The city of Lake Forest, IL, is one of tranquil surroundings, a picturesque street plan and natural beauty. It is located on the western coast of Lake Michigan, high on the bluffs, just 31 miles north of Chicago. An eclectic and affluent community, Lake Forest is well-known for its liberal arts school, Lake Forest College. Residents of Lake Forest homes take great pride in their enthusiasm and passion for environmental conservatism having formed the Lake Forest Open Lands Association more than 40 years ago. Aside from its natural beauty and painterly landscapes, Lake Forest is one of the Chicagoland area’s most notable sites for historical architecture. Estates and homes in this region were designed by the likes of George Fred Keck, David Adler and Henry Ives Cobb, among others. Lake Forest also has a long and famous history in polo and offers many outdoor recreational activities like boating, swimming and biking near Forest Park Beach. Shopping and dining experiences abound at Market Square, and the nearby Six Flags Great America offers its own brand of adventure.
Located in Lake County 31 miles north of Chicago, Lake Forest is known for its peaceful seclusion and easy access to all the city of Chicago offers.
Lake Forest’s neighboring towns include Lake Bluff to the north, Vernon Hills to the West and Highland Park to the south.
Scenes from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were shot in Lake Forest’s uptown area.
Lake Forest has been dubbed a Tree City USA, an honor awarded by the National Arbor Day Foundation for their commitment to community forest.
Population (2000) - Total 20,059
Density 1,189.4/sq mi
African American 1.35%
Native American 0.06%
Pacific Islander 0.13%
Median income $150,670
The earliest habitation of Lake Forest by non-Natives was in 1834, primarily for farming. At that time the town was nearly inaccessible to residents of Chicago. This changed when Lake Forest College was established in 1857. The railroads that were built a few years prior assisted in the town building up around their college.
Wealthy and affluent Chicagoans took note of the small but scenic northern town and took residence there, causing the population to nearly triple by the year 1900. They were initially attracted to Lake Forest by its aesthetically pleasing layout designed by Almerin Hotchkiss.
Hotchkiss was sure to give due respect to Lake Forest’s natural beauty and wide open spaces by designing it similarly to a large park. He did this by working the street plan with, instead of against, the ravines and lake bluffs, achieving a wholly organic and natural feel that is visually distinctive and a pleasure to traverse.
The estates of these new residents from Chicago were often done in a country style and helped lay the foundation for Lake Forest’s historic architectural heritage.
One of Lake Forest’s most notable architectural gems, the Onswentsia Club, was completed and opened in 1895. Originally a private gentleman’s club, the Onwentsia Club is still running and offers panoramic views of the sprawling grounds and a world class golf course.
The Lake Forest City Hall, another marvel, was completed in 1898 and was designed by Frost and Granger, Architects. This building comprised the city offices, as well as the Lake Forest Library and fire department.
In 1917 another architectural feat was accomplished when Market Square was completed. Howard Van Doren Shaw designed the center specifically to compliment the country-style estates and surrounding houses. Designed with tremendous forethought to the coming age of the automobile, Market Square was easily accessible by motorists. In 1978 the square was listed with the National Register of Historical Sites as the nation’s first planned shopping center.
The population continued to grow steadily, nearly tripling once more in 1930. The steady growth and change of Lake Forest was bolstered by the completion of the Skokie Highway in 1931. Much change occurred in the latter half of the 20th century when the city became a center of employment, specifically in financial services.
With a determined mind to preserve Lake Forest’s natural beauty, early architects and landscapers worked with the stunning backdrop and built their houses, estates and commercial buildings to accent and enhance that natural beauty.
Elegant American country estates are prevalent and often offer ravishing views of the lakeside bluffs, deep ravines, serene tree-lined streets and gardens. This concentration of American country estates is considered to be the greatest in the nation.
While the American country estates are the pride of Lake Forest, other remarkable Lake Forest properties include town homes, condos and single-family homes.
Real Estate property management companies include: Jones Lang La Salle, Sidcor Real Estate, Watermark Capital Properties LLC, Christenson Management Group, North Street Properties and Next Property Management.
Single-family Lake Forest homes range in price from $700,000 to over 10 million. Town houses range between $300,000 to 3 million, and condos go for $150,000 to over 1 million. Rental apartments are between $1,000 and $1,600 a month for 1 and 2 bedrooms.
Lake Forest is accessible via I-94 and the Skokie Highway. Two Union Pacific Metra Rails lines run service to and from the city.
The city of Lake Forest requires permits to park in the Central Business District and train station parking spots. Parking permits can be purchased at the Municipal Services Building. A $3.00 daily fee will need to be paid if you do not have a permit.
View complete restrictions and information on Lake Forest parking.
Lake Forest is renowned for its educational excellence and success, often offering smaller class sizes and closer attention to their pupils. Most children in grades K-8 attend Lake Forest School District 67. Lake Forest High School also serves the neighboring communities of Lake Bluff and Knollwood.
