Spring is officially here. Marked by Chicago’s breathtaking Chicagohenge spring equinox spectacle, from here on out things start to look up each year once the notorious Midwest winter has passed us by.
Chicago is gearing up for bloom, growth, and warmer days ahead. At the same time, events and activities are offering countless possibilities to have fun across the city.
There’s so much to do regardless of whether we’re treated to sunshine or April showers so here are our top activities to do this April and the best ways of embracing the spring cheer.
1. Take in the tulips of Michigan Avenue
Every fall the City of Chicago plants tens of thousands of tulip bulbs in the Michigan Avenue medians from Oak Street to Roosevelt Road. It is then at the start of April that these bulbs then begin opening up and filling Michigan Avenue with a kaleidoscopic sea of tulips. They have become synonymous with the arrival of spring in Chicago and they immediately fill the air with spring cheer. It’s a must-do!
2. Catch the cherry blossoms bloom
An equally as impressive floral spectacle is provided charm of cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Typically, the sakura blooms start within the first two weeks of April in Chicago. Though it can be a guessing game and they could flourish at their peak towards the end of April.
The soft, delicate blossoms only bloom for a week or two, making it a rare sight. Especially options for where to see them in Chicago are somewhat limited. If you want to behold the blooming season this year, head to our article on where to view the cherry blossoms in Chicago this spring and take a look at our map with all the hot cherry blossom viewing spots.
3-4. Check out Chicago’s spring flower shows
Not to go over-the-top on floral fun, but of the spring activities that begin announcing themselves in March and April, the flower shows at Chicago’s fantastic conservatories are some of the most eagerly anticipated.
Spring flower shows have already begun at both Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory. The former offers visitors a peek into the wondrous relationship between bees and blooms at the Garfield Park Conservatory’s 2023 Spring Flower Show “Bee’s Knees” which is open through May 14, 2023.
“Beautiful blooming spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth will be featured this year alongside hydrangeas, delphiniums, azaleas, and more. Empty observation and demo hives from GPC’s beekeeping program are set amongst the blooms, giving a glimpse into the world of a bee” reads the conservatory’s website.
The Lincoln Park Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show, “Cooler by the Lake” meanwhile invites visitors to peruse a range of flowers in cool marine color tones alongside features familiar to Chicago’s Lakefront, like the iconic Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and boats that have sailed into the conservatory.
5. Check out Chicago’s Harry Potter experience
Entering its last full month another magical experience can be had at Chicago’s massive Harry Potter™: Magic at Play experience.
Taking over three floors at the Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue, guests of all ages can interact, explore, play, and climb their way through the most iconic moments at Hogwarts™.
Don’t miss this magical adventure for wizards, witches, and even muggles (gasp!)—Accio tickets!
6. Send your senses soaring with a Dining in the Dark experience
Dining in the Dark experiences have returned to Chicago and they’re selling out quickly! Engage your taste buds at a unique night out as you indulge in a delicious three-course meal at the exclusive ‘Dining in The Dark’ dinner parties.
Take your date night to the next level or enjoy a surreal experience with friends, tempting your senses with dark surroundings to focus on more important things like the exquisite food and wine pairing you’re about to have at Hubbard Inn.
Diners can choose vegan, seafood, or red meat options, enjoying a starter, main entree, and dessert.
Grab tickets to a Dining in the Dark experience here.
7. Kick back with goats and beer
Some days you just need some one-on-one time with a pasture full of adorable goats, you know? Experience the pinnacle of wholesomeness by hanging out with the billy kids over at GlennArt Farm and afterward, double down on those warm fuzzy feelings with a few flights of delicious craft beers on the rooftop of One Lake Brewing with this exclusive Brews n ‘Baahhs’ experience. If there’s one way to relax and let your mind unwind it’s with a pasture full of adorable billy kids followed up by a selection of craft beer.
Grab tickets to Brews n ‘Baahhs’ here.
8. Welcome back the ART on THE MART projections
One of the lights at the end of the tunnel every year comes in the form of artistic projections on the 2.5-acre river-façade of the Merchandise Mart. It has been several months since Chicago has been treated to the stunning art spectacles but now after some spellbinding displays last year, ART on The MART is about to return for its 2023 run.
