Whether you’re a local or a tourist, you’ll find that Chicago is a beautiful place to be during spring. Some days can still be a little cold and even snowy, but the temperatures start to warm up and allow you to get outside. The blooming flowers and the thawing of the river and lake make it easy to appreciate the scenery around you.
If you’re looking for activities to do by yourself or with your family or significant other, you’re in luck. As Chicago locals, American Auto Insurance is eager to share five of the best outdoor springtime activities. Read on to discover how you can enjoy our city during this gorgeous time of year.
Take an Architecture Cruise
Chicago by Pedro Szekely is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0
Why not celebrate the thawing of the Chicago River this spring by getting out on the water? You can enjoy a unique experience by boarding Chicago’s First Lady and immersing yourself in the architecture cruise. For over a quarter of a century, the Chicago Architecture Center has hosted these tours that share stories behind more than 50 buildings along the river. The tour expertly packs over 100 years of rich history into 90 minutes, making it the perfect excursion for your itinerary.
All tickets are for general admission seating and start at $51.96 plus applicable tax for daytime departures. If you want to set sail in the evening, you’ll pay a slightly higher price of $55.74 plus applicable tax. If you want to get the best deal, consider upgrading your ticket to include admission to the Chicago Architecture Center. It only costs an additional $5 and allows you to visit the center within seven days before or after your boat tour.
Visit the Garfield Park Conservatory
Spring is all about flowers in bloom, making the Garfield Park Conservatory the perfect place to visit this time of year. This botanical conservatory, also known as the “landscape art under glass,” is one of the largest of its kind in the nation. It features luscious indoor exhibits and is open year-round, though the over 10 acres of outdoor gardens are much more enjoyable in the spring. Families will also appreciate nature play spaces for kids and educational programs about the importance of environmental conversation.
One of the best parts about the Garfield Park Conservatory is that admission is free for everyone. Donations are optional and help support the conservatory’s mission of honoring nature. Though admission is free, reservations are required so be sure to plan accordingly. You can make a booking up to 30 days out with advanced bookings being preferable. The conservatory prioritizes walk-up reservations for Garfield Park and West Side neighbors.
Visit Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park is another must-see outdoor attraction in Chicago during the spring. This park is the largest in the city, featuring 1,214 acres stretching from Hollywood Avenue to Ohio Street. It sees over 20 million visitors per year and contains over 15,000 trees and natural habitats. For a more active experience, check out the tennis courts, golf course, skate park, or basketball courts. You can also bike or walk on 7.5 miles of trails along Lake Michigan. Admire public art in the form of 17 monuments, four fountains, and collections of modern art.
Other notable attractions include the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and the North Pond Nature Sanctuary. Lincoln Park’s Conservatory & Gardens is smaller than the Garfield Park Conservatory, but it still is a beautiful collection of floral exhibits. Admission to the park is free, though the Lincoln Park Conservancy organization accepts donations. Public parking is available for $28 per day directly behind the Conservatory, but you might be able to find street parking. You could also use public transportation or take advantage of local bike-sharing stations.
Take a Stroll Along the Magnificent Mile
It’s easy for downtown Chicago to feel gloomy during the winter, but the Chicago Department of Transportation ensures the spring feels magical through its extensive tulip-planting efforts. The tradition first started in the mid-1990s when the city installed 30 planters in the medians of Michigan Avenue. The tulips stretch along the Magnificent Mile from Oak Street to Roosevelt Road.
While the tulips are prominent in the spring, the work that goes into planting them starts much earlier. Every year, the Chicago Department of Transportation imports over 100,000 bulbs straight from the Netherlands and fills each bed with up to 1,000 bulbs. A protective layer covers the bulbs throughout the winter to ensure they bloom as brightly as they do in the spring. While strolling down Magnificent Mile, feel free to window shop at the upscale stores and appreciate landmarks ranging from the 360 Observation Deck to the Tribune Tower and Chicago Water Tower.
Schedule a Bikes, Bites, & Brews Tour
Chicago is a major attraction among foodies, but you might not want to eat indoors when spring is starting. Fortunately, a Bikes, Bites, & Brews Tour allows you to have the best of both worlds. This experience from Bobby’s Bike Hike is four hours long and allows you to try the city’s signature dishes ranging from deep-dish pizza and hotdogs to brownies and beers. You’re sure to work off all the calories you consume, as the tour involves you biking a collective 13 miles through the city’s bike-friendly streets.
Friendly guides help you along your journey and give you a little insight into Chicago’s history as it relates to food. You can get an earlier start by signing up for an 11:30 a.m. tour or experience the city in a different light via a 5:30 p.m. tour. This tour is only available to adults who are at least 21 years old. Tickets are $84.99 if you go on Friday through Sunday, but you’ll only pay $79.99 per ticket if you go Monday through Thursday.
Note that your ticket includes the bike and helmet rental and all food and beverage samples. While vegetarian options are available, some menu item changes may incur additional costs. Be sure to wear comfortable apparel and prepare for any kind of weather, as tours happen rain or shine.
We hope this guide helps you appreciate everything the great Chicago outdoors has to offer in the spring. If you know of any other fun activities, be sure to let us know here at American Auto Insurance. Our local team prides itself on staying up-to-date on the latest happenings. We’re eager to accept suggestions that we can share with others like you who are looking for the best auto coverage.