In Chicago, the weather from one day to the next can change dramatically. You may think that spring has finally hit, you’ve put away your winter coat and put on a pair of shorts, then the next week you get eight inches of show. Even in the middle of summer, it’s hard to know what to expect.
When you get a nice day in Chicago, take advantage of it! Here are seven of the best ways to enjoy warm weather in Chicago:
Hit North Avenue Beach
Spending the day at the beach is the ultimate way to make the most of a warm day. And when you’re talking about beaches in Chicago, North Avenue Beach is the first to come up. A huge and beautiful beach, it’s one of the cleanest in the city and one of the best for people-watching!
Located a bit north of the downtown and Gold Coast areas, North Avenue Beach provides a great view of the city’s unique architectural skyline. A walkway extends from the bottom of the beach and curls into Lake Michigan, offering one of the absolute best photo spots in all of Chicago.
Because this beach is so popular, it does get a bit crowded. Get there early so you can claim your spot with towels and umbrellas. Pack a cooler full of snacks and drinks so you can spend the day on the beach, soaking up the sun.
Head to Lincoln Park Zoo
Lincoln Park Zoo is located near the shore of Lake Michigan, right next to North Avenue Beach. It’s a bit small, but it’s free and conveniently located. Exhibits include a lion house, primate house, bird house, reptile house, restored prairie and wetlands areas, and so much more.
Not only is it a great place to see some wild animals, but Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes conservation efforts. It’s not just a place for people to hang out. They take care of animals who are endangered or otherwise unable to live on their own. It’s one of the largest zoo-based conservation and science programs in the country.
Cool off at Crown Fountain
Crown Fountain is an interactive art piece known for the large LED screens that display faces. The fountain is designed to look like the water is coming out of the mouths of the faces. Water falls down the sides of the fountain and sprays out the front, accumulating in a shallow pool that’s only a couple of inches deep.
Visitors are welcome to play in the spray of the water and to splash around in the water on the ground. It’s perfect for a quick cool down on a day full of activities. Because there aren’t deep pools of water, it’s safe for young children. When you’re ready to dry off, lounge in Millennium Park until you’re ready to get moving again.
Check Out a Rooftop Bar
Rooftop bars offer you an incredible view of the city. You can get views like this from places like the Skydeck or Tilt, but tickets for those can be pricey, they tend to be crowded, and you don’t hang around for long. For a place where you can spend time relaxing and actually enjoying the view, it’s all about rooftop bars.
One of the most popular options in the city is the London House Rooftop Bar. Close to the lakeshore and the river, you get views of both as well as of the Magnificent Mile. It is a pricey place, so save this one for a special occasion like a milestone birthday or anniversary. If you’re looking for more rooftop bars in Chicago, Party Slate’s list is a good resource.
Soak Up the Beauty of the Gardens
There are a few gardens to choose from in Chicago, including the Garfield Conservatory, Lincoln Park Conservatory, and the Japanese Garden in historic Jackson Park. The Garfield Park Conservatory is the most popular of the three. It’s a 184-acre park with a swimming pool, fishing areas, and athletic fields and courts.
The Lincoln Park Conservatory is another popular option and it’s very convenient if you’re already visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo. See beautiful tropical plants in the conservatory and then head over to the lily pool for a retreat that’s so peaceful, you’ll forget you’re in a city.
Don’t forget the Japanese Garden in 500+ acre Jackson Park, just behind the Museum of Science and Industry. Located along the south side lakefront, this jewel of landscape design hosts the peaceful oasis of native Japanese plants and trees, perfect for quiet contemplation.
Enjoy an Ice Cream Cone
Summer is made for ice cream, and ice cream for summer. When you’re looking for a sweet treat, go to one of the many ice cream shops in Chicago. Margie’s Candies is a classic for Chicagoans. It’s been around for over a hundred years and has delicious sundaes, malts, milkshakes, and scoops.
If you want something a bit more modern, check out Spinning J’s. At Spinning J’s, the ice cream cones are made from deliciously crumbly and sweet pie crust. Enjoy amazing seasonal flavors, or stick with classic chocolate and vanilla.
Join in on a Tour
There are many ways to tour Chicago to see and learn about its gorgeous architecture. Probably the most popular option, the river cruise ranked as one of the world’s top travel experiences in 2019. These cruises go down the Chicago River for a view unlike any other of the buildings and architecture that have made Chicago famous.
If a riverboat cruise isn’t your thing, tours are also available on kayaks, bikes, segways, and on foot. Tours often have themes like the best food in Chicago, architectural tours, historical tours, or gangster tours. Each one teaches you something different about the city and gives you the inside scoop.
The food tour is especially useful if you take it at the beginning of your trip. Then you can make a list of all the places you want to eat while you’re here.
Warm days absolutely cannot be wasted when the weather in Chicago is so hit and miss. The next time you are in the city on a warm day, choose one of the activities mentioned above so that you can make the most of it.