On April 14 at 8:30 pm, ART on The MART will fire up all 34 digital projectors for its Spring 2023 Program and once again breathe life into the 25-story-tall face of the Merchandise Mart.
This time ART on The MART will be celebrating its 5th Anniversary with new commissions by internationally renowned artists Derrick Adams and Dr. Yiyun Kang, and the return of the popular projection of new work by local Chicago Public Schools (CPS) seniors.
More information can be found here.
9. Unleash your inner artist at a Spray ‘N’ Sip urban art workshop
If all that color has your creative juices flowing there’s no better place to let your inner artist run wild than at Chicago’s incredible BYOB Urban Art Workshops.
Taking place weekly within Studio W.I.P. at The Chicago Kedzie Plaza, there’s no pressure and no presumptions, just creativity and fun flowing in all forms. Trained professional artists will teach you the tricks of the trade as unleash your inner artist on a mural with your favorite drink in one hand and a spray can in the other.
Grab your tickets to a Spray Paint ‘n’ Sip Urban Art Workshop here.
10-15. Be captivated by a Candlelight Concert
Chicago’s sublime Candlelight Concert series is providing an array of breathtaking spectacles in the Windy City. Talented musicians will be performing at extraordinary venues all over Chicago offering guests the chance to marvel at the enchanting combination of flickering candles and melodic sounds.
Here are some of our favorite Candlelight concerts taking place this month:
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Radiohead at Stan Mansion on April 6
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Juan Gabriel at Salvage One on April 14
- Candlelight: 100 Years of Warner Bros. at Music Box Theatre on April 20
- Candlelight: A Tribute to Queen and More at Oak Park Arts Center on April 23
- Candlelight: A Tribute to ABBA at Stan Mansion on April 27
See the full list of candlelight concerts taking place in Chicago here.
If you can’t decide on a concert but want to ensure you attend one or need to buy a gift for somebody special Candlelight gift cards are really easy to use and valid for any Candlelight event in the U.S. making it a unique gift for both friends and family.
Get your Candlelight Gift Card here.
16. Check out Adler Planetarium’s “Dark Side of the Moon” show in honor of Pink Floyd’s 50th anniversary
Imagine glancing up at an endless space above you, and in the forefront of your mind plays one of the most beloved albums by the legendary rock band Pink Floyd. You’ll get to experience that at the Adler Planetarium’s brand-new show: The Dark Side of the Moon.
The planetarium has officially licensed the rock bands’ music and has taken the time to put together an epic, unforgettable show in celebration of the album’s 50th anniversary.
Complete with lasers galore, and a 180-degree, 36-foot domed ceiling, the new show has just opened and will run for a full year!
17. See The Little Mermaid at the Joffrey Ballet
The Little Mermaid is coming to the stage as the Joffery Ballet to close out the renowned company’s 67th season. Running from April 19 to the 30th, the show is helmed by John Neumeire bringing drama and spectacle to this brand-new production.
By combining show-stopping dance with innovative storytelling, theatergoers will get the chance to see a new interpretation of the beloved tail! With music by the Lyric Opera Orchestra and an original score by Lera Auerbach, this tragic folktale definitely has its sea legs.
Find out more about the show here.
18. See visionaries speak at the Chicago Humanities Spring Festival this year
The best and brightest from politics, journalism, and the arts will gather in Chicago this April for a series of programs across the city. Starting this April 13 and going until June, the city will host a series of panel discussions, lectures, musical performances, and screenings.
Such events include a talk by Hillary Clinton, a look into Andy Cohen’s life as a dad, an exhibit showcasing photography from Ralph Ellison to a discussion between Miranda July and Carrie Brownstein.
Find the full schedule at the official Chicago Humanities Festival website.
19. Watch a series of films at the Chicago Latino Film Festival
The Chicago Latino Film Fest is going on its 39th year showcasing films from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the United States. Screenings will take place April 13th to 23rd at the Landmark Century Centre Cinema and AMC River East with a dazzling lineup that includes Love & Mathematics, Mamacruz, and many more big films.
