A fixture on Money magazine’s annual list of best places to live, Naperville, Ill., isn’t just any suburban city. Anchored by the nearly two-mile-long Naperville Riverwalk, this city of 150,000 offers its own form of bustle, with numerous restaurants, cafes, bars and cultural attractions.
Here’s a full menu of options for a two-day stay and beyond:
Day 1: Walk, Shop ‘Til You Drop
Start your day at Hotel Indigo’s Plank Bar & Kitchen, where your breakfast choices range from healthy oatmeal with dried cherries and almonds to a flatbread topped with egg, prosciutto, pesto and fresh mozzarella. Wash it all down with a cup of locally roasted Sparrow Coffee.
After breakfast, take advantage of the hotel’s waterfront location to explore the beauty of the Riverwalk, which runs along the West Branch of the DuPage River. Go for a run, take an easy stroll, rent bikes from Mike’s e-Bikes or get kayaks or a paddleboat at the Paddleboat Quarry. Monthly events from spring through fall include a tulip bulb sale in May and free live “Rollin’ on the River” concerts on Fridays from June through August.
Ready for lunch? Your options include chowing down on soup, salad or a burger at an outdoor table at Riverwalk Café, open from March 1 through late fall. Or walk a bit to Everdine’s Grilled Cheese Co., with tantalizing options like the Mostly Maui Wowie (ham, grilled pineapple, Havarti cheese), the Eddie Mack (macaroni and cheese “disguised” as grilled cheese) and the ’81 Caprice Classic (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil and arugula).
You can work off lunch with some retail exercise. Naperville offers a mix of national brands and locally owned boutiques, including Twisted Olive for olive oil and balsamic vinegar; the independently owned Anderson’s Bookshop and Anderson’s Toyshop; Dean’s Fine Clothing for men and women; and the first outpost of Southern Tide outside of South Carolina.
Head back to your hotel for a quick nap before a pre-dinner concert. The 617-seat acoustically beautiful Wentz Hall at North Central College programs everything from jazz and R&B to classical, country and rock — all year long right in the downtown. After a show, pop into Kuma’s Asian Bistro, whose menu spans Korean, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and other parts of Southeast Asia. Or go for Italian classics like calamari fritti and salmone acqua pazza at the white tablecloth La Sorella di Francesca.
Day 2: Culture Up
Start your day with a five-minute walk to breakfast at local favorite Egg Harbor Café, a friendly diner serving inventive potato-egg “skillets,” three-egg scramblers, fluffy omelets and other morning fare.
If you’ve got kids in tow who are 10 and younger, make your next stop the DuPage Children’s Museum, located just north of the Riverwalk. Here, you can experience hands-on exhibits on art, science, construction, gravity and giant bubbles. The Naper Settlement, a sprawling, outdoor living history museum with murals, exhibits and costumed actors is like Naperville’s version of Colonial Williamsburg. And anyone in touch with the kid inside them will want to take a flight at iFly’s indoor skydiving wind-tunnel excursion or grab a skateboard and try some tricks at the Centennial Skate Park along the Riverwalk.
For a slightly indulgent lunch, pair a beet salad with goat cheese at Le Chocolat du Bouchard. with an authentic French macaron or éclairs, washed down with an espresso or a selection from the hot chocolate bar. Afterwards, while away the afternoon sampling local beer or wine — or both.
Tasting deVine Cellars, the downtown Naperville tasting room for nearby Lynfred Winery, features six samples of its wines — ranging from a 2013 Pinot Noir reserve to 2014 Marsanne — for $9. Or opt for a glass pour, a flight, or a wine and chocolate flight (available weekends only). If you’re more into beer, head to Solemn Oath Brewery for Belgian-inspired and barrel-aged craft beers. Get a pint, a flight or a growler in the taproom while watching the beer being produced.
Dinner tonight comes courtesy of Two Brothers Brewing, which operates Craftsman, a three-level space. For the meal itself, reserve a table on the second floor at Modern Tavern, a farm-to-table experience with options like a meat and cheese board, grilled octopus served atop arugula and roasted red peppers and lamb meatballs. After dinner, pop upstairs to the third-floor craft cocktail lounge. For live music and other late-night fun, change venues to Frankie’s Blue Room. Then call it a much deserved night.