After a long, LONG winter, Chicago is finally thawing and Spring Break is nearly here! If your family is anything like mine, you’ve been cooped up too long and you’re ready to get out and explore the amazing things Chicago has to offer every spring. Here are just some of the ways kids (and adults!) can enjoy the week of freedom from school.
(Not on Spring Break? Don’t worry! Lots of these can be done evenings, weekends, or during the summer, too!)
If you’re looking for free events, check out the ones marked with an * before them, and see my list of Free Chicago Museum Days.
*1. Explore the new Maggie Daley Park
The Maggie Daley Park just opened in January and parts of it are still under construction, but the pathways and play areas are open for use. Kids can climb the towers, zip down the slides, and race across the bridges to stretch their legs after the long winter. The Maggie Daley Park is just across the BP Bridge from Millennium Park, so you can also visit the “Bean” and Lurie Garden, too.
2. Take a sweet break at American Girl Place
Have a girls day out at the American Girl Place where you can do some shopping, have a stylist give your doll a new ‘do, and enjoy a meal or afternoon tea in the cafe. In honor of Grace, the 2015 Girl of the Year who loves to bake, the American Girl Place will be hosting a sweet event on April 9; tickets are $5 and kids and dolls get a baker’s hat, a chance to decorate a cupcake and macaroon and create a box to carry them home, and participate in a Girl of the Year Scavenger Hunt.
3. See a show
Chicago has some amazing theater experiences and children’s theater is no different. If you love fairy tales, visit the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire for The Princess and the Pea, or the Beverly Arts Center for Jack and the Beanstalk. If you prefer contemporary stories, the Emerald City Theatre has characters from your child’s favorite books live on stage in their productions of Fancy Nancy and Elephant & Piggie’s We’re in a Play. Want to help create the story? Storytown Improv at 773 Stage is sure to keep the whole family in stitches.
4. Go skydiving
Want the fun and excitement of jumping out of a plane without actually having to plummet toward the ground? iFLY Chicago is the answer. A giant vertical wind tunnel will get you soaring just a few feet off the ground and you’ll have a chance to see experienced instructors perform amazing flying stunts. Your flight will last longer than an actual freefall, and kids as young as 3 years old can fly. iFLY has locations in Rosemont and Naperville. Check out my post about visiting iFLY.
*5. See the animals
Chicago is fortunate to have two fantastic zoos – Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo. Brookfield has plenty of exhibits, playgrounds, and shows to keep the family entertained for the whole day. Take a spin on the carousel and tour the zoo on the Motor Safari; if you have young children they’ll love the Hamill Family Play Zoo (be sure to check out all the fun play gardens behind the building!). At Lincoln Park you can visit the zoo animals and the farm-in-the-zoo, ride the carousel, and the Pritzker Family Play Zoo with its giant treetop canopy climbing structure. Looking for something smaller? Try out the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.
6. National Robotics Week at the MSI
April 4 through 12 is National Robotics Week and the Museum of Science and Industry is celebrating with demonstrations and competitions. Check out robots designed, built, and programmed by hobbyists, after-school teams, and top university robotics scholars. All robotics activities are included with general admission.
7. Take a tour
See all that you’ve been missing with a city tour by foot, by boat, by bus, or by bike. If you want to do more than just see the sights, try the Urban Adventure Quest where you’ll be complete challenges at your own pace using your smartphone while checking out Chicago landmarks.
8. Catch a wave
No matter how much time you spend in Chicago, there are always new things to learn and new ways to view the city. See it all from a new perspective on a Shoreline Sightseeing boat tour. Spring tours started in mid-March so get out on the water for a 75-minute Architecture Tour with a lively tour guide ready to share lots of interesting stories and trivia. Be sure to bring a camera for some amazing photos! Read about our experience on a Shoreline Sightseeing tour here.
*9. Explore a new culture
Just because school’s out doesn’t mean learning should take a break. Visit one of Chicago’s amazing cultural history museums to learn about experiences of people from other parts of the world. Make it a whole day by visiting one of Chicago’s amazing ethnic restaurants. How are the people and food similar? How are they different? Kids will have so much fun they won’t even realize it’s educational!
*10. Have a picnic
Pack a picnic basket and blanket and reacquainting yourself with the grass. Do some people watching while you munch at Millennium Park, or have a peaceful afternoon at the Lincoln Park Gardens and enjoy a walk around the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, grab a table at the Garfield Park Conservatory; you’ll be surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers and you’ll hardly know you’re inside.
11. Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group has been performing in Chicago since 1997 so there’s a good chance that if you’ve lived here a while you’ve already seen it. If you haven’t, you’re really missing something, and if you have you need to go again and bring the kids. The combination of music, technology, and comedy is difficult to describe and impossible to forget, and it’ll definitely get you dancing at your seat. Noise-reducing headphones are available (and strongly encouraged) for young or sensitive children. Part of the Toddling crew went to the show – see what they thought in this post.
12. Shedd Aquarium
There’s something relaxing and magical about watching a fish gliding through the water and you can see it up close at the Shedd Aquarium. Visit the Amazon, the Caribbean, the Wild Reef, and the Waters of the World to see a wide range of aquatic habitats and animals. Little ones will love pretending to be a penguin or deep-sea explorer in the Polar Play Zone. The Shedd is offering extended hours for Spring Break, staying open until 6:00 pm each day from March 21 through April 12.
13. See the Lunar Eclipse at the Adler Planetarium
Set your alarm clock because the Adler Planetarium is having a very special Lunar Eclipse Viewing Party from 3:30 am to 6:30 am. No two lunar eclipses are ever the same, so this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and will include light refreshments and special programming. If that’s a bit too early for you, the Adler Planetarium has plenty of other activities during regular hours – Planet Explorers where kids can explore a mysterious planet, a special sky show starring Big Bird, immersive sky shows, The Worlds of Chesley Bonestall (the “Father of Modern Space Art”), and lots more.
14. Get out of town
Hit the road for a night or a week during spring break – there are plenty of fun destinations within an hour or so drive. Head to Gurnee and you’ll feel like you stepped onto a Key West street at KeyLime Cove, or enjoy a water park, amusement park, and lots of nearby hiking trails at Great Wolf Lodge in Starved Rock State Park. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin offers great resorts and hotels, restaurants, attractions, and a walking path in the backyards of lakeside mansions. Bonus: By visiting now you’ll beat the summer crowds.
15. Get touristy at Navy Pier
Lots of Chicagoans think of Navy Pier as just for tourists, but it’s fun to play a tourist sometimes. Experience Tornado Alley or Pandas: The Journey Home in IMAX 3D, spend some time exploring the three floors of the Chicago Children’s Museum, navigate the Amazing Chicago Funhouse Maze, or take a spin on the Ferris Wheel.
A portion of this article was originally posted on MommyNearest.com.