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Woodridge town focus

This growing suburb offers a vibrant mix of recreational and entertainment attractions that appeal to residents and visitors alike. 

As its name denotes, Woodridge is a community that was fashioned from a pocket of land nestled in the woods and set atop high ground above the DuPage River. While homes and businesses have remarkably changed the landscape since it was officially founded in the late 1950s by a local home developer, Woodridge is still known for its sloping hills, ridges, curved roads and small lakes that lend a certain country charm to this western suburb.

Just as it has footings in two counties — Will and DuPage — Woodridge is a community of different facets, offering myriad opportunities for recreation, entertainment, dining, shopping and corporate life. And, of course, for its 33,000-plus residents, there are all the amenities and necessities for everyday living.

Beyond the tangibles, there is a certain spirit that draws people to Woodridge, which borders Naperville, Downers Grove, Darien, Lemont, Bolingbrook and Lisle. That hometown spirit drew current Mayor Gina Cunningham back more than once.

“I’ve lived in Woodridge for 50 years. I moved here when my parents bought their first home and have lived in Woodridge most of my adult, life, too. A few years ago, my husband and I had moved to Peoria as he was finishing work there, and as soon as he retired, I said, ‘Why don’t we move back? It’s home for me,’ ” Cunningham recalls, adding, “We absolutely love it here, because of the people, the businesses and the community. It has so much to offer, and this community has such a giving heart.”

Tim Troy, co-head professional at Zigfield Troy Golf with his brother, Dennis, remembers when Woodridge was much more rural in nature. His father, who owned golf ranges in Chicago, moved the family business to Woodridge in 1976, starting Zigfield Troy Golf and, later, Lost Mountain Adventure Golf. “The first time I was in Woodridge, 75th Street was a two-lane road — it’s now six lanes. And back then, if we wanted to get something to eat, we’d have to go to 63rd Street to the 7-Eleven,” recalls Troy.

While Woodridge has grown and expanded, Troy echoes Cunningham’s sentiments about the spirit of the community. “Overall, Woodridge is similar to what it was back then — people want a nice place to raise their families and they are interested in recreation. The village and park district have had a great attitude about making life pleasant and fun here,” he says.

Like Cunningham, longtime resident Henry Risic chose to stay in town and inspired his family to maintain Woodridge ties, too.

“The fact that we have not moved away and still live in the home we purchased 40 years ago says much about our love for this community,” says Ristic, who moved to Woodridge in 1977 to raise his family with his wife. “Our children have started their own families and our daughter lives within walking distance of her childhood home. We enjoy this community and its diverse residents. We appreciate the tree-lined streets, the many parks near our home and the peacefulness the town has always provided. Being able to walk about safely and watch our grandchildren play their sports in well-maintained facilities is a big reason for us to remain here.”

A similar enthusiasm for the town’s family-friendly attributes is shared by village administrator Al Stonitsch. “There is a continual involvement in the community, especially with new housing developments that are growing and selling. We have a nice diversity, and we are seeing a lot of young families,” he says.

The fact that Woodridge is accessible due to the crossroads of I-355 and I-55 and is near Metra stations in nearby Downers Grove and Lisle also fuels the community’s eclectic composition of people and places, Stonitsch adds.

 A relatively young suburb compared to other nearby towns, Woodridge is still expanding. “Currently, we have three new housing developments going in,” says Cunningham, adding that the village’s first senior living community opened last year.

Whether visitors are looking to buy or rent a home, enjoy the natural setting or simply want to roam around a western suburb they haven’t explored before, people can check out any number of things to do and see in Woodridge.

Heart of the Community:  A Partnership Between the Village and the Park District 

Along a winding road off some busy nearby thoroughfares, one comes across a campus of sorts, with well-kept brick and glass buildings that are as equally pristine inside as their façades. Unlike neighboring towns built along railroad tracks, there is no main downtown district in Woodridge, but there is a central hub.

