In the springtime, Chicago lives up to its official city motto Urbs In Horto — “City in a Garden.” Our countless parks, green spaces, and sparkling waterfront (not to mention world-class museums, stunning architecture, and exciting events) make Chicago a truly spectacular spring break destination.
Here’s our guide to planning an unforgettable spring break in Chicago for families, outdoor enthusiasts, art and culture lovers, and even locals. And remember to check out these special offers from hotels all around the city and attraction passes for reduced admission to museums, activities, and more.
- Family-friendly spring break in Chicago
- Chicago spring break for outdoor enthusiasts
- Spring vacation for art & culture lovers
- Spring break for college students
- Chicago staycation for locals
Family-friendly spring break in Chicago
A Chicago getaway promises equal parts fun, learning, and fresh air for the whole family. There’s an adventure for kids of all ages in Chicago, whether you’re looking to roller skate around a lakefront park, be wowed by an interactive museum, or meet a beluga whale.
- Come face to face with lions, leopards, and more at Lincoln Park Zoo‘s new big cat exhibit. Kids are invited to see the resident species in action in this newly renovated space with glass-enclosed walkways, a feeding zipline, and more.
- Explore thehistory of pop-up books at the Newberry Library’s new exhibit. See early examples and contemporary versions of the beloved, tactile, three-dimensional texts.
- Slime lovers assemble! The Sloomoo Institute is a slime-centric, hands-on experience where kids can play with all types of sensory slimes.
- Internationally renowned, Chicago-born artist Hebru Brantley partnered with Chicago Children’s Museum to create The New Art Experience, an immersive exhibit that invites kids to dream, play, and create their own masterpieces. After, make time to explore the family-friendly attractions at Navy Pier.
- The Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park reopens for rollerblading, rollerskating, or scootering in April. Mini-scooters are now available to rent, perfect for tiny tots looking to rock and roll on the ribbon.
- At the Chicago History Museum’s Sensing Chicago exhibit, kids can ride an old-fashioned, high-wheel bicycle, catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park, and become a Chicago-style hot dog.
- Chicago’s beloved lakefront aquarium offers Asleep with the Fishes overnights in March and April, inviting families for an evening of fun activities followed by the chance to spend the night with sharks, turtles, alligators, and belugas.
- 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck offers bird-eye views of Chicago from 1,000 feet in the air. Daring kiddos will want to take on TILT!, a sky-high thrill ride that allows visitors to tilt out over The Magnificent Mile.
- Travel back in time to the ancient city forever preserved at Pompeii: The Exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry. Meet a holographic gladiator, watch a 4D simulation of the catastrophic eruption, and more.
Chicago spring break for outdoor enthusiasts
Chicago in spring is a nature-lovers paradise. The whole city bursts into bloom, from the sprawling lakefront to indoor gardens to charming neighborhood parks. Here’s how to get outdoors in Chicago during your spring break getaway.
- Chicago is a biking city with over 303 miles of bike lanes. Rent a Divvy bike and ride the Lakefront Trail, with sweeping vistas of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.
- Go rock climbing at Maggie Daley Park, where a 40-foot climbing wall challenges climbers of all ages and experience levels to reach new heights.
- Stop and smell the flowers at Garfield Park Conservatory’s annual spring flower show. This year’s show runs through May 15.
- Stroll the Chicago Riverwalk, where you’ll encounter intimate coves, waterfront cafes, and stunning public art, with Chicago’s iconic architecture as an unforgettable backdrop.
- Stop and smell the roses while exploring the sprawling Chicago Botanic Garden in nearby Glencoe, comprising 27 unique gardens.
- Don’t miss a springtime hike along the winding trails of the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, home to over 222,000 plants from 40 countries.
- Head to Hyde Park for a stroll through the Japanese garden in Jackson Park. The garden is beloved for its cherry blossoms — peak bloom usually takes place in the first two weeks of May.
- Soak in gorgeous city vistas from the open-air upper deck of Chicago’s First Lady and learn the fascinating stories behind more than 50 buildings with Chicago Architecture Foundation river cruises.
Spring vacation for art & culture lovers
In Chicago, art is all around you. There’s public art lining the city streets, filling our acclaimed museums, and even lighting up our buildings after dark. Plan an art and culture-filled spring break with these events and exhibitions.
