We’re in the heart of spring and summer is just around the corner!
It’s in May when Chicago’s many parks and natural spaces reach their bloom. Tulips begin to line Michigan Avenue, our favorite summer events begin announcing themselves sparking excitement for the months to come, and, despite the inevitable spring showers, days begin getting warmer.
While iconic Chicago activities like kayaking at the riverwalk, the spring Art on the MART projections, and firework shows at Navy Pier signal the beginning of Chicago’s peak months, there is something in the air and atmosphere that tell Chicagoans it’s onwards and upwards from here!
From floral fun to celestial spectacles, here are our top recommendations for the best things to do in Chicago this May.
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. At the start of May, 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.
For another tulip experience, Spring Grove’s Richardson Farm will begin its second annual tulip festival on May 8th. Home to the world’s largest corn maze in the fall months, in spring the farm offers a kaleidoscopic spectacle with 30 different types of tulips and hues ranging from fiery coral to snowy white, pale yellow and plum-drenched purple. According to the Richardson family, half a million tulips have bloomed having planted 300,000 bulbs in the fall of 2020 and 300,000 more in November 2021.
An equally as impressive floral spectacle is provided charm of cherry blossom trees in full bloom. The sakura blooms have now started to flourish and the soft, delicate blossoms only bloom for a couple of weeks, making it a rare sight. Especially as 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.
One of the best places to see the cherry blossom is in Jackson Park. The historic park has become a cherry blossom hub since the delicate trees were first planted in 2013 to commemorate the 120th World’s Columbian Exposition. It is also home to Chicago’s esteemed Museum of Science & Industry. Among the museum’s many exhibits visitors can find a German submarine U-505 which was captured during World War II, the command module of Apollo 8, a full-size replica coal mine, and much more. This May the museum is offering free entry for Illinois Residents on the 4th, 9th, 17th, and 18th of May making Jackson Park the perfect place for a free day out!
While it is not included in free admission, one of the most bizarre yet brilliant exhibitions we’ve seen in a while is currently taking place at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. ‘The Art of the Brick’ features more than one million LEGO bricks transformed into more than 100 sculptures by award-winning artist Nathan Sawaya.
You’ll walk through recreations of famous masterpieces like Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, and Grant Wood’s ‘American Gothic’, as well as a sculpture of a 20-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
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. During winter Chicago goes several months without the stunning art spectacles but now after some spellbinding displays last year, the Art on the MART projections have returned for its 2022 run.
This time the new program features two climate change-themed projections presented in partnership with Shedd Aquarium. Art On The MART fires up all 34 digital projectors on the 25-story-tall face of the Merchandise Mart for two 30-minute shows each night at 8:30 pm and 9 pm through June 29.
A truly unique May evening can be had combining kayaking with the Art on the MART projections. After shutting down for the winter season, Urban Kayaks have announced they will reopen their Riverwalk location in May kicking off the spring and summer seasons of kayaking. From Saturday, May 7th kayakers can venture down the Chicago River once again whilst Monroe Harbour kayaking and paddleboarding officially opened on May 21.
Whether you’re down by Chicago Riverwalk flanked either side by the city’s famous highrise architecture or taking in the skyline from the protected waters of Monroe Harbour, kayaking in Chicago is a truly unforgettable activity.
May is of course, also the month of memorial day weekend. If you’re looking to push the boat out on something a little special, look no further than Memorial Day Weekend Booze Cruises. Celebrate the official kick-off of boating season and memorial day weekend in style by cruising down the river while enjoying breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline and the sunset. Enjoy a set with DJ Tecknique while talented videographers and photographers record all the special moments between you and your friends.Grab tickets to a Memorial Day Weekend Kickoff Booze Cruise! on May 26th here. Grab tickets to an evening Memorial Day Sunday Sunset Booze Cruise on May 29th here. Grab tickets to a daytime Memorial Day Sunday Funday Booze Cruise on May 29th here.
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.
Your presence is soon requested at the most exclusive ball of the season! This immersive Regency-era ball opened in Chicago on April 20th and now is your chance to secure your invitation and wait to be transported to England’s Regency era with stunning decor and period costumes.
Prepare to mingle with other members of the Ton as you sip on cocktails and partake in an evening of music and dance. Rumour has it that Her Majesty Queen Charlotte is looking for the diamond of the season, but will you be the one to win her favor?
Grab tickets to the Queen’s Ball here.
For another British experience a little drive away in Wisconsin, Dressing The Abbey: A Costume Exhibition offers you the chance to transport yourself to the early 20th century and relive your favorite memories and nostalgia of the costumes of Downton Abbey™.
