Mar 17, 2024 - Things to Do

Plan the perfect staycation in Chicago this spring break

Illustration of an old fashioned TV with a scene of the beach on the screen.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

As Chicago Public Schools prepare for their spring break next week, travel costs keep ticking up.

Why it matters: Many families may be staying put and wondering what they can do to spice up the week.

Have no fear! We've put together a staycation guide, filled with ideas for families, for wellness warriors, and for those of you who want to play tourist in your own city.

Be a tourist

Photo of a skyline
A photo from the FlyOver at Navy Pier. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

For locals, a trip to Navy Pier is really a one-time experience. Great views of the lake and a churro? Been there, done that.

Yes, but: The tourist hotspot has steadily been renovating over the past few years, and it boasts a brand new immersive attraction: the FlyOver. You can explore the sights and sounds of the city, from a birds-eye view, for $5-$25.

Photo of prairie with skyline in background
Views from Northerly Island. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

If Navy Pier is not your bag, a trip to the Museum Campus is always an option.

State of play: You could brave the crowds at the various museums, but for a no-cost alternative, walk back along the preserved prairie grass of Northerly Island. The park sprawls along the lake all the way past McCormick Place and can take hours to explore.

Photo of an arcade machine
Beware, this machine may or may not eat tokens. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

Wanna get away (from the lake)? Why not act a fool (or take your kids to act a fool) at several local arcades.

  • Dave & Buster's still has its location in River North and just reopened in Rosemont. The new location includes interactive gaming and private suites.
  • If you want to leave the kids at home, hit up Logan Arcade or Emporium in Fulton Market.

The bottom line: There's nothing that says Spring Break more than shoveling tokens into a Frogger machine.


Photo of a pool
Photo courtesy of AIRE Ancient Baths.

As Tom and Donna say on "Parks and Rec": Treat yo self!

For a decadent pampering, try a thermal bath and massage at Aire Ancient Baths, located in a former River West factory restored to resemble Greek and Roman baths. Prices vary.

  • If you're trying to be frugal this staycation, try one of the many salt caves in the Chicago area, which are known to detoxify and help respiratory health. Harmony Salt Cave in Buffalo Grove has 45-minute sessions for $40.

While in the burbs, check out King Spa in Niles. The 24-hour Korean spa has baths, saunas and even a screening room for naps.

  • The food court serves Korean dishes, juices and ice cream.
  • King Spa always offers deals on Groupon, but standard admission is $50 (not including services).

If you're looking to try a new workout, treat yourself to yoga 94 floors up at 360 Sky Yoga ($55).

  • If you don't want to throw down the cash for a pop-in class, consider ClassPass' one-month free trial, or a free week at CorePower for new customers.

The bottom line: Returning to work with that self-love glow will have everyone envying your staycation.

Suburban retreats

Photo of people on horses in the woods
White Oak Woods in Palos Hills. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Who needs to fly to Yosemite? Nature is just a walk, bike or bus ride away for many of us in 70,000 acres of Cook County Forest Preserves.

The big picture: About 110 years ago, local nature boosters pushed for a law to create these often overlooked natural oases providing 350 miles of paved trails for soul-soothing hikes.

Zoom in: The forest preserves also offer scads of group activities that, this week alone, include:

  • A Maple Syrup Festival at the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook on Sunday.
  • A guided Prairie Hike with a naturalist at the Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington on Wednesday.
  • A Wellness in the Woods bike ride in Dan Ryan Woods, where you'll also learn about African American biking pioneer Marshal "Major" Taylor on Saturday.
  • A Bird Walk in the McGinnis Slough in Orland Park on Saturday.

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