Naperville’s downtown offers a little something for everybody

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Pat Shanower lays a bouquet of flowers at the Commander Dan Shanower September 11 Memorial on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011. The Shanowers visited the memorial to give an interview to Naperville North television students working on a video about the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Jeff Cagle / For Sun-Times Media

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Take a look at the phone book, a website or just by looking at the city of Naperville itself, it’s very easy to know there’s a lot to see and do.

But as the mild winter turns into hopefully a pleasant spring, what particular destinations are catching residents’ and visitors’ eyes in Naperville?

Something to see

Many people will head to cultural and educational sites.

From whimsical architectural destinations like the Dandelion Fountain to the city’s growing public art display Century Walk, downtown Naperville offers many moving visual experiences.

There are also plenty of opportunities to learn about local history, ranging from the contemporary — the Commander. Dan Shanower/September 11 Memorial on the Naperville Riverwalk — to the olden days at Naper Settlement.

According to Nancy Smith, Naper Settlement’s Director of Learning Experiences, visitors are focusing a lot of their attention on the Blacksmith Shop, Martin Mitchell Mansion, the Log House and Copenhagen Schoolhouse.

Naper Settlement starts its summer season in April with a six-month lineup packed with a variety of events. A guidebook to the summer season, whose theme this year is “Celebrating the American Spirit” will be mailed to Naperville residents during the second week in April, according to Smith.

Just south and west of Naper Settlement is the Friends of Naperville’s Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon. Located along the Riverwalk near Rotary Hill, the carillon is currently closed for the season, but will reopen in the spring for tours to the top, according to the Carillon’s website. And plenty of summer events are in store including recitals by some of the top carilloneurs from around the world Tuesdays June 7 through Aug. 23.

Something to hear

Looking toward its fourth anniversary later this year, North Central College’s Wentz Concert Hall, located at Chicago Avenue and Ellsworth Street, continues to draw audiences from all over the area with its lineup of musical talent.

What the audience hears at Wentz is on the top of the list why to go there. But also important is the atmosphere created to hear the music.

“We did not scrimp on the acoustics of the hall. On a scale of 1 to 10, the charge was to make this space a 10 and we succeeded,” said Brian Lynch, NCC’s Fine Arts Director. “It is the finest hall I have ever had the privilege of performing in, period. As far as audience comfort, the space is visually stunning when you enter the room. The seats are invitingly comfortable, so it is a necessity to sit back and relax. But, as I am fond of telling anyone new to the space, the room looks and feels beautiful, but it sounds even better. It is a true gem.”

In the coming months, there will be plenty of opportunities to visit Wentz and hear North Central and local musical talent. Two major highlights this spring include the Canadian Brass performing on April 14 and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra coming to Wentz on May 19.

Something to do

Downtown Naperville has a buffet of restaurant and bar possibilities along with stores that can fill most shopping needs and wishes.

The Lantern, located Chicago Avenue and Washington Street, was welcomed back in early February. The bar/restaurant, a Naperville fixture since 1966, reopened after a three-month closure due to an ownership transfer and maintenance work.

La Sorella di Francesca, the Italian restaurant located at 18 W. Jefferson Ave. in the old city hall, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Want to take a break from your downtown activities? Central Park, located at 104 E. Benton Ave., is easily accessible from the downtown area and provides a respite for those wanting to have their lunch outside or just enjoy a great weather day. Also on the 3.78-acre site is a children’s playground. The Naperville Municipal Band will return to its Central Park home this summer for another season of music.