Located 30 miles west of Chicago, Naperville, Illinois, is a substantial city of about 143,000 that succeeds in striking a balance between man and nature. Tourists visiting Naperville experience this dynamic firsthand while exploring the landscape of green spaces and waterways, lined by historic buildings and modern structures.
The DuPage River is one of the main attractions in Naperville and a reason for boaters traveling north to Chain O’Lakes or east to Chicago’s marinas to stop over in this city. Hydrophiles and any newcomers should start a tour at Riverwalk, a brick walkway of about 2 miles that escorts visitors along the DuPage, presenting new charms with each season. The backdrop of covered bridges, native landscaping and man-made fountains typifies the city’s harmonious relationship with nature, while lively entertainment and commerce hum on the surrounding streets.
Riverwalk is located downtown near City Hall. Outdoor lunchtime and evening concerts encourage loitering in warm months—at other times, sightseers drift onto adjacent streets to dine and shop. Downtown enterprises such as bookshops, a designer fabric store, jewelers and resale shops keep browsers busy. Stop in a street-side café like Features Bar & Grill on Chicago Avenue or hit Main Street Promenade for national chain stores and unique dining spots. Hugo’s Frog Bar and Fish House is the Naperville outpost of the classic Chicago seafood and steak house. Wood-oven-baked pies from Pizzeria Neo reflect the area’s roots in settlement by Italian immigrants and Italy’s influence on local architecture.
The Naperville community celebrates diverse ethnic backgrounds, dedicating the month of May as Heritage Month. That is a good time take a self-guided walking tour of historic homes, many of which are prime examples of Italianate architecture. The style, reminiscent of Italian country villas, was popular in the late 19th century in the Chicago area. You can get maps of hundreds of view-worthy homes, including Chicago Avenue’s ritzy manors, from Naper Settlement, a local history museum on Webster Street, just off Riverwalk.
Another of the major attractions in Naperville, Naper Settlement offers 12 acres of historical immersion and interaction. Old-fashioned gardens decorate restored structures that were once part of the George Martin estate, including an 1883 residence and carriage house. Visitors can tour the grounds and an exhibition gallery or a special kids’ History Connection display, for hands-on fun.
Those visiting Naperville will likely catch sight or sound of its most famous building, Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon. Built in 1999, the Riverwalk Park landmark houses one of the world’s biggest carillons. Its 72 bronze bells are played by resident and guest carilloneurs throughout the year. Tourists can climb the tower to get a view of the DuPage River and the city from the open-air observation deck on the 14th story.
From the deck, many green spaces stand out, especially those along the river to the north, such as Burlington and Wil-o-Way Commons Parks. The view from above lets visitors see Naperville’s intense connection between nature and community, from the grandest of perspectives.