Spring is fast approaching! For a change of pace, take a break from busy beaches and costly cruises and set your sights on Chicago. The city will be in full bloom, and an array of indoor and outdoor events and attractions invite visitors to discover all that Chicago has to offer.
“Whether for a quick getaway or extended stay, there is no shortage of things to do in Chicago,” said Dorothy Coyle, Executive Director, Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. “You can check out an afternoon at the ballpark, immerse yourself in world-class museums, delve into the craft cocktail scene or taste some of our top-notch culinary offerings. There is something for everyone.”
Stop by one of the Visitor Information Centers – across from Millennium Park in the Chicago Cultural Center (77 E. Randolph Street) and at historic Water Works pumping station (163 E. Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue) – to plan an excursion to Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods. Friendly visitor representatives are on hand to help customize an itinerary and assist with any questions.
For additional event and attraction details, visit the city of Chicago’s official tourism website, www.ExploreChicago.org.
Visit Navy Pier for the Chicago Flower & Garden Show, March 10-18, to see stunning floral varieties and enjoy seminars, cooking demos and youth activities. With its “Hort Couture” theme, the show’s 25-plus gardens will draw inspiration from textures and colors found in plants and fabrics.
One of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country, the downtown St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebrates the patron saint of Irish heritage. On March 17, watch as parade floats, musicians and dancers take to Columbus Drive, then catch a glimpse of the Chicago River dyed green in honor of the festivities. Also, an old favorite returns this year to the Beverly neighborhood when the South Side Irish Parade kicks off on March 11 at Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th Street.
From April 13 to 26, catch screenings at the Chicago Latino Film Festival, presenting the great diversity of themes and genres of Latino filmmaking from around the world.
Every spring Michigan Avenue celebrates the bloom of hundreds of thousands of vibrant tulips, signaling the start of the season in Chicago. From May 1 to 31, visit Tulips on The Magnificent Mile while taking advantage of special events and spring offers at area hotels, restaurants, spas and attractions.
Celebrate Hispanic culture at the Cinco De Mayo Parade on May 6 in the Pilsen neighborhood, where visitors will find authentic Mexican food vendors, colorful floats, great music and dancing starting at noon.
The FREE Illinois Tourism Day returns to Union Station’s historic Great Hall on May 17, bringing with it live music, fun giveaways and information booths about all the great attractions to discover throughout the state.
Chicago’s Kids and Kites Festival on May 19 is a FREE fun-filled day to celebrate the joys of being a kid – from running around outdoors and flying paper kites to enjoying family-focused programming including face painting, crafts and balloon artists.
Join the thousands who gather to honor veterans and active duty military at Chicago’s Memorial Day Parade, which steps off at noon on May 26 and proceeds south on State Street from Lake Street to Van Buren Street.
With more than 300 live music venues, Chicago is a music-lover’s paradise with incredible range and talents found at Buddy Guy’s Legends, Kingston Mines, The Green Mill Jazz Club, The Metro, The Double Dour, Schubas Tavern and many other venues. Dance the night away with DJ sets at clubs like Underground, Sound Bar, and Sax Chicago hotel’s Crimson Lounge.
Chicago is a world-class culinary destination with a total of five restaurants receiving the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award this year. More than 7,300 restaurants serve cuisines to suit every taste and budget. Reserve a table at one of the Michelin Guide restaurants for exceptional meals from renowned chefs at Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s, Spiaggia, Topolobampo, Belly Shack and Girl & the Goat, among many others. At the same time, the city also honors the traditions of local delicacies such as Chicago-style pizza from Lou Malnati’s and Pizzeria Uno, and hot dogs from Portillo’s and Hot Doug’s.
A great sit-down dinner can be accompanied by a wonderful beer or wine to match at hip gastropubs and wine bars around town. Inventive menus and masterful drink lists abound at perennial favorite Hopleaf Bar and Bin 36 and more recent newcomers Owen & Engine, The Gage, Publican, and Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar.
Local breweries showcase the talents of Chicago’s beer masters and tours and tastings make great group outings. With a thriving craft beer movement, Chicago’s options have grown to include Half Acre Brewery, Revolution Brewing, Haymarket Pub & Brewery, as well as the iconic Goose Island Brewery.
