101 things to do in Chicago with kids this spring
Find the best family activities, things to do outside, fun outings and more things to do in Chicago with kids this spring
Tue Feb 11 2014
What is that strange yellow orb in the sky? And what is that odd tingling sensation on your skin? In other parts of the world, it's called the sun. In Chicago, it's called salvation. Spring is here, and with it, there's a ton of things to do with kids. So we've compiled 101 of them for your warm-weather enjoyment.
101. Climb the treehouses at Morton Arboretum
With roles in everything from the Magic Tree House series to the Swiss Family Robinson, tree houses have always intrigued kids. At Morton Arboretum's Tree House Tales, they'll explore six different tree houses and hear tales of varied arboreals' life stories, all while playing and learning. Through November. 4100 Illinois Rt 53, Lisle (630-968-0074, mortonarb.org). Admission $12, seniors $11, kids ages 2–17 $9 (discounts on Wednesdays), kids 2 and under free.
100. Harness the Windy City breeze at the Chicago Kids and Kites Festival
Get high on kites when you attend this rite of spring. Have your face painted, peer upward at stilt performers, ogle professional kite fliers or buck up and help kids make their own with free kite kits. Don't miss the "big kite drop," when sweet treats literally fall from the sky. 10am–4pm May 3. Montrose Harbor, 4400 N Lake Shore Dr (773-467-1428, chicagokite.com). Free.
99. Witness amazing acrobatic feats at CircEsteem's Spring Circus
Watch kids from all over Chicago perform circus acts inlcuding acrobatics, silks, clowning at CircEAU, nonprofit CircEsteem's annual spring circus. Noon April 5; 3pm April 6; noon April 12; 3pm April 13. Alternatives, 4730 N Sheridan Rd (312-731-4242, circesteem.org). $15-$35.
98. Indulge in the first fresh crops of spring at Green City Market
The kid-friendliest farmers' market in town kicks off its outdoor season May 4 through October 26. Its Club Sprouts program gives kids a chance to sample different market foods and particpate in cooking classes. 7am–1pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Lincoln Park between Clark St and Stockton Drive (around 1790 N Clark St, greencitymarket.org). Free.
97. Relive the 50s at Cascade Drive-in Movie Theater
Roll the windows down and enjoy your movie in '50s alfresco style at this midcentury, West Suburban drive-in movie theater. Pets are welcome, and so are kids, of course, making the movie spot's "Bargain Sundays" deal of $15 per carload a real steal for larger families. 1100 E North Ave, West Chicago
(630-231-3150, cascadedrivein.com). Fri–Sun; $10, kids 5–11 $5, kids under 5 free.
96. Let your kindie rockers cut loose at Beat Kitchen's Concerts for Kids series
The respectable rock club delivers something for wee music fans, too. Top names in Chicago's rockin' kids' music entertain little scenesters select Sunday mornings all winter, with acts that include the likes of Little Miss Ann, Jeanie B! and the Jelly Beans, the Boogers and Mr. Singer & The Sharp Cookies. Beat Kitchen, 2100 W Belmont Ave (773-281-4444, beatkitchen.com). $6.
95. Join the Storybook Mom to curl up with a good book
Our favorite storyteller around, Nili Yellin—a.k.a. the Storybook Mom—reads aloud to kids at free storytelling events all over the Chicago area each week. Our fave, though, is Friday mornings at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, when our kids can sit enthralled with Nili while we grab a cafe au lait and peruse the well-curated staff picks at this charming store. Fridays 11am. 4736 N Lincoln Ave (773-293-2665, thestorybookmom.com); Free.
94. Solve a mystery with Nancy Drew Girl Detective
The classic mysteries of Nancy Drew come to life on stage. Help Nancy unravel the case, find hidden jewels and escape a mysterious ghost in this fun whodunit. March 7–16, Fridays 7:30pm; Saturdays 11am & 4pm; Sundays 2:30pm. Theater of Western Springs, 4384 Hampton Ave (708-246-4043, theatrewesternsprings.com). $6–$12.
93. Hit Lake Shore Dive on two wheels during Bike the Drive
No matter how many car trips you’ve made over its eight lanes of traffic, you haven’t experienced the beauty of Lake Shore Drive—with the scenic cityscape on one side and the sparkling lake on the other—until you’ve seen it from the slow, leisurely vantage point of a bike seat. A post-ride festival in Butler Field includes entertainment and giveaways. See bikethedrive.org for sign-up details. 5:30–10:15am May 25, Lake Shore Drive from Bryn Mawr Avenue to 57th Street (bikethedrive.org). $15–$100.
92. Get juiced for the Juicebox Series
The Chicago Cultural Center presents Juicebox, a free series of performances that will get your kid's creative juices flowing. Mutu Dance Theater, pianist Joann Cho, the Hinda Hoffman and Mike Allemana Quartet, and The Regulators are just a few of the performers scheduled for the events that are held every other Friday through May 2. Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St, 312-744-6630, cityofchicago.org).
91. Knees up at the Chicago Memorial Day Parade
Honor all men and women who've defended our country year in and year out at the 2013 Chicago Memorial Day Parade—an annual celebration that traces back to—wait for it—1870. Join the fun and be a part of one of the largest Memorial Day Parades in the nation. The wreath laying ceremony begins at 11am on May 24, and the parade starts at noon. State St from Lake St to Van Buren St. (cityofchicago.org). Free.
