What’s spring like in Chicago? Tulips bloom along iconic Michigan Avenue, cherry blossoms pop up in Jackson Park, and city parks begin to overflow with green. The Lakefront Trail fills with walkers and bikers, waterfront patios line the Chicago Riverwalk, and our 77 vibrant neighborhoods buzz with life. Check out some of the best things to do in spring in Chicago.

Paddle a kayak

Chicago is home to two stunning waterfronts — the Chicago River, which winds through the heart of the city, and Lake Michigan, with more than 20 miles of sandy shoreline. And one of the most popular ways to explore both is via kayak.

Hop on a guided tour from Urban Kayaks for the perfect mix of exercise, fascinating history, and breathtaking views. Choose from their historic Chicago tour, sunset tours, a tour for first-time kayakers and paddleboarders, and more. They also offer rentals, so you can explore the lake or river at your own pace.

Take an architecture cruise

A boat drifts down the Chicago River with the skyline around it
Photo by Dimitry Anikin

One of the best ways to see Chicago in springtime is from the water. The city’s many boat cruises set sail each spring, with tours of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Choose from sunset dinner cruises, skyline speedboat rides, informational architecture tours, kid-friendly experiences, and more.

Find the right Chicago boat tour for you.

See the spring flowers

Spring flowers in Jackson Park
Cherry blossoms in Jackson Park; photo by Amy Bizzarri

Every year, the city fills with spring blooms, from our downtown streets to our charming neighborhood parks. Here are some of the best places to see the first flowers of the season throughout Chicago:

Check out our full guide on the best places to see spring flowers around Chicago.

Grab a seat for Opening Day

Chicago Cubs
Photo by Matt Alaniz

It’s time to play ball! Chicago’s two legendary MLB teams, the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox, kick off their baseball seasons each spring.

Catch the Chicago Cubs at historic Wrigley Field in Wrigleyville, where you can watch the game from the sunny bleachers, a nearby rooftop, or one of the neighborhood’s many sports bars filled with locals. The White Sox play at Guaranteed Rate Field in Bridgeport, where traditions include tailgating before the game and fireworks after every run.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

A Seadog boat cruises on the green river

Each March, the city goes green with over-the-top St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. One of the country’s most unique holiday traditions, the dyeing of the Chicago River attracts thousands each year to watch the river water turn a vibrant emerald hue. There’s also a festive downtown parade, family-friendly neighborhood celebrations, special holiday cruises, pub crawls, and so much more.

Check out our full guide to St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Chicago.

Walk or bike the Lakefront Trail

Mandatory Photo Credit:
Abel Arciniega :: @tequilagraphics

If you’re looking for stretches of scenic lakefront dotted with grassy parks and stunning skyline views — look no further. The Lakefront Trail is the place to be in Chicago each spring, when bikers, walkers, and runners converge on the 18-mile paved path that hugs the edge of Lake Michigan. Rent a bike from Bike and Roll Chicago or take a tour with Bobby’s Bike Hike Chicago to explore the trail on two wheels. The trail runs by several neighborhoods, dozens of popular parks and beaches, museums, waterfront restaurants, and more.

Explore more: Check out our guide to springtime things to do with kids in Chicago.

See awe-inspiring artwork

The largest digital art projection in the world, Art on theMART is a sight to behold in Chicago’s downtown Loop. Featuring colorful videos set to music, the gigantic display takes place each night on the riverfront facade of a historic Chicago building. A new season begins each spring, featuring collaborations with the city’s many artists and acclaimed cultural institutions.

Visitors explore an exhibit at EXPO CHICAGO

Also in the spring, EXPO Chicago is a leading international art fair that brings top galleries from around the world to lakefront Navy Pier, with an exciting line-up of exhibitors, programs, installations, speakers, and more. The event also offers an expansive schedule of diverse cultural programming and contemporary art installations both on-site and around the city.

Explore the zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo
Abel Arciniega: @tequilagraphics

Spring is one of the best times to visit Chicago’s zoos, as the mild weather brings animals out to play. Right on the city’s scenic lakefront, you’ll find the historic Lincoln Park Zoo. This free zoo, one of the oldest in the country, is home to creatures from around the world. Don’t miss the innovative new lion house, where big cats roam in a naturalistic safari.

See the skyline

LondonHouse rooftop bar
LondonHouse rooftop bar; Adam Alexander Photography 2019

Clear spring days are a great time to visit one of Chicago’s scenic rooftop bars or soaring observation decks for a breathtaking new vantage point of the city.

Skydeck Chicago is located inside the iconic Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings on the planet. This 103rd-floor observation deck offers stunning views that cover up to four states. It’s also home to The Ledge, which dares visitors to step out onto a transparent, all-glass platform that hovers more than 1,353 feet in the air.

360 CHICAGO is an observation deck inside one of the city’s most famous skyscrapers — the former John Hancock Center at 875 N. Michigan Ave. It’s home to TILT, a moving platform that literally tilts you out and over Michigan Avenue at a staggering 1,030 feet up.