In the early 1800s, Chicago began expanding, and as it did, merchants traveled to and from the city by stagecoach along the old Indian trail known as “The Ridge.” The Ridge, which was also referred to by the merchants at the time as “Green Bay Road,” stretched along the shore of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago all the way to Fort Green Bay in Wisconsin. The early days of what is now Evanston began in 1836 as “Ridgeville Township,” with the opening of a tavern and community center for weary business travelers. In 1851, John Evans established a Methodist-affiliated institution soon to be called Northwestern University. Named after John Evans, Evanston was officially a town in 1854. Following the Chicago fire of 1871, Evanston quickly became a haven for displaced residents who were able to afford to build new homes, making Evanston an architect’s dream and expanding the city center, bringing in business and culture.
Today, Evanston remains a gem of what is known as the “North Shore” of Chicago, being home to non-profit organizations and world class arts organizations, while the livelihood of Evanston centers mainly on Northwestern University. The only private university in the Big Ten conference with over 16,000 students, (about half of those undergrads and half graduate students) Northwestern University is well known for the Medill School of Journalism, the School of Communication-which uniquely includes the highly acclaimed Department of Theatre-and the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Graduate programs such as the Kellogg School of Business, School of Law and the Feinberg School of Medicine draw students from all over the world.
Friday night before a home football game in Evanston does not reveal quite the same ‘competitive’ atmosphere that you might find in other Big Ten towns. You won’t see a lot of opposing fans decked out in their school gear wandering the streets of Evanston, or talking friendly trash in the local bars about tomorrow’s game. That’s because when people travel from out of town for Northwestern sporting events, they almost always stay in nearby Chicago. Less than 15 miles south of Evanston, Chicago is the obvious choice for eating and sightseeing in the area. But unless this one trip to Northwestern University will be your one and only chance to ever experience the city of Chicago in your lifetime, then we here at TourTheTen.com highly encourage you to spend the majority of your visit in Evanston. Situated along the shores and beaches of Lake Michigan, Evanston is a vibrant, diverse University town full of great food, exciting nightlife and a diverse arts scene. There is also, of course, the stunning NU campus.
So if you’re taking a road trip to NU, deck yourself out in your team gear, dine on some amazing food at a local restaurant, drink some Goose Island beer at a local pub with some NU fans and start your best school chant. Evanston is fantastic on its own, but we’d love to see some more Big Ten spirit surrounding game weekends!