Staying home for spring break? Good plan! Make the most of it by really digging into what Chicago and the ‘burbs have to offer. Discover new play spaces, go for hikes, dig into the latest museum exhibits, see a show … the list goes on. Here are 20 ideas for filling your days in amazing ways.

Numbers In Nature Exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry Chicagophoto: Museum of Science and Industry

1. Get lost in a mirror maze.
No need to leave the learning behind when it can be as fun as the Museum of Science and Industry’s exhibit, Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze. Kick off the experience with a film that shows how fractals, spirals and “golden ratio” are woven into our lives. Then take a dizzying trip through a mirrored maze and race to find a secret room with even more math-tacular secrets. Find out more by clicking here.

2. Find your inner builder
While you’re at MSI, let the spectacular LEGO®-built marvels of engineering inspire the builder within you. MSI’s temporary Brick by Brick exhibit features more than a dozen giant constructions, including a 60-foot Golden Gate Bridge, the International Space Station and Roman Colosseum. These marvels are just the beginning, because you’ll soon be making some of your own with the help of hands-on building challenges. This exhibit is only on display through April 1.

3. Race slot cars.
Resurrect 1960s thrills at an old-school wonderland, Dads Slot Cars in Des Plaines. Armed with hand controls (and a rush of high-speed adrenaline) you power miniature cars on a slotted track. Once you’re done owning that track, top off the afternoon with a cone from the onsite ice cream parlor.

photo: Medieval Times via Maria Chambers

4. Go Medieval
Watch on as 6 knights battle it out fast and furious on real horses and enjoy a utensil-free feast at Medieval Times’ newly revamped show. Use code SB18 for any show in March and April to save $6-$31/person.

5. Pretend it’s summer at an indoor water park.
Lazy rivers. Wave pools. Slides that go so fast you’ll forget to breathe. No matter your water park speed, or the age of your kids, you’ll find one nearby that will make you forget what a polar vortex is.

6. Tour a gummi factory.
It’s a quick and worthwhile trip to Merrillville, Indiana, to get to Albanese Confectionery, the only gummi factory in the U.S. that offers tours. Along with making colorful, chewy treats, this post has a floor-to-ceiling chocolate fountain. Insider tip: Standard Market repackages these gummies in their candy section if you want a fix without the road trip. Try them frozen, you’ll never eat them another way again.

7. Color your day with Prismatica.
Experience Navy Pier’s temporary exhibit, Prismatica, a new immersive art installation comprised of 25 pivoting prisms more than 6-feet tall. The prisms, mounted on bases containing projectors, 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 lights and colorful reflections, as well as a variable-intensity soundtrack comprised of bell sounds.

For Educational Family Programs: Angelic Organicsphoto: Angelic Organics

8. Meet the animals at a local farm.
If you want to show your kids what it takes to get eggs to the carton and milk in the jug then, B-I-N-G-O! — you’re in luck. Select local farms open their barnyard gates so families can explore and learn. It’s worth the mini road trip to Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia for educational programming and animal encounters. Or stay closer to home and milk cows at historic Wagner Farm in Glenview.

9. Go bananas at a play space.
They’re a great Plan A, Plan B, Plan C … you get the idea. Play spaces are a fab idea anytime, and with plenty to choose from across the city and suburbs, you’ll find one for any type of tot.

10. Visit a museum you’ve never heard of until now.
Sure, we know you have your favorites – Chicago is teeming with museums. But it’s time to improve old habits! Check out a superhero vehicle at Volo Auto Museum, travel to an island for a peek at 18th-century life at Isle a la Cache Museum, and more.

11. Explore Chicago’s History Museum’s exhibit, Race: Are We So Different?
Race is the first national exhibition to dive into the concept of race from the biological, cultural and historical points of view and offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the United States.

lionel-lpzoophoto: Lincoln Park Zoo

12. Choo-choo your way around the Lincoln Park Zoo.
This beautiful weather we’ve been having makes a visit to the LPZ a no-brainer. The track-less Lionel Train Adventure chugs around a scenic loop, giving excited tykes a break from the monkeys, lions and bears.

13. Visit a nature center with wild perks.
Touch a 13,000-year-old woolly mammoth. Spot beaver tracks. Well, first learn what they look like, and then track them. Pretend to be birds in a big faux nest. These awesome adventures await at nature centers in and around Chicago, including one in Palos Heights that has a special “Children’s Forest.”

14. Get curious at Adler Planetarium.
Check out Young Explorers Mondays, where children and their families can try stellar hands-on activities like Fly a Kite, Stories Under the Stars, and more.

15. Go gnome hunting at Morton Arboretum
Gnomes are invading Morton Arboretum for a game of hide-and-seek in the Children’s Garden. Can you find them all? You have all March long to give it a go . . . and then they’re gone.!

16. Make winged friends at Birds of Paradise
Journey to the exotic world of New Guinea in a new exhibition at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum featuring the extravagant plumage, crazy courtship dances and bizarre behaviors of the extraordinary birds.

photo: Washed Ashore via Maria Chambers

17. See garbage transformed into art at Shedd Aquarium’s Washed Ashore
A 500-lb sea lion pup, a 13-foot eel and a 150 lb. Sea Jelly. See those and more in Shedd’s special exhibition featuring larger-than-life sculptures of aquatic animals, created entirely from plastic beach trash. The exhibit was created to illustrate how plastic pollution has become one of the gravest threats to both ocean and freshwater animals and help the public become a part of the solution.

18. Tap into that fierce inner ninja warrior.
Get your kids climbing the walls at Windy City Ninjas’ 10,000 square foot gym with a variety of American Ninja Warrior-inspired obstacles. Join in during open gym times or schedule a break with Spring Break camps for the little warriors.

19. Go roller skating.
Get your glide on at select retro-fun spots that have stood the test of time. From the slick MLK Skating and Bowling Center on the South Side to the playful Aurora Skate Rink in Aurora, you won’t have to drive too far. AImpress everyone with your 8-wheeled dance moves at four old-school rinks you can discover here.

photo: Adler Planetarium’s What is a Planet?

20. Find out what makes a planet a planet at What is a Planet?
Why is Pluto no longer a planet? Thanks to the International Astronomical Union (what a mouthful!) declassifying Pluto as a planet in 2006, this is yet another question our kids can ask that some of us might not know how to answer. This is when it’s good to be a Chicagoan because we have places like Adler Planetarium to turn to when we need our kids to think we’re smart. Adler’s What is a Planet? is providing simple answers to a big question.

What is your plan for spring break? Let us know in the Comments!

— Maria Chambers & Wendy Altschuler

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