Chicago: Things to do in spring, from hiking to picnics to music festivals

It’s that time of year when the birds start to chirp, the flowers start to bloom and the snow stops falling…sometimes.

We’ve rounded up some ideas for you to enjoy the elusive spring months in Chicago.

1. Chicago’s Big Festival Weekend
An artist’s rendition of the Chicago Blues Festival when it was held in Grant Park. Art: Mark McMahon/Franklin McMahon/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

With spring comes more street, music and food festivals. If you want to break out of your pandemic cocoon and experience the soul of Chicago, there are plenty of festival-filled weekends to look forward to.

  • But one weekend rules them all: June 10-12. Discover all these festivals:

The Chicago Blues Festival: The annual Free City Festival returns to Millennium Park. Lineups have yet to be announced, but this gathering is more about celebrating local music than lineups.

Hyde Park Summer Festival: Returning after a two-year hiatus, it is set in Midway Plaisance and features headliners Busta Rhymes and Lupe Fiasco.

Andersonville Midsommarfest: The popular street festival returns after a two-year hiatus. It takes over Clark Street and celebrates the neighborhood’s Swedish origins.

puerto rican festival: The weekend party takes over Humboldt Park, culminating on Sunday with the Puerto Rican People’s Day Parade.

The Old Town Art Fair: One of the oldest art fairs in the country, which joins the Wells Street Art Festival to close the old town.

Flavors of Chicago Pop-Ups: The city brings the Downtown Festival to neighborhoods in June, leading to a scaled-down version of the Grant Park Festival in July.

The 2022 James Beard Awards: The awards technically take place on Monday, June 13, but the weekend will feature public events and restaurant parties galore.

This weekend will also have a changeover Guaranteed rate fieldas the White Sox host the Texas Rangers in town.

💭 Justin’s thought bubble: Does anyone want to try to participate in all these events in one weekend? I’m in.

💭 Monica’s Thought Bubble: That seems too much for my fun-sensors to handle. I can leave and rent my accommodation on Airbnb.

2. Visit the Cherry Blossoms in Jackson Park
GIF of cherry blossoms in front of a museum.
Cherry Blossoms 2021 in Jackson Park GIF: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Your whimsical friends from Washington, DC may have been posting cherry blossoms all the way through March, but we do our cherry blossom romp in mid-April (weather permitting).

  • And the best place to do it is Jackson Park, where the city has planted 160 trees near the Museum of Science and Industry of the Lagoon and the Japanese Garden of the Phoenix.
  • The scene is so transporting that you may feel like you have arrived on another planet.

Pro tip: Consider bringing a picnic lunch of sushi or other Japanese delicacies to enjoy under a shower of falling petals.

3. Great Picnic Spots
Photo of a man sitting on a rock with a computer in his hands and donuts next to him.
Justin works during his donut picnic at Calumet Park last summer. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Calumet Park: Grab some smoked or fried fish from Calumet Fisheries and head to this 181-acre park along the lake. Along with its wide stretches of green grass and shady groves, it offers one of the closest free parking lots to the lake in the entire park system.

Photo of a woman leaning against a lamp post with the city skyline in the background.
Monica finds the best place at 31st Street Har for a picnic. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

31st Street Harbor: Yes, it’s a harbor, but there’s this wonderful piazza and green space built on top of the building that includes picnic tables and grassy knolls with lovely lake views for picnickers. In addition, there is parking nearby.

Skokie Lagoon: The jewel of the northern suburbs gives you a glimpse of nature right next to the Edens. It covers 894 acres and offers fishing, biking/hiking and picnic areas. You can even rent a canoe!

Swallow Cliff Wood: Have you ever thought of eating a picnic on a 100 foot high cliff? These woods near Palos Park have 125 limestone stairs to access the cliff. Ideal for tobogganing, but also for a nice spring hike.

4. Help clean up rivers, forests and parks
Photo of a turtle and graphic promoting Chicago River Day.
Chicago River Day is May 14. Flyer courtesy of Chicago River Day

Spring is the perfect time to get out there and help improve the look of your community. Our region has a slew of opportunities in the coming months, including:

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