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 Chicago attraction passes for reduced admission to museums, activities, and more.

Family-friendly spring break in Chicago

A Chicago spring break 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 come face-to-face with a beluga whale.

Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park
  • Mingle with butterflies at the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, located within the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The 2,700-square-foot greenhouse haven is home to more than 1,000 free-flying butterflies.
  • 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.
  • Feed a shark, meet a beluga, or help train a sea lion at Chicago’s beloved lakefront aquarium. The Shedd Aquarium offers several animal encounters where you can get up close and personal with a marine creature.
  • Slime lovers assemble! The Sloomoo Institute Chicago is a slime-centric museum where you can experience all the fantastic variations of the colorful slime kids love.
  • Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park opens for rollerblading, roller skating, or scootering. Mini-scooters and rollerblades are available to rent.
  • Delve into the science behind the James Bond film series with this new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, 007 Science: Inventing the World of James Bond.
  • SkyDeck Chicago offers jaw-dropping views of the city from one of the tallest buildings in the world. Brave kiddos will want to step out onto The Ledge, a glass balcony suspended from the 103rd floor.
  • Pay a visit to Never Never Land via Chicago with the high-flying Peter Pan musical from Broadway in Chicago, which lands onstage at the James M. Nederlander Theatre from March 26 – April 7. Join Peter Pan and Tinker Bell on a magical journey to remember.
  • Meet the modern-day masters of sleight-of-hand at a historic magic-centered theater. Rhapsody Theater in Rogers Park stages a variety of mind-bending shows that will have tweens and teens enthralled.

Explore more: Check out 30+ kid-friendly things to do in Chicago.

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.

Garfield Park Conservatory fern room
Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Chicago is a biking city with over 300 miles of bike lanes. Rent a Divvy bike and ride the Lakefront Trail, a 19-mile-long lakefront bicycle path with sweeping vistas of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.
  • Go rock climbing at Steelworkers Park, where a community climbing wall is built into the architectural remains of the steel manufacturing plant that once stood at this lakefront site.
  • Stroll the Chicago Riverwalk, a waterfront stretch located on the south bank of the Chicago River, where you’ll encounter intimate coves, waterfront cafes, and stunning public art.
  • Stop and smell the roses while exploring the sprawling Chicago Botanic Garden in nearby Glencoe, where 27 unique gardens burst into bloom in the springtime.
  • Admire the first blooms of spring at Garfield Park Conservatory’s annual spring flower show. Admission is free to this soaring indoor greenhouse. This year’s show runs through May 12.
  • In the spirit of the Japanese “hanami,” the tradition of enjoying the transient nature of flowers, head outside for a stroll through the Japanese garden in Jackson Park. The garden is beloved for its cherry blossoms, which bloom every spring.
  • 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 as you cruise the Chicago River with the experts from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Explore more: Discover some of the best things to do in Chicago in spring.

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.

Visitors explore an exhibit at EXPO CHICAGO

  • See Picasso as you’ve never seen him: The Art Institute of Chicago’s latest exhibit, Picasso, Drawing From Life, runs through April 8. Over 60 of Picasso’s rare works on paper showcase how the iconic artist’s many relationships inspired his art, offering a behind-the-scenes look into his fascinating life.
  • Discover a fresh take on Shakespeare during the limited run of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the award-winning Court Theatre in Hyde Park.
  • Every 3rd Friday, the Bridgeport Arts Center opens its studios for an evening of mingling with the Chicago-based painters, sculptors, photographers, fashion designers, ceramic artists, and woodworkers behind the center’s exhibits.
  • EXPO CHICAGO, The International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art, will host 170+ global exhibitors at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall from April 11 – 14.
  • 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.
  • Candlelight Concerts pair music with beautiful, unique venues bathed in candlelight. Spring concerts include tributes to artists such as Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Juan Gabriel, Rihanna, and more.
  • Grab tickets for one of the innovative shows at Steppenwolf Theatre, known for its groundbreaking ensemble works.
  • In the evening, head to the Riverwalk to experience Art on theMart, which returns 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.

DISCO at Celeste

  • 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.
  • Baseball season kicks off in spring, with the Chicago White Sox hosting their home opener on March 28 and the Chicago Cubs returning to Wrigley Field on April 1.
  • See a concert in a landmark circa 1892 opera house, Thalia Hall, which hosts concerts by well-known and up-and-coming musical acts. After the show, visit Punch House, a subterranean cocktail bar with a retro vibe.
  • The Chicago River dyeing is one of the most unique St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world. This year’s event occurs on Saturday, March 16, between State and Columbus.
  • Burn calories as you pedal to eateries where you can sample each of Chicago’s favorite food groups — pizza, hot dogs, brownies, and beer — on a Bikes, Bites & Brews Tour. Bobby Bike Hike also offers award-winning tours of Chicago’s popular neighborhoods and parks.
  • 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.
  • Sautéed Stand Up at the Lincoln Lodge is Chicago’s only live comedy cooking show. Comics take turns performing and cooking a meal on stage, to be judged by professional chefs from the Chicago food scene.
  • Sip handcrafted cocktails at one of Chicago’s cocktail-centric bars or soak in the spring sunshine at one of Chicago’s patio or rooftop dining hot spots.
  • See the city’s dazzling skyscrapers from the water with Chicago Electric Boat Company. Grab your friends, fill up a cooler, rent a boat, and explore the city via the river.