The week of April 14 through April 20, 2019 is Spring Break for Chicago public schools that follow the CPS calendar, and there’s plenty to do around town for Chicago families enjoying a spring staycation. Our list of 40 fun things to do over spring break includes special events and exhibitions (cough, Star Wars, cough), kid-friendly concerts and performances, and over a dozen ideas for ways to get outside and explore the outdoors in our city in a garden. Best of all: Most of these activities are FREE or low-cost!
1. Take in the spring flower show at the Garfield Park Conservatory. FREE
2. Play among the branches at the new TreeHouses exhibit at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
3. See the animals waking up from winter at the Lincoln Park Zoo. FREE
4. Visit the indoor farmer's market at The Plant.
5. Walk through the beautiful and historic Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum.
6. The spring migration season is one of the very best times of year to visit the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. FREE
Discover a giant in the trees at the Troll Hunt at Morton Arboretum. Photo courtesy of the museum
7. If you haven't yet found all of the gentle wooden giants nestled in the greenery at the Morton Arboretum's Troll Hunt, the exhibition has been extended through the summer.
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Stroll the lovely grounds around the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. Photo courtesy of the Lincoln Park Conservancy
8. See what's blooming around the Lincoln Park Conservancy's serene hidden gem the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. FREE
9. Northerly Island is preparing for the big Hamilton exhibition coming later in April, but in the meantime the nature trails at Northerly Island Park are still a beautiful way to catch views of the Chicago skyline. FREE
10. Get out for a bike ride or a scooter run on the 606 and stop to play at the climbing structures at Julia De Burgos Park. FREE
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Spend a day playing in the amazing Maggie Daley Park. Photo courtesy of the park
11. Spend a day skating the ribbon and playing on the playgrounds at fantastic Maggie Daley Park...or brave the crowds at the Great Chicago Egg Hunt on Friday, April 19.
12. Walk or bike the Lakefront Trail and stop for a picnic in the grass. FREE
13. Take your young padawans and aspiring Reys to the Star Wars Celebration at McCormick Place April 11-15.
14. The special exhibit The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad – The Railroad Helped Build America at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago shines a spotlight on a chapter in American history that will fascinate young historians.
15. Pint-sized fashion lovers will swoon at the glamorous gowns and accessories on display at the Chicago History Museum's new exhibit Silver Screen to Mainstream: American Fashion in the 1930s and 40s.
Calling all ballerinas! The kid-friendly ballet Whipped Cream is sure to charm the little ones. Photo courtesy of the American Ballet Theater
16. Ballerinas and dessert lovers alike will love Whipped Cream by the American Ballet Theater, a kid-friendly ballet that takes place in a dream-world candy store.
17. If you haven't seen The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, the play based on the acclaimed children's book by the same name, there are performances all week at the Chicago Children's Theater.
18. Embark on The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a new musical based on the novel by award-winning kid-lit superstar Kate DiCamillo.
19. Confront your phobia of dentists and man-eating plants at a high-energy performance of Little Shop of Horrors at the Mercury Theater.
20. On weekend mornings, kids can enjoy discounted movie matinees (with 3-buck popcorn!) at Marcus theaters in Orland Park, Chicago Heights, and Addison.
21. Kick off the week with a family dance party to the music of Prince at Thalia Hall.
22. Tuesdays are free days at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the DuSable Museum of African American History. (And here's when kids get in free to other Chicago museums, zoos, and cultural institutions.)
23. Visit of one Chicago’s many always-FREE museums, such as the Smart Museum of Art or the National Museum of Mexican Art.
24. Don't forget the library! The children's room at the Harold Washington Library downtown is always worth a visit on a rainy spring afternoon.
25. Spend the day at one of the top-notch children's museums in Chicago: There’s the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, of course, but don’t forget the Exploritorium in Skokie, the Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville, the Bronzeville Children’s Museum, the KidsWork Children’s Museum in Frankfort, Wonder Works in Oak Park, and the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.
26. Explore a slightly off-the-beaten-path museum like the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art in Elmhurst, full of unusual treasures—and FREE on Fridays.
27. Drop in to one of the daily FREE art workshops for kids at the Art Institute of Chicago.
28. Settle in for a good read at one of Chicago’s independent bookstores. Women and Children First and Volumes Book Cafe are especially welcoming to young visitors and readers. FREE
29. Play tourist in your hometown with a visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck or the Chicago 360 observation deck in the John Hancock Center.
30. If you've managed to live in Chicago without doing an architecture river cruise, you're missing out!
Explore the The Loop at Navy Pier. Photo by Mark Gurgone & Steven Koch
31. Don't miss The Loop near Navy Pier, public art that's designed to be played with, described as "a cross between a music box, a zoetrope and a railway handcar." FREE
32. Stay out after dark to catch Art at the Mart, a dazzling display on the front of the Merchandise Mart building that plays for two hours after sundown Wednesday through Sunday. FREE
33. Snap some Instagram-worthy shots in front of the Pilsen murals. FREE
34. Do a public art walk downtown: Within a few city blocks, you can see the iconic Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, the Daley Plaza Picasso and Miró's Chicago sculpture, Agora in Grant Park, the Sounding Sculpture at the Aon Center, the Flamingo at the Federal Center Plaza, and Chagall's Four Seasons mural at Chase Tower. FREE
35. Visit an underground art gallery in the Chicago Pedway, Space p11.
36. Climb, slide, dress up, make believe, or play at one of the city’s best indoor play spaces.
Zoom Room puts kids in the driver’s seat as they send toy cars hurtling through the curves, loops, dips, and crash sites of a colossal, multilevel race course. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Children's Museum
37. Race cars over 40 different tracks at the Zoom Room at the Chicago Children’s Museum.
38. Tweens and teens get pizza and an entire fun zone to themselves (while their parents get a little time for date night) at Funtopia hangout night on Wednesday in Naperville.
39. The West Loop library hosts a free STEM workshop for kids, Elementary Einsteins, on Thursday afternoon.
40. Stay up late for a scavenger hunt and a sleepover at the Shedd Aquarium on Friday night.