Check out the full Chicago Latino Film Festival schedule here.
20. Hang out at a brand new theater-centric bookstore and coffee shop in Andersonville
A brand new theater-based bookstore and coffee shop is serving up the drama with a side of caffeine, bringing a niche selection of books to the Andersonville community. The Understudy just opened in late March and during the spring plans to host theater-related programming that will include play readings, panel discussions, cabaret nights, workshops, and kids’ storytelling hours.
With coffee from Metric and tea sourced from the Coffee and Tea Exchange, this hybrid space hits all the marks!
21. Revel in the mayhem of The Roar: A Prohibition Era Speakeasy
If the year 2023 feels like you’ve shot into the future and has you recalling your bygone days, go back in time to Chicago’s Prohibition Era at The Roar on Rush!
A lively Speakeasy that lights the way to a hidden 4-room cocktail experience where you will meet vibrant figures from the elaborate web of a Roaring Twenties bootlegging operation. Each room tells a story and is paired with a cocktail tasting from Prohibition times.
Afterwards, take a seat in the speakeasy for more cocktails, food, and live music with special performances. Break out your best flapper dresses and linen jackets, this cocktail party at The Roar is not to be missed!
22-23. Head down to the Grand Cabaret After Dark speakeasy
Of course, The Roar speakeasy is far from the only speakeasy experience in Chicago. Down in the basement of West Loop’s Porkchop visitors will find another stellar speakeasy experience in the form of “Grand Cabaret After Dark” where a roster of rip-roaring revelry is waiting.
There is always something happening at the West Loop speakeasy throughout the weekend. Featuring live music of classic and contemporary jazz, bluegrass, and country by the Chris Ussery Trio, you’ll be able to sink into your seat as the music swirls around you on Saturdays at Grand Cabaret After Dark and then soothe your Sunday scaries with Boozy BBQ Drag Brunches on Sundays.
Check out all the chaos going on at Porkchop’s Grand Cabaret After Dark here!
24. The Empire Strips Back: A Burlesque Parody
Let us deliver you to the dark side! With comedy and allure, loving detail, and hilarious parody, The Empire Strips Back drops classic Star Wars characters into the world of burlesque. Be prepared for some seriously sultry Stormtroopers, a dangerously enticing Boba Fett, some tantalizing Twi’leks, a delightfully luke-warm Taun Taun, a lady-like Skywalker, the Droids you are looking for, and much, much more!
Grab tickets to The Empire Strips Back: A Burlesque Parody here.
25. Kick back in an AMC movie theatre
Talking of critically-acclaimed movies, The Oscars will be announced this month with so many fantastic movies of all kinds from across the planet highlighted. There are so many to see at the moment and there’s no place better to experience them than at AMC Theatres®.
Whether it’s a rainy afternoon or a special date night, all the best critically-acclaimed creations, comedies, action flicks, and everything in between can be enjoyed at a discount in Chicago, and nationally, with an AMC black ticket.
Grab discounted tickets to a movie showing here.
26. Enjoy some of the extraordinary exhibitions taking place in Chicago this year
One of Chicago’s most impressive qualities is undeniably its collection of world-class museums and the array of exhibits they offer. This year there are a whole host of new extraordinary art exhibits coming to the Windy City.
Art, science, and human connection have a truly transformative power, and now, after the tumultuous and unprecedented years that we’ve just endured, it’s time to remember that.
Here are some of the most unique exhibitions taking place in Chicago this year that you simply cannot miss.
27. Go insta-famous with the Chicago Instagram Walking Tour: Most Famous Spots
If you love architecture and a walking tour Chicago is one of the best places for both. However, if for you it’s all about capturing those Instagrammable moments and you don’t want to hold up the crowd this tour is ideal.
A local host will take you along a scenic tour of Chicago’s most famous spots with timely breaks to snap away so get ready to take in all the architectural feats, hidden gems, and picturesque landmarks you can imagine. The half-day tour is sure to inspire a caption or two and is jam-packed with endless breathtaking views, exciting fun facts, and memorable moments.
Learn more and grab a ticket for an unforgettable tour here.
28. Treat yourself to a brunch
If you’re in need of an instant mood boost, searching for a group Sunday Funday activity, or looking to cure a hangover from the night before, brunch is the solution to all problems.
Luckily Chicago has an abundance of seriously good morning eats and here we’ve compiled the best of the bunch!
Find our list of the best brunch spots in Chicago here.
29. Sample the best cocktails in Chicago
Whether you’re treating yourself to brunch in Chicago, kicking back on a Chicago patio, or enjoying drinks out at one of Chicago’s many bars and restaurants, you can be sure a finely-crafted cocktail is only seconds away.
From top-notch margaritas to more innovative cocktail concoctions and everything in between, the Windy City and its abundance of revered mixologists have the answers to whatever it is you’re after.
We’ve recently filtered through the noise to round up the very best cocktail bars in Chicago based on our own experiences at Secret Chicago, our reader’s most popular choices, and a scrupulous assessment of settings and drink quality.
Find our up-to-date list of the very best cocktail bars in Chicago here.
30. Kick back at a revered brewery
If craft beers are more up your street than a fruity cocktail, worry not for Chicago has an abundance of internationally-acclaimed breweries.
Frequently recognized as one of the best beer cities in the country, our seasoned and inventive beer scene has produced so many fantastic breweries and taprooms in Chicago that we’re spoilt for choice.
There are now over 200 breweries big and small across Chicagoland meaning there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a finely-crafted beer in a range of different environments whatever the weather.
To make sure you’re checking out the best of the best we’ve here rounded up the 10 best breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms in Chicago. Cheers!
31. Buckel up for a Drunk Shakespeare show
On that topic another brilliant Chicago experience comes in the form of a live Drunk Shakespeare show.
Taking place on a stage in a hidden speakeasy located behind the Chicago Theater, guests will find a glam cocktail bar and library with over 10,000 books. Five classically-trained actors meet as members of “The Drunk Shakespeare Society”. One of them has had at least 5 shots of whiskey and then they (quite over-confidently) attempt to perform a major role in a Shakespearean play!
Hilarity and mayhem ensue while the four sober actors try and keep the script on track. Every show is different depending on who is drinking… and what they’re drinking!
Grab tickets to a Drunk Shakespeare show here.
32. Chuckle away at Chicago comedy show
If you’re looking for a chuckle there’s no place better for that than at a Chicago comedy show. Famous for its production of funny guys and girls. Chicago has some of the best places to see a comedy show in the country.
At Laugh Factory Chicago some of today’s biggest names and local comedians are delivering something for every taste and style throughout the year.
Grab tickets to a show at Laugh Factory Chicago here.
33. Peruse the magnificent street art murals of Chicago
Chicago’s street art and graffiti scene has continued to thrive in Chicago over the last decade. New pieces pop up all over the city every week, some of which are so esteemed that they’ve embedded themselves in the very fabric of Chicago and are now part and parcel of the Windy City’s identity.
Today murals do more than just provide an extraordinary spectacle for our eyes. They pay homage to icons, fight for racial equality, celebrate different heritages, and honor the essential workers of our societies during turbulent times. Hunting down the must-see street art murals in Chicago is a rewarding experience any time of the year.
We’ve rounded up our top 25 most amazing murals in Chicago so you can navigate your way around the best of the best and learn about its history and the inspiration behind some of Chicago’s famous murals. Alternatively, you can jump on an Offbeat Street Art Tour of Chicago and be guided by a seasoned street art enthusiast!
34-35. Savor sensational food samples on a food tour
For foodies who prefer to sample tasty delicacies over perusing extraordinary street art, there is a range of fantastic food tours for all manner of foodies.
Taste all of Chicago’s classic eats on a four-hour guided bicycle tour courtesy of America’s longest-running city bicycle tour company with Bikes, Bites, and Brews: Chicago’s Signature Dishes Bike Tour. The journey is 14 miles in total (traversed at a nice leisurely pace) and includes a slice of deep-dish pizza, a gourmet brownie, a Chicago-style hot dog, and a few samples of Chicago’s legendary craft beer!
