One-Track Trips: UP North Line

November 18, 2010 6:56:23 AM PST
Metra's Union Pacific North Line follows the North Shore for 52 miles from Chicago to Kenosha.

You can begin your trip at Ogilvie Transportation Center, a rail station with a unique blend of modern and historic, including a French marketplace.

Hop on an outbound train to Evanston's Main Street station. In 20 minutes, you approach the 100-year-old depot, also home to Pufferbelly's Coffeestop and the Piccolo Theatre.

"We're quite often called Evanston's best-kept secret," said Leeann Zahrt, business manager, Piccolo Theatre. "We strictly do comedy. We love traditional fares of theatre, such as comedia del arte, which is a masked Italian theater."

Just outside the station is an intriguing section of Evanston full of little-known treasures.

"The Main Street station in particular offers so much in terms of restaurants, shopping, retail, parks, right smack dab on the lake, which is fantastic," said Rebecca Berneck,, Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

Many businesses are locally owned. Good's frame shop dates back to 1903. Across the street, Ten Thousand Villages is the largest fair-trade store on the North Shore, with handmade items from more than 30 countries.

The biggest surprise may be Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop with beautiful gemstones, jewelry, minerals and fossils. The oldest in the shop are stromatolite fossils from Australia.

"They range from 600 million years old probably to all the way back to about 3.4 billion years old," said Zak, Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop.

But wait, there's more! In the basement, there's a free, prehistoric life museum with unique fossils found in central Illinois, dinosaurs and dinosaur eggs.

There are two more stations in Evanston. Walk around Northwestern University's campus from the Davis Street station. The university offers a variety of entertainment, from music to Broadway shows. Their current production is "The Secret Garden," a musical adaptation of the classic novel. For sports, it's a great way to get to a Wildcats game.

"One of the nice things is, a lot of our sports are actually free, so people can see a Big 10 swimming match, come see a women's soccer game and they're free," said Alan Cubbage, vice president, university relations, Northwestern University.

If you continue north on the UP, there are many other attractions you can visit.

"Ravinia is a very popular station stop because you can bring your picnic basket and everything to enjoy the concerts at Ravinia, and it stops right there within walking distance," said Judy Pardonnet, Metra.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is an easy walk from the Braeside station, or you can take a trolley from the Glencoe station.

Why drive to Six Flags Great America when you can take the train? From the Waukegan station, Pace Route 565 takes you right to the park.

You can also take the Pace 565 from the Waukegan station to Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall and shop 'til you drop. And many stops are within walking distance of one of Chicago's greatest treasures -- the lakefront.


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