You should be proud — you braved another Chicago Winter. Actually, not that impressive with the lack of subzero temps and snows unusual non-appearing act, but we’ll still give you credit. Your reward is all of the activities that Spring brings. Things like carousel rides, gnome hunting and visits to over-the-top playgrounds. Put on your shades and your favorite tee (but layer it with a fleece … this is windiest of cities, after all) and get out there. Here are 12 ways to say “well, hello there!” to Spring.

For a Wild Ride: Lincoln Park Zoophoto: Lincoln Park Zoo

1. Ride the carousel at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Hold on for one truly wild ride when you climb aboard Lincoln Park Zoo’s Endangered Species Carousel. Rare and endangered species like frogs, ostriches, pandas, zebras, gorillas and seals — many of which you’ll find thriving in the zoo — are represented in the 48 artisan-crafted wooden animals and two chariots. It’s open weather-dependent until April, when you can spin daily.

Morton Arboretum Gnomesphoto: Super sneaky gnome in need of a home at Morton Arboretum

2. Be the architect of homes for super sweet gnomes.
Hey! Don’t miss your chance to hunt for gnomes and build them homes at the uber beautiful Morton Arboretum! They’re up for a sneaky game of hide-and-seek, but we have faith you can find the little boogers before they pack their bags for destinations unknown after March 31.

3. Meet the Easter bunny at Morton Arboretum.
Can’t make time for a date with the gnomes? No worries! Give that snooze button a rest and hop out of bed April 16 for a chance to dine with Easter’s big-eared mascot. Fill your bellies with flapjacks and take in the stunning Spring blooms popping up on the grounds. Don’t forget to get lost in the maze at the Children’s Garden before you head out!

adventure-playground-general1photo: Adventure Playground / Blackberry Farm

4. Frolic at one of Chicago’s unusual, over-the-top playgrounds
With the mild winter we’ve had, playgrounds have gotten a little more action than normal the last few months. But, now you can shed a few layers and officially kick off playground season. We’re not talking about just any playgrounds either, because our city is teeming with the crazy and unusual, including climb-on spacecrafts and slides that shoot from farmhouses. Click here to see our list of extraordinary playgrounds across the city and ‘burbs.

Maria Chambersphoto: Starved Rock via Maria Chambers

5. Tell Winter to take a hike . . . and tag along for the walk!
You could hang in the urban jungle all year round and never run out of things to do, but how about adding fresh air, unforgettable scenery and facetime with critters in their natural habitat to the mix? Lace up your boots and hit these favorite toddler-approved hiking trails. Tip: Spring is the absolute best time to visit Starved Rock to see their waterfalls in action.

6. Add a touch of groove to your Spring.
Swap those cumbersome boots for a pair of dancing shoes because the Windy City’s kindie music scene is in full bloom. Catch the sweet beats of rockers that appeal to pint-sized groupies in libraries and bars (yep, kids are welcome) across the city.

garfield-parkphoto: Garfield Park Conservatory

7. Shhhhh, let’s all just pretend Winter never falls on Chicago
The all-knowing Punxsutawney Phil informed us our days of feeling the chill are numbered, but we can pretend this whole Winter thing skips us altogether at these Chi-town hotspots that never feel anything less than tropical.

8. I see the sun, let’s SWIM!
Alright, let’s not get too excited here. We still have months before the lifeguards report for duty, but that doesn’t mean we need to keep those Speedos packed away, right? Warm up the car and schedule a last-minute road trip to the Midwest’s best bet for indoor water play, the Wisconsin Dells, or dive into one of these local indoor water parks. Let those pale legs proudly shine!

9. Afix the baskets to your bike and shop fresh and local.
Outdoor farmers markets are still in hibernation, but there’s no need to prematurely wake the bear —  improvise by showing your kids the green scene at one of these indoor farmers markets.

Topgolf Napervillephoto: Topgolf Naperville

10. Forget letting the ground thaw, tee up now!
Hit a hole-in-one by going clubbin’ with the family at Topgolf Naperville and Wood Dale. Kill two birds in one — improve your golf game while also showing your kids just how amazing you are with a club in hand. And, maybe get them interested in the game, as well.

11. Kick it old school at Cascade Drive-In
Keep your eyes peeled for Cascade’s season opener, coming sometime in March. Park the car, sit in front of one of the nation’s largest outdoor movie screens and blow the kids minds with a dose of yesteryear. Bring your own food and charcoal to cook on one of the grills in the picnic area. Cascade operates March through November.

How are you leaping into spring? Let us know in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers