Thanks to the oft fickle arrival of warmth and blooming (though not this year), Chicago may not always come up on lists of likely spring break destinations. But even if our official beach season is still months away, families looking for outings and activities beyond the typical surf and sand may find that the bigger problem with a spring break trip to Chicago has more to do with duration than meteorology – one week is just not enough time to pack in everything this city has to offer.
One of the most welcome harbingers of spring in Chicago every year is the return of tour and commuter boats to the waters of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, including the familiar sightseeing vessels and water taxis run by 78-year-old Wendella Sightseeing. This spring, the venerable tour company will begin cruising from a brand new dock on the river at the base of the soaring Trump International Hotel and Tower (401 N. Wabash), offering its popular architectural tours and water taxi routes from a convenient new port. Call 312/337-1446 for schedule and ticket information.
Up in the Air
Of course, looking up from the water is only one way to appreciate Chicago’s grand architecture – you can also look down from the clouds with an elevator ride up to the John Hancock Observatory (875 N. Michigan; 888/875-VIEW) or Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower (233 S. Wacker; 312/875-9696).
Spring break doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a little education. Of course, education is a lot more fun when it’s hands-on and epic in scale like it is on the Museum Campus. Check out the creatures of the deep at the Shedd Aquarium (1200 S. Lake Shore; 312/939-2438) or explore ancient civilizations and much more at the Field Museum of Natural History (1400 S. Lake Shore; 312/922-9410). Out at the Adler Planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore; 312/922-7827), meanwhile, visitors can experience virtual collisions between the orbital debris of the past fifty years in the new Space Junk 3D show. Finally, a few miles south of the Campus, complete your museum tour with a stop at the massive Museum of Science and Industry (57th and Lake Shore; 773/684-1414), where they’re testing scientific hypotheses in the most entertaining ways possible in the new MythBusters exhibit.
All Over Town
Another upshot to the arrival of spring in Chicago is the ability to get out and traverse the city without having to be enclosed in a fully sealed and heated conveyance. In other words, expect plenty of company in the open-air trolleys and double-decker sightseeing buses run by Chicago Trolley (773/648-5000), which offers convenient hop-on/hop-off service throughout downtown. For a DIY outdoor alternative, try a self-guided, pedal-powered tour of the city and its magnificent lakefront with a rental from one of the many outlets of Bike and Roll Chicago (239 E. Randolph; 312/540-1700).
Family-Friendly Fun and Fuel
Fuel up for a big day with breakfast or lunch at YOLK (1120 S. Michigan; 312/789-9655, 355 E. Ohio Street; 312/822-9655, 747 N. Wells; 312/787-2277) or enjoy a meal among the trees, waterfalls and wildlife of the Rainforest Café (605 N. Clark; 312/787-1501).
Finally, no quest for warmth and excitement in Chicago would be complete without a little time on Navy Pier (600 E. Grand; 312/595-7437). In addition to the usual assortment of rides and attractions, the Pier is hosting Swing into Spring through April 15, featuring a town square setup with live music and storybook performances, as well as visits from the Easter Bunny.