90. Feed your young culture vultures at Stages, Sights & Sounds
The Chicago Humanities Festival's annual springtime family fest brings six companies from around the globe to Chicago stages to perform a mix of original stage shows geared to older kids and inventive retellings of classics for the younger set, including Hansel & Gretel and Sleeping Beauty. May 5–24. Various venues (312-494-9509, chicagohumanities.org).
89. Show off your moves at Baby Loves Disco
Arguably the coolest all-ages dance party around, Baby Loves Disco makes a monthly stop at Lincoln Hall to help tots and their parents get down with a live DJ playing classic disco, bubble machine, snacks, and a chill-out area with books and games. 1:30–4pm March 9, April 27. Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln Ave (773-525-2501, lincolnhallchicago.com). $15, $55 for a family four-pack. Non-walkers free.
88. Move to the mariachi beat on Cinco de Mayo
Celebrate Mexican culture on the fifth of May with this vibrant parade—commemorating a 19th-century victory over French invaders—that kicks off in Pilsen at noon and proceeds west into Little Village. The drummers and mariachi bands alone are worth the trip. The parade route runs along Cermak Ave from Wood St to Kedzie Ave. Free.
87. Follow da bunny at the Easter Egg-stravaganza
The big bunny will be in good company at this Easter celebration held on the South Lawn. The morning starts with meeting the Easter Bunny and, weather permitting, free rides on the carousel and train. Then, the big event: an egg hunt, followed by a crafting session. April 19 at 8:30am, lpzoo.org.
86. See basketball stars in the making at the McDonald's All-American Games
Michael Jordan, LeBron James and D-Rose all played in this legendary exhibition of high-school All-Americans. And it's the perfect opportunity for kids to snag autographs from the next generation of potential NBA and WNBA greats.April 2, 6pm. United Center, 1901 W Madison St (312-455-4500, unitedcenter.com). $10–$135.
85. Indulge in delectable treats at the Long Grove Chocolate Fest
This annual Long Grove fest brings in 30-plus bands on four stages, beer and brats galore, wine pairings and, for kids, pony rides, kiddie rides, workshops and kid-friendly entertainment. But let's face it: Your family came for the chocolate, which will be on or in everything from fresh strawberries to crunchy popcorn and chocolate cake. May 2–4. Downtown streets of Long Grove (847-634-0888, visitlonggrove.com).
84. Don your capes and costumes at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo
Anime addicts, comic-book fans and video-game junkies, rejoice: The granddaddy of comic expos is back. Whether you’re the ringleader or your kids are dragging you, a slew of authors, celebs, costume contests and screenings are coming. Kids are also free on Kids' Day, or Sunday. Go to C2E2.com for a full schedule. April 25–27. McCormick Place, 2301 S Lake Shore Dr (c2e2.com). $5–$60.
83. Live the Swede life at Andersonville Midsommar Fest
Get a taste of Swedish culture at Andersonville's 49th Annual Midsommarfest with three days of food, music, dancing and entertainment of all sorts. June 6–8. Kick off June 6 at 5pm at Clark Street between Balmoral and Catalpa Avenues. Check the site in May for full schedule. $5–$10 suggested donation. Kids under 12 and seniors over 65 free.
82. Sing along (but not too loud) at The Sound of Music
The Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music is playing a four-week engagement at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The award-winning Jenn Gambatese will star as Maria in this adored family story. April 25–May 18. Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606 (312-332-2244,lyricopera.org). $22–$119.
81. Go draw-crazy at the Museum of Contemporary Art's Family Day Draw
Not a trained artist? No need to worry. The free-form activities of this drawing/crafts extravaganza at the Museum of Contemporary Art let kids and adults unleash their inner artists as they explore unconventional drawing methods and forms of visual expression. 11am–3pm March 8. 220 E Chicago Ave (312-280-2660, mcachicago.org). Free for families with children 12 and under.
80. Watch animals devour their food at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum's Live Animal Feedings
Did you know Chicago used to be one of the most famous marshes in the world? Check out the Mysteries of the Marsh exhibit, where you can catch live feedings of the museum's water snakes, frogs, fish and turtles throughout the morning and afternoon. Every Thursday. 2430 N Cannon Dr (773-755-5100, naturemuseum.org); free with admission.
79. Celebrate the sounds and moves of a new culture at the Old Town School of Folk Music's Global Dance Party
Every Friday night, the "Global Dance Party" series offers quick instruction (at 8:30pm) and a dance-along concert (at 9pm) in Szold Hall with live performances from Chicago's most worldly bands. 4544 N Lincoln Ave (773-728-6000, oldtownschool.org); $10.
78. Become a green crusader at Green Metropolis Fair
Learn about gardening, sustainable living and local food markets while members of Green Parent Network help you separate green facts from consumer fiction. 10am–5pm April 27. Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N Knox Ave (greenmetropolisfair.com). Free.
77. Get creative with The Art Institute's family classes
At the Art Institute of Chicago, children under 14-years-old are free! This makes it that much easier for a family looking to explore their artistic skill. The Institute provides studios and labs that are thematically linked to with the museum’s collections and special exhibits. After attending a workshop, you could be comparable to the greats. Check the website for specific workshops and times (312 857-7161, artic.edu).
76. Go Ahead, Touch a Truck at the Kohl Children's Museum
The Kohl Children's Museum presents a fest where kids can get up close and personal with fire engines, construction trucks and other supersized vehicles. Warning: This will only heighten your child's obsession with huge vehicles and the toys that mimic them. May 4, 11am–2pm. Fields Chrysler Jeep Dodge, 670 W Frontage Rd, Northfield (847- 832-6600; kohlchildrensmuseum.org). $30–$50.
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