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Downtown Naperville: Get To Know These 12 Local Gems

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Downtown Naperville, IL

If you’ve had the opportunity to travel around the U.S., a question you’ll undoubtedly be asked at some point is “So, where are you from?” …

For us, it’s originally Chicago, but having lived in Naperville for 20+ years, we’re recently taken to answering the question with “Naperville” and gauging the reactions …

Without fail, people around the country know Naperville, and usually know someone who lives or works here as well. A western suburb of Chicago, Naperville has come into its own. So much so, that it’s now among the five largest cities in Illinois, with a population approaching 145,000.

Naperville is a large, sprawling city encompassing many miles in area, but the most identifying characteristic of Naperville is the downtown area, nestled on the banks of the DuPage River …

So, it’s Downtown Naperville we’ll be spotlighting in this travelogue … in particular twelve local gems you really ought to know. Some are well known and some are not, but they’re all locally loved! And the “local” is what MidwestRiverCities.com is all about …

Naperville’s River

Naperville makes the cut as a Midwest River City due to the DuPage River. The river cuts right through downtown and was the inspiration for Naperville’s famous Riverwalk (see below). Named after its county of origin (Naperville sits predominantly in DuPage County), the river is actually comprised of two individual streams (the east and west branches) which join together south of downtown.




Ultimately, the DuPage River empties into the Des Plaines River, which in turn empties into the Illinois River. Finally, the Illinois River flows into the Mississippi near the Quad Cities area …

Getting Near The River

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The Crown Jewel of Naperville

#1 – Naperville Riverwalk: Described by residents as downtown Naperville’s crown jewel, the Riverwalk has been the focal point of the downtown area since its unveiling in 1981.

Conceived by community leaders as a gift to the city to commemorate Naperville’s 150 year anniversary, the Riverwalk stretches 1.75 miles along the north bank of the DuPage River. It’s reserved for foot traffic only, and at any time of year you’ll see residents and visitors alike strolling the brick lined path and enjoying the scenic river surroundings …

A model attraction for many other Midwestern cities, the Riverwalk is a perfect place to get up can close to the river, not to mention reaping the benefits of fresh air and exercise. The path stretches the length of downtown (and then some) and takes you in close proximity to other downtown attractions, like Centennial Beach, the Millenium Carillon, Fredenhagen Park, and more.




You’ll also see many works of art along the Riverwalk, including a delightful sculpture dedicated to the many family pets in Naperville, who you’ll frequently meet on your stroll!

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The Patio At Peanuts, Naperville

#2 – Peanuts Bar & Grill: Downtown Naperville has its share of upscale establishments and eateries, so it’s especially noteworthy to find a local gem where good food and drink won’t put a strain on your wallet …

Located on Chicago Avenue a half block west of Washington, Peanuts Bar & Grill has been a downtown favorite for over ten years. Boasting an impressive draught beer selection and terrific hamburgers (and more), Peanuts offers an outdoor patio that’s second to none in terms of a river view. You literally can’t get closer without getting wet …

A casual place with a casual menu serving bar fare and a few Greek inspired dishes, Peanuts is home to possibly the best jukebox in Naperville. Whatever your musical tastes, you’ll find it on their jukebox. There’s also a private party balcony area overlooking the river, and summer evenings occasionally feature live local music …

If you’re looking for a fun, relaxed spot to enjoy a few libations in the company of good friends, Peanuts fits the bill …

Downtown Naperville’s Local Attractions

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Map of Centennial Beach, Naperville

#3 – Centennial Beach: Located at the western end of Jackson Avenue walking distance from the heart of downtown, Centennial Beach dates back to 1931, owing its name to Naperville’s 100 year anniversary …




Originally a stone quarry, Centennial Beach features a zero depth entry and maximum depth of 15 feet, making it ideal for swimmers of all levels and ages.

