June 6, 2022
The Italian Baroque was one of the most florid and proliferous art movements in what is modern-day Italy, lasting from the late 16th to the…Read This Post
Spring and summer in Chicago are our favorite times of year. There are so many things to do in Chicago in the springtime and summer, and so many Chicago attractions that re-open with the good weather.
Yes, we sometimes have snow in the spring, but it can also be wonderfully warm and sunny! The trees are leafing, the birds are singing, and, more importantly, restaurants are putting out their outside tables. In summer the beaches are hopping, and both locals and tourists are out enjoying Chicago’s many parks.
Chicago is a great restaurant city and Chicagoans definitely appreciate dining al fresco once the weather turns nice. And that is reason #1 you should visit Chicago on our foodie tours. But it’s only one of many Chicago attractions that make our hometown so special in the springtime. (Another thing? Chicago’s great breweries.)
Here at The International Kitchen we’ve all lived in Chicago for decades, so we are the experts in what to see in Chicago. Check out our list of things to do in Chicago during the spring and summer and let us know if you can think of others!
Disclaimer: we’re featuring spring and summer Chicago attractions in this list, so you will find mostly outdoor activities. Don’t worry, if you’re visiting Chicago in the winter, there is still plenty to do (hello, museums and Willis Tower!).
Or course any list of things to do in Chicago will be a bit subjective. Some people like art. Some people like baseball. We like both! But here is our list of the 10 best things to do in Chicago in the spring or summer.
We love the lakefront all year long, and in the spring and summer it is definitely one of the top things to do in Chicago. Miles of bike paths and walking paths run right along the shores of Lake Michigan. The city’s recent public arts push means that you’ll find it all peppered with unexpected sculptures as well.
Chicago’s lakefront really is one of the best places to visit in Chicago, whether you want to bike, hike, run, or swim. There are beaches from north side to south side, which you can enjoy as soon as the weather warms up.
One thing to do in Chicago in spring and summer is to enjoy the multitude of events and festivals that are scheduled. Whether you want to “Bike the Drive” in May or want to hold off for the many summer music festivals, the city is full of music, art, dance, movies, food and wine fests, and neighborhood parties.
Some of the most famous of Chicago’s spring and summer events are Blues Fest, Lollapalooza, Ravinia, and Taste of Chicago, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Chicago summer festivals.
Springtime also means baseball! Whether you are a “north-sider” or a “south-sider” (Go Sox!) you can cheer on your favorite team come springtime, and heading to the “friendly confines,” as Wrigley Field is known, is definitely one of the top things to do in Chicago.
Another bonus: if you’re up in Wrigleyville for a Cubs game or in Bridgeport to see the Sox, you’ll have plenty of great eating options before you hit the ball park as well.
On of the most popular Chicago attractions, and one of our favorite things to do in Chicago with kids, is visit Millennium Park. Opened in 2004 (yes, four years behind schedule, as it was supposed to celebrate the new millennium), it is full of fun, free things to do.
Head to the Anish Kappor Cloud Gate sculpture, more popularly known as “The Bean,” to view yourself framed by the reflection of the city’s skyline. Visit Crowne Fountain on a hot day to watch the city’s children frolic in this quirky public space. Or stroll through the lush, beautiful Lurie Garden.
Sit on the lawn or grab a seat at the stunning Pritzker Pavilion, designed by Frank Gehry, for an open-air concert.
Cross the Gehry-designed BP bridge to Maggie Daley Park, considered by Chicago’s youth the best thing to do in Chicago bar none. It has a gigantic playground, climbing walls, and ice staking/roller skating ribbon.
Or simply wander through the many gardens and admire the public art.
If you are looking for the top places to visit in Chicago, you could spend a whole day at Museum Campus. You could even catch several top things to do in Chicago without leaving this lake-front park!
It’s a beautiful place for a walk or a bike ride, but what makes it a top Chicago attraction are the museums.
The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, and home to the famous “Sue,” the largest and best-preserved T-Rex skeleton.
The Adler Planetarium will dazzle you with its displays featuring the planets, galaxies, stars, and deep space.
