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Rediscovering My Surroundings

Taking a fresh look at happenings in and around Evanston.

What’s nice about living in a town like Evanston is, there’s always something new and interesting going on.  Sometimes it’s right here in town, and sometimes it’s just around the corner.

On Sunday, my husband and I took the kids to a concert at Ravinia, where Rufus Wainwright played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  If you haven’t heard of Rufus Wainwright, here’s a Youtube video of him singing his version of Hallelujah. I hadn’t appreciated the singer/songwriter’s talents until a few years ago when my Evanston friend, the writer Jill Schacter, was over for dinner.  We’d asked her what kind of music she liked, and when she said, “Rufus Wainwright,” we plugged his name into Pandora.  Since that evening, Rufus Wainwright has been a musical mainstay in our house, especially when he sings his version of Judy Garland songs.  When I recently saw his name on the Ravinia Festival calendar, I purchased tickets online

By the way, I learned is that Ravinia no longer charges kids for admission.  Children up to age 15 are now admitted free.

So, Sunday afternoon, we packed a few coolers with food (a single pan of Buffalo Joe’s spicy chicken wings plus some cheese and crackers and fruit salad) and some beverages and boarded the 4:55 p.m. Metra train from Main Street to Ravinia Festival.  The kids had a great time riding the train (free to riders 11 and under).  Once at Ravinia, we spread our blankets near the back of the lawn where the kids could run around without being shushed. It was an absolutely beautiful night.

I always love people-watching at Ravinia.  Some folks gather in massive crowds with candelabras and cater-riffic spreads.  Others arrive with just a blanket, a candle and a bucket of chicken.  The family next to us came prepared with board games in case their kids got (what else?) bored. I got a little nervous when our youngest child started climbing on some sculptures, but relaxed when I saw the Ravinia security guard smiling as he walked past.  

The best part of the night was, we were home before 10pm…and that includes a stop at Andy’s Frozen Custard in Evanston for dessert.  I had something called a key lime concrete, which is essentially a massive cup of frozen custard with an entire slice of key lime pie whipped right in.  I think it’s a seasonal treat, so if it sounds good to you, grab it while it’s still around.

The whole experience felt like a surprisingly easy family outing, and I wondered why we don’t take advantage of Ravinia more often. 

And, around the corner, in Skokie, I’ve noticed the new Wilde & Greene Restaurant and Natural Market open at Old Orchard Shopping Center, and it looks really intriguing. Instead of the same old food court offerings like hot dogs, cheese fries and sub sandwiches, they’ve got fresh, healthy alternatives, plus a second-floor open-air patio restaurant. Old Orchard’s just a 10 minute drive from Evanston, so if I must drag myself to the mall, the new food court looks like an interesting new venue to check out. 

After almost 15 years in Evanston, I'm never at a loss for new and interesting things to do in and around town.  And, after all this talk of eating, it’s a good thing Evanston’s lakefront paths are nice and fresh.  I think I’ll need to explore them after this weekend’s feeding frenzy.

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