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.
photo: 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 Brick by Brick 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.
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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. Go zip lining at a playground.
Chicago’s Park 574 has an amazing zip line for all ages. And the suburbs are chock full, too, with favorites at Harvester Park in Burr Ridge and Century Park in Vernon Hills. We have a list of seven local kid-approved zips that’ll keep them mere feet from the ground.
photo: Angelic Organics
7. 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.
8. 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 these 18 to pick from across the city and suburbs, you’ll find one for any type of tot.
9. 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. Here is the secret on seven spots you don’t know yet.
10. Get the royal treatment at Chicago Children’s Museum.
Chicago Children’s Museum’s Once Upon a Castle invites young dreamers to create their own kingdom in a one-of-a-kind castle themed play space. Watch on as they explore a castle complete with secret tunnels, a rope bridge, tower, dungeon, throne room, wizard’s room, kitchen, feasting table, market and more. Don’t miss this fantastical experience where the only limit is one’s imagination.
photo: Lincoln Park Zoo
11. 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.
12. 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. Take a walk on the wild side with Shedd Aquarium.
We’re sure you’ve visited Shedd, but have your really seen Shedd? Schedule a behind the scenes tour, a visit with the penguins or live dangerously by showing up for a shark feeding.
15. Get lost at American Science & Surplus.
It sells everything from the wild (squirrel underpants . . . uh, what?) to the wonderful (meteorite chunks) and everything in between. The mom-and-pop shop — around since 1937 with locations in Geneva and Chicago’s northwest side — is paradise for curious kids, tinkerers, hobbyists, artists and bargain hunters.
photo: George’s Gym
16. Sign up for a kiddie class that comes to your home.
Parachutes and gym mats in your living room? A musician in your kitchen? If you’re not up for trekking all around town to get your entertainment fix, we’ve got the scoop on classes that come to you.
17. Tap into that fierce inner ninja warrior.
Get your kids climbing the walls at Windy City Ninjas’ new 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.
18. 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.
19. Bounce off the walls at an indoor gym.
Sometimes, you just gotta move, move, move. Do just that at certain museums and community recreation centers, where you’ll find mini tree houses, itty-bitty jungle gyms and more. Read our story to discover eight options for tumbling, climbing and balancing fun.
photo: Naperville Yard
20. Check out a new kid in town: Naperville Yard.
Having new spaces in your back pocket for drop-in fun is Parenting Survival 101. For $8/kid, Naperville Yard gives access to their 5-story climbing structure. While you’re there, check out their digs for potential future birthday party planning for your sports lovers.
What is your plan for spring break? Let us know in the Comments!
— Maria Chambers & Wendy Altschuler