The Oregon Trail

Running parallel to and south of the I-90 Northwest Tollway, old US-20 approaches Chicago from the northwest past Schaumberg and O’Hare Airport before bending south near Oak Park (pop. 51,774), Chicago’s most interesting suburb. Just 10 miles west of the Loop, easily reachable at the end of the Lake-Dan Ryan CTA “L” line, this sleepy but well-heeled neighborhood was the boyhood home of Ernest Hemingway, and before that Oak Park was the home and proving ground of America’s best-known architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (951 Chicago Ave., 312/994-4000, daily, $18) for a fascinating look into the life and work of the great architect. Take a guided tour of the house he designed, remodeling almost constantly between 1889 and 1909 as his practice, and his family, grew. He also completed many other buildings in this turn-of-the-20th-century suburb, including the austere classic Unity Temple.

Oak Park has good transit connections to Chicago and makes a pretty good alternative base, thanks to the Harvey House B&B (107 S. Scoville Ave., 708/848-6810, $199 and up), which is no relation to the famous 1920s railroad hotels but offers comfortable rooms within walking distance of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple and the Oak Park CTA “L” station.