The British television series explores the lives of its aristocratic inhabitants and their servants – together with the latest fashion trends. Through 35 bespoke costumes created for the series, the exhibition presents a fashion history of the period surrounding World War I, a period that changed the social fabric of Great Britain. A fine selection from the series’ wardrobe, including accessories and mannequins, reflects on the changing times through fashion from 1912 to the mid-1920s. Don’t miss this closer look into the award-winning costumes!
You can grab tickets to Dressing The Abbey: A Costume Exhibition here.
Back in Chicago, you can enjoy more than a casual day at Wrigley Field. Wrigley View Rooftop offers state-of-the-art stadium-style design and seating while offering a warm, hospitable, friendly environment adjacent to the historic stadium and just steps beyond the left-field ivy. Get a spectacular, unobstructed view of home plate, the infield action, and outfield excitement as you enjoy food & drinks perfect for the occasion!
Chicago’s sublime Candlelight Concert series offers breathtaking spectacles throughout the year but this May there are some extra special concerts taking place in extraordinary venues all over the city. Flickering candles and melodic sounds combine phenomenally to create magnetic atmospheres in some of Chicago’s most unique spaces with surreal acoustics. Here are some of our favorite festive concerts taking place this month:
- Candlelight: Latin Jazz Tribute to Celia Cruz, Tito Puente and More at Salvage One
- Candlelight: A Tribute to ABBA at Stan Mansion
- Candlelight Ballet: Featuring Tchaikovsky and More at Oak Park’s Free Church
- Candlelight: Women of Pop ft. Songs by Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Lizzo at Wicker Park Lutheran Church
- Candlelight: A Jazz Tribute to The Beatles at Wicker Park Lutheran Church
See the full list of candlelight concerts taking place in Chicago here.
When it comes to live music, few places offer a better jazz experience than Chicago. There are so many wonderful places to see live jazz in its rawest form here in the Windy City. Alongside esteemed venues like South Loop’s The Jazz Showcase, and Uptown’s Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, Le Piano has emerged as a phenomenal new jazz hideout.
In the middle of Le Piano sits a magnificent grand piano where some of Chicago’s most talented pianists and jazz performers come to play. Here you will find a mind-blowing musical experience merging dinner and intimate performances. Immersive Live Jazz & Dinner for Two and Immersive Live Jazz & Cocktails both ensure memorable nights of dining, drinking, and the magic of jazz in a truly vivacious venue.
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For more floral fun (it is spring after all) Chicago’s flower shows at the city’s fantastic conservatories are some of the most eagerly anticipated April and May activities.
Known for its gorgeous sprawling rooms filled with flora and fauna alike, The Lincoln Park Conservatory is one of these. Each year it hosts an extraordinary spring flower show and this year it is inviting guests to reimagine gardens in a whole new way. Namely, from a vertical perspective. To help plant lovers reignite their passion, the “Pillars of Spring” spring flower show incorporates free-standing pillars and invites plant lovers to learn more about planting vertically in their own homes, too.
Another brilliant spring flower show takes place over at the Garfield Park Conservatory each year. This year they are inviting guests to walk through giant doorways for their “Knock Knock” 2022 spring flower show. In addition to a plethora of beautiful blooming flowers, including tulips, hydrangeas, daffodils, and hyacinth there are a series of giant vintage hanging doors courtesy of Rebuilding Exchange and many plant-themed knock-knock jokes throughout the Show House as part of the playful reprieve from the long Chicago winter.
Another brilliant 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.
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We could all do with a chuckle with the tumultuous years we’ve had and luckily there’s no place better for that than at a Chicago comedy show. At Laugh Factory Chicago some of today’s biggest names and local comedians are delivering something for every taste and style throughout May. You’ll also find a variety of the city’s best comedians every Tuesday at Shady Babies Comedy Showcase.
Grab tickets to a show at Laugh Factory Chicago here.
Grab tickets to a show at Shady Babies Comedy Showcase here.
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.
If craft beer floats your boat another fun tasting experience this month comes in the form of a beer flight at Pilot Project Brewing. Pilot Project Brewing is a brewery incubator, tasting room & cafe located on Milwaukee Ave in Logan Square, Chicago. Pilot Project was launched as a collaborative and artistically curious space to help support talented brewers in an industry with exceptionally high barriers.
Modeled after the music industry, Pilot serves as a launchpad for start-up breweries, offering assistance with fine-tuning recipes, production, business development, marketing, distribution, and more. They are Chicago’s incubator dedicated to the art of brewing and a community inspired by the craft. Pick from 24 taps to make your perfect flight of beer and taste and compare with your besties
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Exclusive tequila lovers rejoice at exclusive tequila only! Connecting people, building relationships and creating memories through a passion for great spirits. Are you a tequila lover? Here is your chance to enjoy an amazing tasting experience with the finest tequila bottles, priced at $100+ at an exclusive event limited to just 200 attendees. Don’t miss it!Grab tickets to the Chicago Tequila Festival here.