Both residents and guests are welcome at what’s known as “Naperville’s Swimming Hole” and the beach is a popular gathering spot all summer long. Equally appealing is the nearby Paddleboat Quarry where paddle boats can be rented by the hour …

Recently completely renovated, Centennial Beach offers bathhouse facilities for changing and special hours for adult swim. Truly a unique experience, the beach is a can’t miss agenda item on any visit to downtown Naperville …

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The Carillon

#4 – Millenium Carillon: For the best view in Naperville, visit the Millenium Carillon and climb the 253 steps to the top. Built to commemorate the 21st century, the Carillon stands 158 feet tall and is accessible from the Riverwalk.

The Carillon’s cadre of bells chime at the quarter hour and special concerts are presented various times of the year. Tours of the Carillon are available, and there’s an elevator to the top if climbing stairs is not your thing …

Visible from anywhere in the downtown area, the Carillon has become as synonymous with the Naperville area as the Riverwalk and Centennial Beach …

Spend The Night In Downtown Naperville

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Harrison House Bed & Breakfast

#5 – Harrison House Bed & Breakfast

Downtown is now home to a brand new hotel, the Hotel Indigo, located in the burgeoning Water Street complex on the river’s south bank. For something a little quieter and of more historic value, follow the local’s lead and have your guests experience the Harrison House Bed & Breakfast …




Conveniently located on Eagle Street just a short walk to the heart of downtown, the Harrison House dates back to 1904. It has been completely renovated and offers all the modern conveniences any visitor desires amidst period furniture and antiques.

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Historic Lodging in Naperville

Featuring five rooms and freshly prepared gourmet breakfasts, the Harrison House provides elegant yet affordable accommodations for those wanting a break from chain hotels.

For complete details and to book, visit their website at HarrisonHouseBB.com

The Oldest Bar In Naperville

#6 – The Lantern Bar & Grill

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Naperville’s Oldest Bar: The Lantern

In the heart of downtown at the corner of Washington Street and Chicago Avenue, you’ll find Naperville’s oldest bar, The Lantern. Beloved by generations of Napervillians, this is a true community gathering spot welcoming all in search of good food and a good time …

Officially established in 1966 (although the site has housed a bar since 1961), The Lantern is well known for their burgers, wings, and chili. They’re also known for their eclectic, well chosen draught beer selection. For those who prefer a straightforward American classic, keep this bit of trivia in mind … The Lantern sells more Budweiser than any other single bar in Illinois. In fact, at their 40th anniversary party some years ago, the famed Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses paid an in person visit …




Insider Tip: In addition to bar favorites like burgers, chili, grilled cheese sandwiches and the like, The Lantern also serves an outstanding Cobb Salad. So, if you’ve got a craving for greens, you won’t be disappointed …

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Bakery?

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Dark Horse Pastries

#7 – Dark Horse Pastries

Tucked into a small building just steps from Peanuts and The Lantern on Chicago Avenue is the creative and very appealing Dark Horse Pastries. Featuring artisan desserts, special occasion cakes, and all the bakery standards you know and love, Dark Horse Bakery is the go to spot in downtown for baked deliciousness …

Taking a look at the small space (a former house), you’ll wonder how the bakery is able to produce all the baked fresh goods they offer daily. Specials abound, like 1/2 price donuts on Monday, and an array of breakfast and lunch sandwiches are available as well …

Open seven days a week, Dark Horse Pastries is the element every river city’s downtown needs … a great bakery!

Can’t Miss Independent Shopping

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Naper Nuts & Sweets

Downtown Naperville certainly isn’t lacking in shopping options … it’s one of the go to destinations for shoppers in the Chicagoland area. From fashion to services to technology to unique gifts and much more, you’ll find it here in the downtown area’s 100+ shops …

Since we’re all about featuring independent businesses, we’d like to spotlight two especially appealing and unique shopping options. As an added bonus, they’re only a half a block apart!