 

Woodridge Town Center, for which a city master plan was formulated in 2014, was a combined initiative of the Village of Woodridge and the Woodridge Park District. The area, anchored by Village Hall, Woodridge Public Library, the U.S. post office and the village’s police and public works building, is a community focal point that integrate civic, park and educational facilities, all within a scenic setting of lakes, woods and prairies.

Even on a dreary winter day, the library is awash with light, thanks to the many windows that rim the perimeter and the open, lofty design of the interior. Woodridge Public Library offers a host of events and programs for all ages, from baby and parent/caregiver classes to programs for seniors and adults on topics ranging from tax preparation to learning how to play Sudoku.

Across the street and down the road a bit from Town Center, the Woodridge Park District building is a community hub. The district offers more than 1,000 programs a year and oversees more than 60 parks and public lands and spaces that span more than 650 acres.

Last year, the district opened the new Athletic Recreation Center (ARC) on Janes Avenue, a multimillion-dollar fitness facility featuring a multi-activity gym, an artificial turf field, fitness equipment and other amenities.

As a new year begins, there is an eye to the future with additional growth in this part of the community.

 

“There are acres that haven’t been developed that will be part of our Town Center area,” says Cunningham, noting that plans include a sled hill, a gazebo area for picnicking and more walking trails.

Dreams of Summer: Cypress Cove

Woodridge Park District runs one of the town’s most popular attractions in the warm-weather months — Cypress Cove Family Aquatic Park. While it doesn’t open until Memorial Day, the bayou-themed water park was designed to take advantage of the natural and wetland areas around it.

Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, Cypress Cove features a main pool, body slides, drop slides, a tube slide and areas for younger children, including smaller slides, sprays and bubblers and a sandy area. A lazy river winds around Crocodile Isle, a woodsy spot to watch the tubers float by.

Follow the Links: Golf

While springing ahead to the more temperate time of year, one may also want to think about hitting the links at one of the many golf courses in Woodridge.

A green jewel of this western suburb is Seven Bridges Golf Club, a championship-class, four star-rated public course that features seven namesake bridges that span the 18 holes. In addition to an on-site restaurant, clubhouse and banquet facility, the club offers a variety of special events throughout the year, beginning with a spring scramble in April and continuing with a “Stogies and Bogies” event, a “Spirits Showcase” in the summer, and the Oktoberfest Golf Classic and annual turkey shoot.

“Seven Bridges has been a good success story. The course is a regional attraction,” says Stonitsch.

Village Greens of Woodridge is another popular golfing destination. Operated by the village and park district, the 6,638-yard, 18-hole public course is known for its reasonable greens fees and sporty and scenic layout.

For a quicker round, practice facilities or just plain family fun, visitors can try Zigfield Troy Golf, a 9-hole, par-three course. “It’s a good place to get introduced to golf or for golfers to get their golf fix,” says Troy. The facility offers a comprehensive lesson program, with five PGA pros on staff to instruct all levels and ages of golfers. “We typically have 200 kids in our junior training program,” adds Troy.

Next door on 75th Street is Lost Mountain Adventure Golf, one of the best spots for miniature golf in the western suburbs. Also run by the Troys, the course winds around a three-level, 22-ft waterfall. Group outings and parties are available at Lost Mountain as well.

Hit the Rinks: Seven Bridges Ice Arena

It may be cold enough this time of year to skate outside on frozen ponds and rinks, but the Seven Bridges Ice Arena is busy all year long with games, tournaments, lessons and other skating-related events and opportunities.

“It may be hard to imagine, but there are about 1.1 million people who visit that facility in a year. It’s a huge draw into town,” says Stonitsch.

Seven Bridges Ice Arena, billed as a multi-purpose sports facility, includes an NHL regulation-sized rink and an Olympic-sized rink, along with a nearly 13,760-sq-ft turf field for other sports and activities. The facility also has an in-house Blue Line Bar & Grill and Ice Café serving a choice of food and snacks.

