Chicago is one of my favorite cities. Fortunately having friends there and a place to stay has meant getting to know the city pretty well and visiting year round. While I don’t think there’s a bad time to visit Chicago, there are some months that are better than others.
Spring is one of my favorite times to visit. There’s something a little extra special as the city is waking up from the cold. The snow that has been piled up all winter is gone. In it’s place, spring flowers are blooming, the sky is blue and the humidity is low. So pack your bags, here are 5 of the best reasons to visit Chicago in the spring.
Tulips Are a Good Reason to Visit Chicago in the Spring
Every fall, the city of Chicago plants tens of thousands of tulip bulbs for a springtime show of color. What started as a Michigan Avenue tradition has turned into a city wide event. You will see tulips all over downtown in the medians and on the sidewalks.
If you aren’t familiar, tulips bulbs require planting in the fall of the year. This means after planing the bulbs, the city then has to protect them from the winter weather and the harsh chemicals they use on the roads to melt snow. So they cover them up with sod. Then at the proper time, they remove the sod so the tulips can grow, bloom and signal that spring has arrived.
One of the feel good about this tradition is that the city sometimes uses the tulip event to mark special occasions or to highlight happenings in the city. One year they worked with a Dutch tulip bulb breeder to produce a tulip named after the then mayor’s wife, Maggie Daley. Mrs. Daley was battling cancer at the time and the city, knowing that she had carried tulips down the aisle at her wedding to the mayor, planted the new bulb in her honor.
Can you even talk about visiting Chicago and not mention Millennium Park? It may be one of the most touristy things to do but, I’ll admit it doesn’t matter how many days I’m in town or what the weather is like, I always head over there. It’s one of the best ways to experience the city when you visit Chicago in the spring. Here are some of the features I love:
Cloud Gate better known as “The Bean” is a sculpture designed by Sir Anish Kapoor. Made up of 168 pieces of stainless steel, welded together and polished to a seamless brilliance that reflects everything around it. It changes color as the day turns to evening and the skyline lights up. It’s mesmerizing and should be experienced in every season not just spring. Walk around it, walk under it and definitely get that selfie.
Lurie Gardens is Millennium Park’s “secret garden”. Located behind the Bean, the garden is a four season garden where there is always something to see. Two and a half acres of bulbs, grasses, perennials, bushes and trees, something is always blooming. It’s particularly beautiful in the spring when you can catch some of those tulips I mentioned and my favorite, peonies.
You really could spend the entire day exploring Millennium Park. Don’t miss the fun interactive Crown Fountain and walk the Frank Gerhy BP pedestrian bridge. There are plenty of restaurants around the park. If the weather is cooperating, get your food to go and have a picnic! There are plenty of shaded areas and benches for seating.
Architectural Tours to See Chicago in the Spring
Spring in Chicago is the perfect time to hop on a boat and float down the Chicago River for a tour of the some of the buildings that made Chicago famous.
There’s nothing more constant than change. While a lot has changed thru out the years, the newer modern buildings peacefully coexists with the historical ones in what makes Chicago one of the most distinctive and beautiful skylines. Some of the names of the buildings may change but they are as outstanding as ever.
I used Wendella Boats for for my architectural tour. The boat is a two deck boat with indoor seating and an open air deck on top. The best views are from top deck if you don’t mind the sun.
As for the tour itself, there’s a lot of info about the skyline, the different types of architecture and the time periods in which they were built. The tour lasts about an hour and a half. You can purchase snacks and drinks on board. If you take a morning tour, they even have mimosas.
Outside Dining on Randolph Street
Who doesn’t enjoy sitting outside sipping a libation or two on a nice spring evening? After the long winter, Chicagoans are eager to get outside and there’s no shortage of restaurants with outdoor seating. Just another great reason to visit Chicago in the spring.
For starters, head over to Randolph Street’s Restaurant Row. Located in the West Loop area, one of my favorite neighborhoods, you will find some of the best and award winning restaurants in the city with plenty of sidewalk tables.
Maude’s Liquor Bar is one of my current favorites.They have indoor seating and a few sidewalk tables to enjoy the spring weather. It’s the perfect place for a cozy date night but not too fancy for a casual friends dinner.
Maude’s features a menu that changes seasonally. Dishes such as Roast Farm Chicken, Escargot and Cassoulet are just a few of the French comfort food classics they serve. The menu also has some updated twists on classics. Instead of French Onion soup, how about French Onion Fondue?
And the cocktails are some of the best I’ve had. Just wait till you try an Aviator or a Gin Smash.
Another great place to experience Chicago in the spring is RM Champagne. With an inviting outdoor space, you’ll wonder if you are in Chicago or Paris. They serve dinner but my favorite thing here is the delicious desserts. My suggestion is to try the dessert flight. You can select up to ten pastries from the menu that day. With that variety, there’s sure to be something for everyone’s taste. Throw in a bottle of bubbly and you can’t go wrong.
Rooftop Bars in the Spring
Chicago in the spring wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a rooftop bar. In the last few years Chicago has quite a few and some are really difficult to get into. While some are more club, and others more restaurant, the one that I prefer, with a more laid back vibe is Raised Bar, located in the Renaissance Hotel right on the river. Surrounded by glass, to take advantage of the views and the Chicago River, it’s a great place to finish off an evening.
All of these Chicago experiences, with the exception of the tulips, really could be enjoyed in the summer and the fall of the year. So, the next time you are looking for a Spring get away or a long weekend, why not choose Chicago? You won’t be disappointed.
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