#8 on our list is Naper Nuts & Sweets, located a few doors west of Washington Street on Jefferson Avenue. As the name implies, you’ll find extensive offerings of roasted nuts and confections of all types. Fresh popcorn will be popping as you enter the store, and the hardest part about shopping will be deciding which of the many treats to buy!

Naper Nuts and Sweets also carries an extensive selection of retro candies, so if you’re a grown up looking to satisfy your inner child, you’ll find the goods here …

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Eclectic Shopping: Room 363

#9: Half a block down on Washington on the east side of the street is the eclectic and approachable Room 363, which you’ll instantly recognize from the creative displays outside the store front. Room 363 is housed in an old home, and as you move room to room inside, you’ll find a wide array of unique and surprisingly affordable items like jewelry, personal care items, home decor, gifts for everyone on your list, fashion, and more …

Embodying the true spirit of the best of independent shopping, Room 363 is a destination store offering an ever evolving selection of goods you won’t find elsewhere. Guys, it’s a great place to shop for gifts for that special lady in your life!

Take Time For Fitness

If feeling invigorated, energetic, and fit is on your agenda, you should know about this independent business tucked on the second floor of the Egg Harbor Restaurant building on Jackson Avenue, across from the Naperville Library …

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Work Up A Sweat At Handlebars!

They’re #10 on our list, Handlebars Cycling Gym and Health Bar. The emphasis here is energized, low impact indoor cycling classes offered both mornings and evenings with classes held seven days a week.

In addition to the great workouts, one of the most appealing aspects of Handlebars is their easy online scheduling. Unlike other gyms, there are no long term contracts or commitments. Even if you’re simply visiting Naperville for a day or two, you can sign up for one of their classes online and pay as you go …




The cycling studio accommodates 14 riders per session, which are challenging yet appropriate for any level of fitness. You’ll get the motivational benefits of working out with a small group, yet maintain the flexibility to adapt the workout to your own preferences …

Sign up for a class and you’ll see a wide range of ages … from high school to the edge of senior citizen. The classes are fun, the music is energetic, the instructors are encouraging and motivating … and the workout is low impact and ultra efficient. Best of all, onsite changing rooms allow you to go directly from your workout to exploring the best of downtown Naperville just steps away.

More Local Gems In Downtown Naperville

If you’re familiar with downtown Naperville, you’re probably familiar with several of the local gems we’ve spotlighted, but there’s two others you should know about. Read on!

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A Picnic At Fredenhagen Park

#11 – Fredenhagen Park: Located on the eastern portion of the Riverwalk and serving as the gateway to North Central College, Fredenhagen Park was built on land donated to the city by the family of the same name. It features beautifully landscaped plants and greenery, picnic tables, and a large Memories Fountain as its centerpiece …

The bricks surrounding the fountain are available for purchase by residents, with inscriptions commemorating people, events, and even beloved pets. The park is a few dozen yards across Washington Street from The Lantern, and it’s an excellent spot for a picnic with or without a special furry friend …

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An Under The Radar Naperville Gem

#12 – Delzo’s Pizza Kitchen: This newcomer to downtown is located on Chicago Avenue on the north end of Fredenhagen Park. A popular place for students of nearby North Central College, Delzo’s Pizza Kitchen is also an excellent option for a casual meal at affordable prices.

Primarily a take out place, Delzo’s has a few tables inside for those wishing to enjoy their pizza, sandwiches, and signature “P’Gato’s” …

The P’Gato is very similar to a calzone … kind of a folded Italian style sandwich. They’re available in a handful of varieties and they’re really good! You won’t go wrong with the pizza, Italian Beef, or meatball sandwiches either …

Delzo’s Pizza Kitchen is just steps away from Fredenhagen Park, the Chicago Avenue Parking Garage, The Lantern, and just about anywhere else in downtown Naperville. Give them a try!

Enjoy Downtown Naperville!

For More Information, Visit: DowntownNaperville.com

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