Despite having a kaleidoscopic food scene offering all manner of savory and sweet treats, nothing in Chicago has truly celebrated donuts in all their glory, until now. The Underground Donut Tour is Chicago’s first-ever donut tour and was born to give those who truly enjoy donuts the perfect excuse to sample the Windy City’s very best. Tours include such favorites as Do-Rite Donuts, Firecakes, Stans, and Doughnut Vault as well as some lesser-known spots.
Grab tickets to the Bikes, Bites, and Brews tour here or a donut tour here.
36. Jump into spring with indoor skydiving
Recent years have reminded us that we should be active, try new things, and make the most of the adventures and experiences that are available to us and one thing that always finds itself on bucket lists worldwide is skydiving.
Now, we’re not saying jump out of a plane in the freezing skies above Chicago, but we are saying give it a go in one of Chicago’s indoor centers to get a taste of what it is like and why it is such a popular ‘do before you die’ activity.
With a state-of-the-art iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Lincoln Park and another iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Rosemont, Chicago is home to two conveniently located cutting-edge centers where kids and adults can get the same sensation you’d get 12,000 feet up in the sky.
If the experience has you wanting more you can always test your vertigo above Chicago’s skyscrapers at one of the world’s largest skydiving resorts in Skydive Chicago and boast that you’ve jumped out of a plane above the Windy City.
37. Head out of the city and see Illinois’ natural spectacles
Of course, heading out into the wilderness is another way you can do something memorable without paying more than the cost of travel. If you’re one who enjoys being surrounded by nature then heading out to the quiet of Illinois’ natural beauty is a great experience whatever the season.
Though our state may not boast wonders with the universal magnitude of the Grand Canyon nor the grandiose reputation of Niagra Falls, Illinois is teeming with diverse ecological landscapes that are bursting with life as spring kicks in. From monolithic marvels to cascading waterfalls, here are 7 natural wonders of Illinois that you can visit during their spring transformation:
- Garden Of The Gods: Saline County
- Wildcat Canyon In Starved Rock State Park: La Salle County
- Cache River State Natural Area: Johnson County
- Cave-In-Rock: Hardin County
- The Pomona Natural Bridge: Jackson County
- Cascade Falls In Matthiessen State Park: La Salle County
- Bork Falls In Ferne Clyffe State Park: Johnson County
38. Stay in a Starved Rock Getaway cabin
For an even more prolonged experience in nature. Getaway House is a chain of tiny cabin hideaways helping people in big, bustling cities like Chicago, DC, LA and NYC, disconnect from their busy city lives with restorative stays in the middle of nature.
One of the aforementioned spots, Starved Rock State Park, has just opened a selection of minimalistic cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing guests to wake up fully immersed in the wilderness. Located in lush landscapes and with minimalistic yet comfortable designs, they offer the perfect escape for those wanting to disconnect from busy city lives with restorative stays in the middle of nature.
More information can be found here.
39. Discover the Windy City’s small pockets of Eden
Or course, you don’t have to leave the Windy City to find natural escapes. Chicago is certainly no far friend from nature, there are many places you can get back in touch with Mother Nature right here in the city and there is no better time than spring.
The Lakefront, lush parks, and incredible hiking trails offer great natural experiences but Chicago also has numerous secret gardens hidden across the city.
Read our full article on 10 of the best spots around the city to stop and smell the roses here.
40. Warm up and revitalize at Chicago’s most unique spas
Having battled through the bleak of winter, you’ve got to take your well-being into consideration after these hostile months, especially if you’re spending time outdoors exploring nature or doing extreme sports.
Luckily Chicago is full of answers to combat both the Christmas chaos and that numbing chill that has settled into your bones. There’s no better place to relax and unwind during these hostile months than at Chicago’s many serene spas and bathhouses.
From places like River North’s lavish AIRE Ancient Baths inspired by the traditional Roman, Greek, and Ottoman ancient experience of bathing to the unique PIVA Beer Spa offering huge larch wooden tubs filled with near 100-degree beer, herbs, and hops there are so many options in Chicago.
Head to our Secret Chicago list of Chicago’s best spas for an informative guide.
[Featured image from Shutterstock]