Chicago’s first residential districts. It was also a bookmaking hub, which is the neighborhood now known as Printer’s Row. There’s a lot of new construction here, including Central Station, an 80-acre residential community that offers a wide variety of housing and rental living opportunities along with tree-lined boulevards, generous open spaces, numerous parks and an abundance of shopping and dining amenities. The South Loop is also home to the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum.

Wow. That’s a lot of Chicago. But, did I say this was a “cool” way to experience the city? Actually, temperatures are expected to rise into the mid 80s on Sunday. The race will have Aid Stations throughout the course offering water, Gatorade, bathrooms, medical facilities and access to runner drop-out vehicles.

There are 45,000 runners registered for the Chicago Marathon. Chicagoland Real Estate Forum wishes each of them an easy run through an amazing city.

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