- EXPO Chicago, an international exposition of contemporary and modern works, is a must for art lovers. More than 170 exhibitors will take over Navy Pier’s Festival Hall from April 13 to 16.
- See the masterpieces painted by post-Impressionist artists Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Emile Bernard, and Charles Angrand at Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape, the Art Institute of Chicago’s upcoming exhibit, which opens to the public on May 14.
- Direct from Broadway comes the revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, a Tony-winning musical take on classic fairy tales with a twist, on stage April 25 – May 7 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre.
- The Gospel at Colonus is a reimagining of the classic tale of Oedipus. staged at the award-winning Court Theatre in Hyde Park.
- Admire the work of painters, sculptors, photographers, fashion designers, ceramic artists, and more during open studio events every third Friday at the Bridgeport Art Center.
- A suspicious plane crash sheds light on old mysteries in Describe the Night, a play about truth, lies, and KGB agents, on stage March 2 – April 9 at Steppenwolf Theatre.
- Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is updated to a London film set during World War II playing March 9 – April 16 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier.
- In the evening, head to the Riverwalk to experience Art on theMart, which relaunches in April. The light and sound show will be projected on the riverfront facade of the landmark Merchandise Mart nightly.
Spring break for college students
Dance the night away in a downtown club, explore the cocktail scene, laugh ‘til it hurts at a local comedy club…Chicago is an unforgettable destination for young spring breakers looking for music, nightlife, comedy, and more.
- Chicago’s coolest new music venue, The Salt Shed, opens its concert hall inside the former Morton Salt warehouse this spring. Upcoming concerts include Iggy Pop (March 10), The Roots (March 18), Bikini Kill (April 22), and The Flaming Lips (May 5).
- Go on a DIY craft beer crawl with these guides to top Chicago tap rooms and craft breweries by neighborhood, from Malt Row to the Chicago Brewing District.
- Don your green regalia and witness the Chicago River dyeing, one of the most unique St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. This year’s bucket list event takes place on Saturday, March 11.
- Baseball season kicks off in spring, with the Chicago Cubs returning to Wrigley Field on March 30 and the Chicago White Sox hosting their home opener for the season on April 3.
- See the sites as you pedal to eateries where you can sample each of Chicago’s four favorite food items on a Bikes, Bites & Brews Tour. Bobby’s Bike Hike offers award-winning tours of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods and parks.
- Catch a comedy show in the city that created improv. There’s something new every night of the week at the iconic The Second City comedy club.
- Dance all night long at these top nightclubs, or kick back with a craft cocktail at these retro bars and speakeasies.
Chicago staycation for locals
Just because you live here, doesn’t mean you can’t plan a spring staycation. Explore a new neighborhood, check out a museum you’ve been meaning to visit, or check a local restaurant off your dining bucket list. And don’t forget to check out hotel deals to make it a true spring staycay.
- Explore a new neighborhood with a free Chicago Greeter walking tour. Led by fellow locals, you can take your pick of Chicago neighborhoods. A few favorites include the city’s only national monument in Pullman, Pilsen’s colorful street art, or the historic boathouse and tranquil lagoons of Humboldt Park.
- The free Smart Museum of Art and Stony Island Arts Bank both recently reopened with new exhibits after a short winter hiatus.
- Take a tour of the meticulously restored interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located steps from the University of Chicago campus.
- Always meant to kayak the Chicago River? This is your year! Join a guided kayak tour from Urban Kayaks starting in early May to learn a bit of history and admire the city’s iconic architecture from the water.
- Maxwell Street Market is back this April, bringing a colorful mix of street food, live music, and tons of crafts and secondhand items to browse every Sunday.
- Learn a little about your own city at the Chicago History Museum. Climb aboard the first-ever ‘L’ car, visit a replica of a historic jazz club, and so much more.
- Check out some of the can’t-miss concerts coming to Chicago’s coolest venues, like Thalia Hall, the Aragon Ballroom, The Hideout, and more.
- Tee off via high-tech golf simulators as you sip craft cocktails at Five Iron Golf in the Loop or set off in a bumper car to play a game that combines lacrosse, hockey and at WhirlyBall in Bucktown.
Amy Bizzarri is a freelance writer specializing in family fun and travel. She lives with her two kids in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Follow Amy and her adventures in Chicago and beyond on Instagram @amybizzarri