You should be proud — you braved another Chicago winter. Your reward is all of the activities warmer weather brings. Things like carousel rides, glamping 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 just a few ways to say “well, hello there!” to spring.

photo: courtesy of Maria Chambers

1. 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.

2. Spring is made for glamping.
Glamorous camping? Yep, it’s a thing. And best to do it before it gets too hot. Enjoy Mother Nature while you camp out in style with special touches like cozy queen size beds, stocked kitchens and even air-conditioning in one of our picks for bug-free camping. From sleeping in a real treehouse to glamin’ it up it in a cabin in the woods, you won’t have to twist anyone’s arm to get them out in the fresh air.

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

3. 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.

4. 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 shine proudly!

photo: courtesy of Maria Chambers

5. On your mark. Get set. Run (or walk)!
Race season is upon us and it’s not just for the grownups. From Chicago to the ‘burbs, you’ll find a whole host of fun runs that welcome the entire family. Lace up your trainers and find the best kid-friendly strolls, dashes, obstacle courses and charity races.

6. Kick it old school at Cascade Drive-In
Keep your eyes peeled for Cascade’s season opener, coming in April. 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 April through November.

adventure-playground-general1photo: Adventure Playground / Blackberry Farm

7. Frolic at one of Chicago’s unusual, over-the-top playgrounds
Mother Nature has shown us some love with some pretty decent temps lately . . . for Chicago, that is. Layer up and officially kick off playground season. We’re not talking about just any playgrounds either, because our city is teeming with cool, including climb-on spacecrafts and slides that shoot from farmhouses. Click here to see our list of extraordinary playgrounds across the city and ‘burbs.

8. 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.

Maria Chambersphoto: Starved Rock via Maria Chambers

9. 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.

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 with one — improve your golf game while also showing your kids just how amazing you are with a club in hand. If you prefer your game miniaturized, check out one of these mini courses for kitschy fun.

photo: Navy Pier Prismatica

11. Get colorful at Navy Pier.
Now through April 15, Navy Pier’s Polk Bros. Park is hosting Prismatica, a new immersive art installation comprised of 25 pivoting prisms more than 6-feet tall. The prisms transmit and reflect every color in the visible spectrum, varying with the position of the light source and the observer. As guests wander among and manipulate the prisms, they will enjoy an infinite interplay of sound, lights and colorful reflections.

12. Kick it old school at Cascade Drive-In
Keep your eyes peeled for Cascade’s season opener, coming in April. 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 April through November.

photo: Buckingham Fountain

13. Make a wish!
From the tiny and refreshing to the world-famous and massive, Chicago has its fair share of magic fountains just waiting for your pennies. Gather your change and be on the lookout for one of these local water fountains worthy of your wishes.

13. Check out a local nature center.
What does a 13,000-year-old woolly mammoth feel like? Can you tell the difference between a muskrat and a mink? Do you know what beaver tracks look like? Tickle the fancy of your nature lovers by heading to an awesome nature center in and around Chicago. You’ll have a blast connecting with nature and participating in hands-on activities.

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

— Maria Chambers