There is simply no better way to discover the wonderful world of wine outside of (but not far from) Chicago than to relax on this unique Michigan Winery Tour! Enjoy a tasting at each winery, learn from a friendly SA guide, and of course ride safely with your very own designated bus driver. Lunch options are available for purchase at the Roundbarn Winery so you can grab yourself a bite along the way. This Michigan wine tour from Chicago is truly an event you don’t want to miss! Whether you’re new to wine or a master sommelier, this winery tour will have something for you.
If you’re more of the active type and thrive on adrenaline and competition another exhilarating experience can be found down at Kanya Lounge’s exclusive 2-story adult playground. Five Axe Throwing Lanes allow you to test your inner lumberjack and blow off some steam while a Rage Room Experience offers 3 unique custom-made rage rooms providing the ultimate stress reliever after the torrid months we’ve had. Either way, signature cocktails and a bucket of beers can be enjoyed in the bar and lounge area while you’re at it.
More information and tickets can be found here.
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If you really want a buzz we suggest you head down to West Loop’s Grand Cabaret After Dark this month for a roster of rip-roaring revelry. On Fridays, STRIPPED provides a decadent and debaucherous night of burlesque while on Saturdays you’ll find vintage evenings of cabaret, jazz, and magic in Chicago’s newest speakeasy followed by Boozy BBQ Drag Brunches on Sundays. All promise a mesmerizing experience in one of Chicago’s most exciting new venues.
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Circus Vazquez is back with brand new shows in Chicago. Prepare for outstanding performances from the new generation Vazquez family, David Larible who is known as the world’s greatest clown, amongst many others from around the world that will blow your mind. Classic circus vendor items are available for purchase such as popcorn, cotton candy, nachos, funnel cakes, churros, snow cones, and more! Get the family together and share an unforgettable experience.
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Get your theater fix (with a twist) at this fantastic new burlesque and variety cabaret show. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, Redline VR hosts the incomparable Crescent Moon Nerdlesque, a unique and nerdy cosplay group that’s sure to keep you engaged in the act. Each month features a new and exciting storyline so write down the date, grab your friends and prepare to be amazed at this month’s unique showing.
Learn more and get your tickets here.
As well as boasting an extraordinary live entertainment scene, Chicago is famous for its plethora of world-renowned museums. One place where you can embrace your whimsical, artistic nature is at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. This unique, grand structure houses exciting temporary and permanent exhibitions that are sure to leave you awe-struck. Make it a whole family day and prepare for an unforgettable experience in contemporary art. Or, gather a group of friends and explore the fascinating collections and multiple artistic disciplines available for viewing. Filled with endlessly intriguing paintings, sculptures, and photos, this museum is always one for the books.
Grab a ticket here or opt for a reduced entrance if you’re a senior resident, teacher, or student.
Another of Chicago’s famed attractions, The Adler Planetarium, is reopening this month after a two-year hiatus. The planetarium will reopen to visitors once more at the start of March and now boasts a brand new telescope in the Doane Observatory which holds the title of the largest public telescope in the Chicago area.
As well as a new observation park, guests will notice the planetarium’s shiny new dome roof which has been restored with brand-new copper tiles giving the 80-year-old dome an iconic new glow. The best news, however, is that Illinois residents will be able to enter for free every Wednesday evening from 4-10 pm provided they bring proof of residency.
More information and tickets can be found at adlerplanetarium.org.
Field Museum’s new exhibit ‘Jurassic Oceans: Monsters of the Deep’ takes visitors on an underwater journey where they can encounter some of the most fascinating, fierce, and strange creatures that dominated Earth’s Jurassic seas while dinosaurs ruled the land.
It features over 100 fossils ranging from enormous marine reptiles to small, stranger creatures as well as huge replicas and CGI projections that offer visitors the chance to come face-to-face with some of history’s most terrifying marine predators to have ever existed.
That’s not all there is at the Field Museum. Spend as long as you like exploring the museum’s collection of more than 26 million artifacts. Get to know SUE, the world’s largest T. Rex, or stroll through the sparkling Hall of Gems. Time travel through 13,000 years of history in the Americas, from the Ice Age to Inca and Aztec temples. Don’t forget to meet Maximo, the museum’s newest titanosaur at over two stories tall! You can do all the above with a Field Museum All-Access Pass which includes access to all ticketed exhibitions and one 3D movie.
