Highland Park was established as a city on March 11, 1869, with a population of 500, and evolved from two settlements — St. John and Port Clinton. Highland Park was named from its parklike setting at a lofty elevation relative to the lake, and was given its name from Walter S. Gurnee. The town annexed the village of Ravinia in 1899.
Highland Park has several attractions including a vibrant downtown shopping district and the Ravinia Festival. Ravinia Festival is an open-air pavilion seating 3,200, which hosts classical, pop and jazz concerts in the summers. It has been the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1936.
Highland Park has several landmark structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places, notably the Willits House by Frank Lloyd Wright. In addition to several houses designed by Wright, the National Register lists homes designed by prominent architects including John S. Van Bergen, Howard Van Doren Shaw, Robert E. Seyfarth, and David Adler. Landscape architect Jens Jensen lived in Highland Park and designed a number of projects in the community that are listed on the register.
There are three public beaches in Highland Park: Rosewood Beach, Moraine Beach (part of which is available for off-leash dogs) and Park Avenue Beach (which also has a boating facility). Highland Park is also home to the North Shore Yacht Club.