Need some ideas for spring break 2021? In the springtime, Chicago is bursting with bustling green spaces, sparkling waterfronts, world-class museums, stunning architecture, scenic outdoor dining, exciting events, and so much more.

While spring travel will look different this year, Chicago is focused on opening responsibly and going above and beyond to make sure you feel comfortable while exploring the city. Here’s our guide to planning a spring break (or staycation!) in Chicago for families, outdoor enthusiasts, art and culture lovers, and even locals. And don’t forget to check out these special offers from hotels all around the city.

Family-friendly spring break in Chicago

Looking for a getaway that’s filled with equal parts fun, learning, and fresh air? Chicago is the place to be for an all-ages adventures, whether you’re looking to scoot around a downtown park or say hello to stingrays at a lakefront aquarium.

Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park
  • Calling all superhero wannabes! The interactive exhibition Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes that celebrates the superheroes of the Marvel Universe ― Spiderman, Batman, Hulk, Captain Marvel, and more ― is launching at the Museum of Science and Industry this March. 
  • Meet the newest residents of the Lincoln Park Zoo ― including naked mole rat pups and a baby grey seal ― when it reopens for spring on March 4. Make sure to grab a reservation in advance.
  • The Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park reopens for rollerblading and scootering in April 30.
  • Head to Chicago’s lakefront Museum Campus, where families can dive deep into the fascinating underwater world at Shedd Aquariumor meet the world’s largest dinosaur (hi Maximo!) at the Field Museum.
  • 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck offers birds-eye views of Chicago from 1,000 feet in the air. Daring kiddos will want to take on the TILT!, a sky-high thrill ride that allows visitors to tilt out over The Magnificent Mile.

Chicago spring break for outdoor enthusiasts

Chicago in spring is a nature-lovers paradise. The whole city bursts into bloom, from the sparkling lakefront to the charming neighborhood parks. Here’s how to get outdoors this spring during your Chicago getaway.

Garfield Park Conservatory fern room
Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Garfield Park Conservatory is reopening to the public on Feb. 27, just in time for their annual spring flower show. This year’s show, dubbed Saturation, features plants across the entire spectrum of the rainbow and runs through May 9.
  • Walk, run, or bike one of Chicago’s scenic trails, including the 18-mile Lakefront Trail or The 606, an elevated park and trail that runs across four neighborhoods.
  • 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, with Chicago’s iconic architecture as an unforgettable backdrop.
  • Stop and smell the roses while exploring the sprawling Chicago Botanic Garden in nearby Glencoe, home to 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.
  • Bobby’s Bike Hike offers award-winning tours of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods and parks. Burn calories as you pedal to eateries where you can sample each of Chicago’s four favorite food groups — pizza, hot dogs, brownies and beer — on a Bikes, Bits & Brews Tour.

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. Start planning an arts and culture spring break in Chicago with these events and exhibitions.

Immersive Van Gogh exhibit
Immersive Van Gogh exhibit
  • The Art Institute of Chicago is back open, with a limited capacity and a newly extended Monet and Chicago exhibit — catch it before it’s gone. Or celebrate Women’s History Month by learning about the history, values, and heritage of the Apsáalooke Women and Warriors.
  • Admire the work of painters, sculptors, photographers, fashion designers, ceramic artists, woodworkers of the Bridgeport Art Center.
  • Immersive Van Gogh is a visually spectacular digital art exhibition that invites audiences to step inside the iconic works of post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh via an original score and soaring digital projections.
  • Experience the city’s legendary architecture from the best seat in the house — the three branches of the Chicago River — on a Wendella Chicago River Architecture Tour, which resume March 12.
  • In the evening, head to the Riverwalk to experience Art on theMart, which relaunches on April 1 with the world premiere of Astrographics, developed in collaboration with the Adler Planetarium. The light and sound show will be projected on the riverfront facade of the landmark Merchandise Mart nightly at 8:30 and 9 p.m. all season long.

Chicago staycation for locals

Just because you live here, doesn’t mean you can’t plan a spring staycation. Start by exploring a new neighborhood, finally checking out that museum you’ve been meaning to visit, or checking a local restaurants off your dining bucket list. And don’t forget to check out out hotel deals to make it a true spring staycay.

Friends drink margaritas at La Vaca in Pilsen
La Vaca in Pilsen
  • 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.
  • On the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, you’ll find striking Gothic architecture, the free Smart Museum of Art (reopening April 8), and the Oriental Institute(now open), an intimate museum that highlights the history, art, and archaeology of the ancient Middle East. Take a tour of the meticulously restored interior of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located steps from the campus.
  • Support our local dining community with special prix fixe, multi-course menus from 200+ restaurants across the city during Chicago Restaurant Week 2021, from Friday, March 19 to Sunday, April 4. And take advantage of the spring sunshine at one of Chicago’s many patio dining hot spots all spring long
  • 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 for less than two weeks every spring. Peak bloom is expected in the first two weeks of May this year.
  • 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, picture yourself in the fashions of a Marshall Field’s store window, and learn what makes Chicago home sweet home at the Chicago: Crossroads of America exhibit.