Seven Bridges is home ice for Team Illinois, along with the Huskies hockey club, Benet Academy hockey club, Bridgedale Academy Hockey and Naperville North Hockey. Various in-house leagues for youth and adults are available, as are a variety of figure skating programs and public skating times. Also offered are a number of learn-to-skate classes for all ages.

Shopping and Dining

Although it doesn’t have a central business district, Woodridge is home to a variety of stores and restaurants. Near Seven Bridges Golf Club, for example, there is a mixed-use retail/dining/residential area that attracts visitors and residents alike.

In addition to homes, townhomes and senior living, this part of town includes dining spots like Jam & Jelly Café, Crab & Spice (see page 80), Chef Soon Contemporary Sushi and Bar, Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery.

Another dining destination in this neck of the woods is the popular Clara’s, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Its history is tied to the Mama Celeste brand of Italian food products: the family’s matriarch was Celeste Lizio, who ran a restaurant and later sold her Italian specialty foods to local grocery stores and later, to the Quaker Oats Brand.

Today, Clara’s — named for one of Celeste’s daughters who took over the restaurant — features a host of family favorites on its menu. Beyond authentic pasta dishes, Clara’s house specialties include baked chicken with portobello mushrooms and salmon florentine.

The other well-traveled roads in Woodridge, Route 53 and 75th Street, are lined with eateries like Aurelio’s Pizza, Carrabba’s, Shanahan’s, Zoup!, Jameson’s Charhouse, Cooper’s Hawk and Home Run Inn Pizza. The latter two have multiple locations but are headquartered in Woodridge.

One newer venue is Skeleton Key Brewery, run by a self-described “brother, sister and husband team” who wanted to share their brewing know-how with home brewers through classes and a one-on-one incubator program for aspiring brewery owners.

Looking for a unique craft beer? The taproom at Skeleton Key has pours like “Migratory” Toasted Coconut Golden Ale, “Saudade” Witbier with Sour Cherries and “It’s a Toaster, Frank” Mexican Hot Cocoa Porter. Stop by on one of the days that Skeleton Key hosts the Roaming Hog Food Truck, for “porc-centric deliciousness.”

A variety of retail stores — both locally owned businesses and national chains — cater to the interests of residents, whether it’s equestrian supplies (The Riding Store), swimming supplies (Swimmers Edge), jewelry (Paolucci Jewelers and Friedman & Sons, among others) or woodworking tools and supplies (Woodcraft), to name a few.

At the Movies

The silver screen is alive and well in Woodridge thanks to major movie theaters, including one of the suburbs’ only IMAX Theaters located within the Cinemark Seven Bridges multiplex.

Hollywood Boulevard is a dine-in theater where a comfortable setting and wait-service add to the movie-watching experience. Items on an extensive menu of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and desserts have whimsical names — like the Arnold Schwarzenburger, the Eating Nemo fish sandwich, or Lord of the Onion Rings. An added bonus is the wide range of movie memorabilia on display for cinema buffs.

Hollywood Boulevard sponsors special events and guest appearances. There’s a movie trivia night on January 16 and a Hollywood & Vine wine-tasting event on Jan. 20, with screenings of “Bridesmaids” and “It’s Complicated.”

Other Highlights

  • Given its open spaces and geography, Woodridge is a prime spot for biking, with nearly 35 miles of paths and bikeways that link to other area trails.

  • Woodridge is close to Waterfall Glen, one of the region’s most scenic natural attractions, complete with a waterfall, woodlands, prairies and savannahs. Waterfall Glen and Green Valley, another resource-rich attraction, are part of the DuPage County Forest Preserve.

  • Another entertainment-recreation pastime in Woodridge is bowling at Brunswick Zone. The spot also offers billiards, pool and video games.

  • The Rotary Club sponsors an annual mini-triathlon, which began 17 years ago and attracts people from throughout the area. Other community events include a Jubilee fishing derby in June and an Indian Summer festival in September.

This article appeared in the January 2018 issue of West Suburban Living.

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