The Windy City has been seeing a cocktail resurgence of late, with expert mixologists at Chicago’s top restaurants, rooftop lounges and neighborhood hangouts. Choose between creative spirits and impeccably-prepared classics at Sable Kitchen & Bar at Hotel Palomar, Pump Room at Public Hotel, Grant Achatz’s chef-inspired cocktails at Aviary, and Wicker Park’s The Violet Hour.
Chicago’s tradition of improv-based sketch comedy is legendary due in large part to the incredible talents that come from The Second City. UP Comedy Club, the Second City’s newest venue, is a premier stand-up and comedy cabaret theater offering an eclectic line-up of programming for nights filled with laughs. Other comedy clubs, venues and companies include iO Chicago, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, the Neo-Futurists, The Annoyance Theatre and ComedySportz.
ART & MUSEUM EXHIBITS
Morbid Curiosity at the Chicago Cultural Center showcases collector Richard Harris’ nearly 1,000 artifacts and works of fine art, including creations by many of the greatest artists of our time. Explore the iconography of death across a variety of artistic, cultural and spiritual practices from 2000 B.C.E. to the present day at this FREE exhibit. Now through July 8.
This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s at the Museum of Contemporary Art provides viewers with an overview of the artistic production of these heady days, and imparts the decade’s sense of political and aesthetic urgency by placing many of the decade’s competing factions in close proximity to one another. February 11-June 3.
Learn the story of Genghis Kahn – his life, his land, his people, his culture – and his enduring legacy as a ruthless Mongol warlord at Genghis Kahn: The Exhibition at the Field Museum. February 26-September 6.
In partnership with the Discovery Channel and its Emmy®-nominated series MythBusters, the Museum of Science & Industry presents the world premiere of an exhibition which uncovers the truth or myth behind everything from toast landing butter-side down to blowing a brick house down. At MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition Uncovers Truth or Myth, find hands-on experiments, explore props and gadgets from the show and watch live demonstrations by myth-busting facilitators. March 15-September 3.
The Art Institute of Chicago presents Roy Lichtenstein: Retrospective of a Leading Pop Artist, the first assessment of the full scope and breadth of the foremost Pop artist’s career since his death in 1997. The exhibition features over 130 paintings and sculptures, as well as over 30 little- or never-before-seen drawings and collages. May 23-September 3.
MUSIC, THEATER & DANCE PERFORMANCES
From Paris to the Pyramids, magical realms to the Mississippi River, and imperial Russia to the Holy Land, and more – Lyric Opera of Chicago takes you around the world on the wings of magnificent music. Verdi’s blockbuster spectacular Aida, Kern and Hammerstein’s groundbreaking musical drama Show Boat, and the Lyric stage premiere of Handel’s Rinaldo are just three of eight productions this season being presented now through March 25.
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies, Time Stands Still at Steppenwolf Theatre Company is a witty, intelligent look at what happens when ordinary life is refracted through the lens of war. Now through May 13.
Featuring the greatest rock ’n’ roll, gospel, R&B and country hits, Million Dollar Quartet at Apollo Theater captures the spirit, excitement and thrilling sounds of a singular moment when four extraordinary talents – Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley – came together for one of the most memorable nights in music history. Now through May 31.
Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin takes on Shakespeare’s spectacular tale of fairies and paramours A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. February 7-April 8.
In Tennessee Williams’ hauntingly poetic allegory Camino Real at Goodman Theatre, an American traveler and former boxer inadvertently lands in a surreal netherworld, setting off on a phantasmagoric venture through illusion and temptation in an attempt to flee its confines—and defy his grim destiny. March 3-April 8.
Rick Bayless in Cascabel, a new theatrical adventure at Lookingglass Theatre, features a sumptuous dinner, world-class circus acts, and a charming love story starring celebrity chef Rick Bayless. Audiences will dine on Mexican-inspired cuisine prepared by Bayless while they watch him play a boarding house chef in love with a woman with no appetite. March 23 – April 22.
Broadway in Chicago presents Jersey Boys at Bank of America Theatre, the story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history, April 5-June 2; and CATS at Cadillac Palace Theatre, winner of seven Tony® Awards including Best Musical, May 1- 6.
Experience the high-energy high-impact performance and the enthralling art that define Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago as they present “Passion and Fire” Spring Performances. March 9-10.
Spring Series is a blockbuster program featuring a world premiere by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s own Alejandro Cerrudo and the return of audience favorites by Sharon Eyal and Alonzo King. March 15-18.
With the Joffrey Ballet presentation of Spring Desire, favorites return–In the Night follows three couples on private journeys set to Frédéric Chopin’s nocturnes and Age of Innocence celebrates Philip Glass’ birthday–and a new work by Val Caniparoli sees its world premiere on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre. April 25-May 6.
SPORTS & RECREATION
One of the country’s few cities with two Major League Baseball teams, Chicago is a sports lover’s dream come true. Join the passionate fans for the season’s home openers – April 5 for the Chicago Cubs and April 13 for the Chicago White Sox. The city also boasts the nation’s second oldest major-league ballpark Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs (the Sox play at U.S. Cellular Field on the city’s South Side). Experience a bit of history with a Wrigley Field tour (beginning March 2), which offers an insider’s look at more than 90 years of history.
For more than 175 years, “Urbs in Horto,” which is Latin for “City in a Garden,” has been Chicago’s official motto. With more than 8,00 acres of parkland, 50 natural areas, 26 miles of beachfront along Lake Michigan and 2 world-class conservatories, the city truly lives up to this motto. Across the city, discover alluring spots for fishing, cycling, boating, skating, jogging, walking or having an impromptu picnic this spring.
Chicago’s scenic views and flat landscape make it the perfect city for exploring by bike during the spring. Bicycles can be rented at a number of locations around the city, including at the McDonald’s Cycle Center in Millennium Park, Bike and Roll Chicago and Bobby’s Bike Hike.
The city’s 77 distinct communities come alive on Chicago Neighborhood Tours, revealing rich histories and celebrated cultural traditions, local landmarks and hidden treasures. Affordable and convenient, these half-day motor coach trips offer fully-planned itineraries and an expert local guide to lead the way. The 2012 season extends through November and features 28 different excursions, 15 of which are new this year, including:
• POLKSA! Chicago’s Polish Downtown (March 3)
• Taste of Pilsen & Little Village (March 17)
• Hops & Barley: Pubs & Micro-breweries (March 24, April 14, May 12)
• STRIKE! Chicago Labor History (May 5)
• Out and Proud: LGBT Chicago (May 26)
Let a friendly, knowledgeable Chicago Greeter welcome you to the city. Customized for small groups up to six people, these FREE two- to four-hour visits are offered year-round on foot and public transit. Register 7-10 days in advance and choose a neighborhood or an interest to explore, from architecture, history or ethnic Chicago.
Historic Navy Pier is Chicago’s lakefront playground. The Midwest’s top leisure and tourist destination attracts more than 8.6 million visitors a year. Enjoy 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens, shops, eateries and attractions open year-round and always FREE to the public. Highlights include the permanent 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, an IMAX Theatre and the Tony Award–winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Chicago’s second most popular attraction Millennium Park is a new kind of town square – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and a destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike. Discover a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provide the backdrop for hundreds of FREE cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities. Pack a picnic for the Jay Pritzker Pavilion Great Lawn, tour the natural wonders in Lurie Garden and interact with the iconic Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain sculptures.
Visitor Information Resources
Visitors and residents entertaining out-of-town guests will find helpful trip-planning tools and tips on Chicago’s top-ranked travel and tourism website, www.ExploreChicago.org. For daily alerts about things to do and see in Chicago, follow Explore Chicago on Twitter at twitter.com/explorechicago (COTC’s free Twitter Concierge service @explorechicago) and on Facebook at facebook.com/explorechicago. Discover fun itineraries on the Explore Chicago blog at explorechicagotourism.com and on Foursquare at foursquare.com/explorechicago.
Expert advice and information about the city’s events and attractions are also available at the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture’s Visitor Information Centers located across from Millennium Park in the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph Street, and at the historic Water Works pumping station, 163 E. Pearson Street at Michigan Avenue.
Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture
The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture markets Chicago as a premier cultural destination to domestic and international leisure travelers; provides innovative visitor programs and services; and familiarizes visitors and residents with the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, cultural attractions and creative industries. The Chicago visitor industry serves 40 million visitors annually, generates $11 billion in direct spending and $616 million in taxes, and sustains 124,000 jobs.