Often regarded as part of a single community with Belmont Central, this Northwest Side Chicago borough is a bona fide neighborhood all its own. Cragin is known for its once-dominant Polish heritage—eclipsed by a more recent influx of Latino families—and local culture stemmed from the days of industrial prosperity.

A population of middle-class, blue-collar workers helped establish Cragin’s largely residential landscape. The densely-packed blocks north of Grand Avenue, south of Roscoe Street, west of Cicero Avenue and east of Central Avenue are lined with a diverse choice of housing stock. One street may have row after row of classic Chicago bungalows, while the next street is filled with a variety of vintage cottages, frame houses and two-flats. The majority of Cragin homes have front and back yards, covered with green grass lawns and affording a little piece of private outdoor space in the concrete jungle of big city living.

There are restaurants, shops and businesses along Cragin’s main roads, which include Belmont, Diversey, Fullerton and Armitage avenues running east-west; and Central, Laramie and Cicero avenues running north-south. A Metra station is located at the far southeast corner of the neighborhood at Grand and Cicero. Other than that, public transportation is limited to bus routes since there aren’t any L stops in the area.

Cragin has a fair number of public recreation spots within its limits, of which Blackhawk Park and Cragin Park are the largest and most well-known. The original designs for Blackhawk Park were drawn up by notable landscape architect Jens Jensen, who did the plans for many of Chicago’s most beautiful open green spaces. Blackhawk Park’s amenities were later updated and added to by Walter Alschager, an architect with the likes of downtown Chicago’s InterContinental building to his credit. Among the improvements were a pool house that offers year-round swimming lessons to this day. People can also come to Blackhawk Park to play tennis, baseball, basketball and other sports, as well as let the little ones burn off some extra energy on the playground equipment.

Dining in Cragin is sufficient for those pizza fixes, taco cravings and other traditional fast food-style outings. But there is also a showing of tasty delicatessens, snack shops, bar & grills, a seafood restaurant and specialty cuisine options that make this Chicago neighborhood a surprisingly good place to satiate your appetite. After grabbing a bite, the local crowd filters into local pubs (where TVs are generally tuned to the appropriate Chicago sports game) and local clubs (where the music is generally tuned to something danceable).

Only ten miles from the Chicago Loop, Cragin is a still a proverbial hop, skip and jump away from the city’s main attractions. However, its further out location buffers the community from major congestion and other issues that plaque the more urban neighborhoods of Chicago.