Lake Forest College is well-known as one of the countries most innovative liberal arts colleges. The college offers a student to professor ratio of 12:1 and no classes are taught by teaching assistants, keeping in line with Lake Forest’s overall commitment to first-rate education and its students.
The city of Lake Forest has various wonderful amenities and attractions, but prides itself on lacking the hustle and bustle of Chicago and other nearby Chicagoland towns and cities.
As is the case, when residents of Lake Forest homes get a hankering for some nightlife, they visit the neighboring towns of Lincolnshire, Waukegan, Mundelein and Northbrook, as well as Chicago and others.
A favorite of Chicagoland’s country music enthusiasts is the Mavericks Nightclub in Mundelein, IL. Residents of Lake Forest visit this roadhouse for a night of drinks and dancing. The Mavericks Nightclub offers two dance floors, fun events like hula hoop contests and luau nights, and promises to play country music, and only country music. And in order to stay energized throughout a night of two-stepping, The Mavericks Nightclub menu serves up a wide assortment of American pub fare such as burgers, pizzas and plenty of appetizers of the fried variety. 2061 W Maple Av (Rte 176), Mundelein, IL
When staying close is desired, residents like to cozy up to the warm confines of the Deer path Inn Bar. The Bar is characterized by class and comfort with a dark wood bar, red leather arm chairs, a fire place, dimly-lit lamps and oil paintings on the walls. Residents and visitors alike frequent The Bar at Deer Path Inn for a leisurely night of drinks and to watch sporting events. And The Bar has a brand new sushi bar manned by Master Seang Lao to compliment their Thai cuisine. 255 East Illinois Road
Known as “America’s Original Shopping Center,” Lake Forest’s historic Market Square is the place to be for shopping, dining or just taking a stroll. Resembling a small English market, you’ll find 25 different stores and restaurants to while away the hours amongst a quaint setting. Catch an author luncheon at Lake Forest Book Store or pamper yourself at Victoria’s Day Spa. Peruse the more mainstream stores Williams and Sonoma, J. Crew and Talbots, or treat the little one to something fun at Penny’s from Heaven and The Toy Station. Whatever it is you’re searching for you’re sure to find a good time at Lake Forest’s Market Square.
The Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire is known for their high-quality productions of musicals and children’s plays. Past musicals include classics such as Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady. Children’s plays include all-time favorites Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz.
Lake Forest golf courses at the Onwentsia Club, Conway Farms Golf Club and Deer Path Golf Course offer both a leisurely and competitive experience paired with the lush scenery of this lakeside town. There are many other golf courses within a short distance, including the Chevy Chase Country Club in Wheeling and The Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove.
Restaurants in Lake Forest are sure to please any foodie with a wide variety of culinary delights to choose from including sushi, Italian, Greek, American pub fare, organic fare, seafood, as well as fast food.
A hot spot for fine dining with casual sophistication is Lovell’s of Lake Forest (915 S Waukegan Road). Captain James Lovell, a former astronaut involved in the Apollo 13 missions, opened this restaurant with his wife in 1994. Lovell’s provides fresh, light and vibrant dishes as well as a wine list that has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Bank Lane Bistro (670 Bank Lane) has loads of atmosphere and spectacle with views of historic Market St. framed by the bistro’s large windows as well as the inner workings of its chef manning the helm in their open kitchen. The cuisine at Bank Lane Bistro is rustic and simple, matching steak and potatoes and veggies with elegance and a comfortable setting.
Sushi Kushi Toyo (825 S Waukegan Road) is as fun as its name. On the menu here are Kushi (shishkabobs) as well as delicate sushi and creative rolls like the Chain Saw (tuna, white tuna w/ jalapeno inside, topped w/ spicy tuna, caviar, jalapeno mayo, wasabi mayo & chips). You’ll also find plenty of vegetarian options and a variety of Japanese fare.
One of the Chicagoland area’s favorite summer activities is the Ravinia Festival. Located in neighboring Highland Park, the Ravinia Festival is known as the “sound of summer” and people from all over come to listen to music under the stars. The best thing to do at Ravinia is bring a large blanket, a full picnic basket, a bottle or two of wine, a few candles, and just plant yourself, your friends and family on the large grassy lawn and enjoy the sights and sounds. The live music ranges from the Emerson String Quartet to Sting to The B-52s and everything in between.
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Forest Park Beach has all the sun, surf and sand a beach bum could dream of. With amenities like boat launching ramps, volleyball nets, a fishing pier, sheltered pavilions, walking paths, concession stands and grills, you have everything you need to make a full day out of catching some rays. You can even enroll in sailing classes, or rent a sailboat or kayak for the day. Of course, if you just want to sit back and relax, there’s over 29 acres of beach and grass area to plant your lawn chair.
The Lake Forest Wildlife Discovery Center stands as a monument to the resident’s tireless environmental conservation efforts. The Center has an appreciation for all things great and small and is home to Northern Illinois’s largest reptile exhibit, featuring many of the venomous kind. The Wildlife Discovery Center also has a large outdoor raptor exhibit and provides education programs and summer camps.