Speaking of field trips, take a day-cation to the Lincoln Park Zoo for an unforgettable scavenger hunting adventure. Let’s Roam is the #1 app-led scavenger hunting company and provides a can’t-miss reason to explore the infamous Chicago zoo. This family-fun activity is perfect for all ages at an ultra-exciting location. Play in teams or compete on your own for a fun interactive day filled with trivia questions, riddles, and competition-based challenges.
Get your tickets here.
Another Chicago zoo offering something extra special this month is Brookfield Zoo. The esteemed zoo has launched an exciting new exhibition offering guests the chance to travel back 20,000 years to the last major ice age and hang out with the enormous megafauna that roamed the earth in its most glacial days.
Taking place zoo-wide through Sunday, October 30, 2022, ‘Ice Age Giants’ features over 30 life-sized animatronic recreations of the gigantic animals that existed in North America and Eurasia during the last major ice age, which peaked about 20,000 years ago.
The consequence of a thriving artistic community is not just a plethora of museums and stunning public art installations. Today the street art and graffiti scene in Chicago is alive and kicking more than ever before with new pieces popping up all over the city every week. Some of these 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.
With more formality and respect from the local community street art has thrived in Chicago over the last decade and with the events of the last two years many, many, astounding new murals have gone up of late. 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 many masterpieces in our great city is a rewarding experience any time of the year. Many of these wonderful murals reside in West Town in the mile-long street art corridor in Chicago’s Fulton Market meatpacking district known as the B_Line. With the West Town Street Art Walking Tour run by Tours By Native you can enjoy an immersive tour that will engage the senses like never before!
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!
Alternatively, you can sign up for the ultimate foodie adventure in Chicago’s historic River North with Lonely Planet Experiences: River North Historical Food Tour. Join a local expert and uncover hidden gems and the best spots for some of the city’s best-loved dishes. This tour will leave you filled with delicious local foods as well as some insider knowledge of the city’s culinary history and culture.
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.
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Another architectural journey awaits you on this next walking tour. Only this time, it’s all about capturing those Instagrammable moments. A local host will take you along a scenic tour of Chicago’s most famous spots so get ready to take in all the architectural feats, hidden gems and snappable 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 here for an unforgettable tour.
46. Catch the opening Navy Pier firework show
Chicago’s favorite sky spectacle will return to the skies every Wednesday and Saturday night from Memorial Day weekend. Grab a spot anywhere on the pier and take in the dazzling first display at 10 pm on Saturday, May 28.
Heading out into the wilderness is another way you can enjoy a fulfilling experience 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 spring experience. 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 transform into incredible spring spectacles this time of the year. From monolithic marvels to cascading waterfalls, here are 7 natural wonders of Illinois that you can visit while they’re about to peak:
- 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
More information can be found here.
If you’re the outdoorsy type who likes a thrill you’re probably the type who would be interested in testing your skydiving skills in one of Chicago’s state-of-the-art indoor skydiving centers. With an iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Lincoln Park and another iFly Indoor Skydiving Center in Rosemont, there are two conveniently located cutting-edge centers to choose from. Kids and adults can both experience the same sensation you’d get 12,000 feet up in the sky and if you feel you have what it takes, you can test your vertigo above Chicago’s iconic skyline at Skydive Chicago, one of the world’s largest skydiving resorts
For a slightly more relaxing experience after those adrenaline-pumping activities, Chicago’s many spas are the optimum places to seek some spring revitalization. The Midwest’s notorious winter can be taxing on our mind, body, and soul and there’s no better place to relax and unwind during these months than at Chicago’s many wonderful spas and bathhouses.
Whether you’re looking to soak away stress, restore your mental balance, or alleviate aches and pains in bones and muscles, spas are medicine for the mind, body, and soul. From therapeutic massages to rejuvenating facials, these Chicago spas and bathhouses cater to all.
So if you’re seeking somewhere to obtain that ethereal feeling you have returning to the real world after a restorative spa day head to our article on 10 serene Chicago spas where you can relax and unwind!
Music lovers, casual fans, and superfans of legendary musician Prince can rejoice in the dynamic, multisensory, first-of-its-kind immersive experience, making its worldwide debut in Chicago from June 9 to October 9.
Superfly and The Prince Estate are collaborating to present Prince: The Immersive Experience, a multi-faceted musical universe revolving around the iconic artist, inviting guests to be completely immersed in the exhilarating, singular talent of a superstar who brought us hits like “When Doves Cry,” “Raspberry Beret,” and “Purple Rain.”And tickets for the world debut of Prince: The Immersive Experience have just been released to the public!
[Featured image from Shutterstock]