And the Shedd Aquarium, which is another of our top things to do in Chicago with kids, is perfect for exploring the underwater world, including fish, sharks, turtles, dolphins, penguins, walruses, and Beluga wales.
One of the iconic views of the Chicago skyline is that of Navy Pier and its giant Ferris Wheel. Navy Pier is one of the top things to do in Chicago, and one of the best things to do in Chicago with kids. It features several Chicago attractions to explore, including:
The Pier is a fun place to explore whether as a couple or as a family, with plenty for everyone to see and enjoy, particularly when the weather is nice.
It’s true, we’re featuring mostly outdoor things to do in Chicago during spring and summer, but what you may not have realized is the Art Institute, one of the premier art museums in the world, has things to enjoy outdoors as well. The South Garden, designed by Dan Kiley and perhaps his most famous design, is an oasis of shade, green, color, and water. The Fountain of the Great Lakes, designed by Lorado Taft, is one centerpiece, but it is the lush vegetation and sense of serenity that makes this garden a real hidden gem of Chicago.
To the north of the museum is the Stanley McCormick Memorial Garden, a sculptural garden designed by Laurie Olin and featuring several works of public art. And noteworthy also is the Nichols Bridgeway, designed by Renzo Piano, which connects the third floor of the Art Institute’s Modern Wing to the nearby Millennium Park.
Of course, while you’re there we recommend stopping in the museum itself to see the world-class collection, an absolute staple when it comes to Chicago sightseeing.
The Lincoln Park Zoo, in the city’s northern Lincoln Park, is on of the best places to go in Chicago in the spring and summer. It is both one of the country’s oldest zoos, as well as one of the few free zoos! What I’ve always liked about it is the fact that it’s free, so you don’t feel like you need to spend a whole day there to get your money’s worth. You can easily pop in for a couple hours to see the exhibits that most interest you.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is well funded with many amazing exhibits to explore, including:
And you might want to pop over to the nearby Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, or Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool while you are in the neighborhood. They are also among our favorite things to do in Chicago.
Head away from the downtown area to one of the best outdoor activities in Chicago and visit the Garfield Park Conservatory. We think it’s one of the best places to visit in Chicago even in the winter, when its warm, humid greenhouses are a boon to Chicagoans aching for a tropical environment. But in the spring and summer its outdoor gardens are a treat to explore.
The indoor greenhouses include the Palm House, Fern Room, Aroid House (home to a stunning fish pond decorated with 16 gorgeous Chihuly yellow glass lilly pads), Desert House, and Sugar from the Sun. The outdoor gardens include more than 10 acres of grounds to explore.
One of the best ways to see Chicago attractions in the spring and summer is from the water! There are a number of boat tours available in Chicago. Some feature dinner, some are on the river, some are on Lake Michigan, and some are on both.
Our favorite is by the Chicago Architecture Foundation Center, which partners with Chicago’s First Lady Cruises to offer a 90-minute, super-informative river cruise. You learn a lot about Chicago’s top sites, its history, and its ground-breaking architecture.
What can complete your exploration of the best things to do in Chicago in the spring and summer? A foodie tour and cooking class. We offer both during our Food Lover’s Chicago tour. Take a hands-on cooking class with fellow foodies and enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner to follow.
Or explore the food of Chicago on a driving or walking tour featuring some of Chicago’s classic dishes, its ethnic neighborhoods, and more. We can even design custom food tours to urban farms, local breweries, farmer’s markets and more.
Our 3-night Food Lover’s Chicago is a great way to explore the many famous Chicago attractions. We’ve kept plenty of free time for you to pursue your own interests and visit some of our top places to go in Chicago.
The culinary tour includes fabulous accommodations at a downtown hotel, a foodie tour, and a cooking class; and we can make so many suggestions on how to spend the rest of your time! It is also easily customizable if you want a longer (or shorter) trip.
Contact us for details on our Food Lover’s Chicago foodie tour or to get started planning your trip to Chicago!
By Peg Kern
Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best cooking vacations.