Visit Oak Park is now online only

Local tourism organization launches new website

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park is a place "where small town charm meets urban attitude," according to the new website launched in mid-June by the local tourism organization Visit Oak Park. The website ( guides visitors on what to do, where to go, what to eat, and more in Oak Park and 17 other communities in the western suburbs.

The website aims to appeal to a more tech-savvy audience that tends to focus on online guides in lieu of dropping in on visitor centers.

That was the logic behind the move last year to close the Oak Park Visitor Center, 1010 Lake St., and instead use state and local tourism promotion dollars for online marketing and magazine ads in publications like Better Homes & Gardens, Midwest Living, Travel + Leisure and Family Circle.

Visit Oak Park historically has spent about $150,000 of its $734,500 annual budget on the visitor center. 

The new website highlights Oak Park's architectural history, restaurants, outdoor adventures, arts, shopping and nightlife. The interactive website offers video, articles, photos and maps to give visitors a blueprint to the village.

Eric Wagner, Visit Oak Park's president and CEO, said in a telephone interview that "the idea is to get [visitors] to discover everything we have and stay longer and spend more money."

He described the website as a "digital magazine" for consumers coming to the area.

Visit Oak Park also is partnering with Riverside and Brookfield to help with their tourism marketing efforts.

He noted the revamped Visit Oak Park is focusing on social media and digital marketing to bring greater "brand awareness" to the village. The marketing effort is largely digital this year, but the organization plans to expand its effort next year, including more on print publications, billboards or television ads, he said.

"For us, it's really about trying to reach as many people as we can," Wagner said. 

He acknowledged that the closure of the visitor center came with some controversy, but "we wanted to be strategic to get people to come here."

Visit Oak Park is now replicating the effort in Brookfield and Riverside, creating a "micro-tourism" website for those communities.

Wagner said the new Visit Oak Park site is going to expand over time, and his office already is getting a positive response from tourists.

"We're going to build on what we've got and our partnerships with other communities," he said.

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Reader Comments

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Christine Vernon  

Posted: July 24th, 2019 6:47 AM

The article says, "Visit Oak Park historically has spent about $150,000 of its $734,500 annual budget on the visitor center." If that money were put toward the acquisition and purchase of a site for the proposed Visitor Center, in an appropriately-zoned commercial place, not on a residentially-zoned lot for their proposed 8,000sq ft Visitor Center - instead of needlessly knocking down an Italianate house the FLW Home and Studio has contributed to deteriorating while at the same time taking the property off the tax rolls, it would be a much more responsible and honest choice and better use of their money.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 22nd, 2019 10:42 PM

Tens of thousands of tax dollars were squandered by Pope, Johnson, Luecke and the rest of a recent Village Board and shipped out of state to pay for a wacky and confusing ad campaign designed to promote local tourism. "Step out of Line" was presented as a unique and dynamic approach to attracting attention to Oak Park. Incorporating a strange and unattractive logo, that effort to generate new revenue for our community proved to be exactly what critics had predicted. A total bust! Now, here we go again. A new board of trustees didn't hesitate to toss more of our money to "get people to come here". Talk to many of those who do visit Oak Park and hear how often they were slapped with a $33 parking ticket after dining,shopping or experiencing our "charm". They sure picked up on that "attitude" and won't be returning any time soon.

Michelle Jensen  

Posted: July 22nd, 2019 9:29 AM

I'd like to suggest the signs on Lake Street directing people to the center be removed. I've spent many a weekend morning answering questions from those seeking information at the center, as I walked my dogs at Scoville Park. It's a shame that it's gone.

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