10 reasons Chicago should be on your summer vacation radar

Enduring long, bone chilling winters may be a fact of life for the people of Chicago. But also a fact of life is fully embracing the warm weather when it arrives. Spring and summer in Chicago means a city buzzing with outdoor festivals, boats dotting the lake and people swarming to the beaches. Restaurants throw their patio doors open and city parks transform into stunning green spaces.

When the cold goes away, Chicago knows how to come out and play.

Here are 10 reasons Chicago should be on your summer vacation radar this year.

Navy Pier comes to life

Chicago Navy Pier Swings at Dusk

Chicago Navy Pier Swings at Dusk

Navy Pier is a hotspot for activity all year long, but there’s something about summer that fills it with life. In 2016, the lakeside attraction will turn 100-years-old, giving Chicago something extra special to celebrate. The city is set to open a brand new 196-foot Ferris wheel, replacing the 147-foot ride that has been a Pier staple since 1995. Lake cruises that set sail from the Pier pick up this time of year and people flock to take part in all the outdoor seasonal activities that take over the area. If there were no other reasons to visit Chicago during the summer months, Navy Pier would be reason enough!

Bicycles become a viable (and enjoyable) form of transportation

Forget crowding onto public transit or fighting downtown traffic, spring and summer provide the perfect opportunity to explore Chicago by bicycle (or Segway!) Make a reservation on www.bikechicago.com and build your own adventure, or sign up for one of their group tours. This company is great at accommodating groups of all sizes and they’re kid friendly.

Zoo animals come out of hibernation

Chicago’s beautiful Brookfield and Lincoln Park Zoos keep their doors open year round, but many animals are just more apt to come out and play when the sun is shining! Each zoo has a ton to offer this spring and summer, including Lincoln Park’s Spring Break Camps and the launch of Brookfield’s Hamill Family Wild Encounters. Where else do you get the opportunity to interact up-close with red pandas and wallabies?

You can get schooled on architecture from a double decker boat

Dubbed the “Birthplace of the skyscraper,” Chicago has plenty of impressive architecture to ogle over. Instead of craning your neck from the sidewalks between buildings and wondering about the history behind each tower, Shoreline offers guided architecture tours via double decker riverboat. Catch the cruise at the right time and your tour just may end with watching fireworks over Navy Pier.

Parks are in bloom on the Gray Line tour

Gray Line gives visitors the opportunity to dig deeper into particular Chicago landmarks and neighborhoods, with about a half dozen tours to choose from. There’s even one tour that includes a personal pizza. Gray Line is happy to show tourists around the city all year long, but several of the points of interest just happen to be outdoor parks. To avoid missing out on all of the blooms and blossoms, take advantage of this opportunity during the warm weather months!

Theater goes outside

Professional stage productions head outdoors starting in the spring. Oak Park Festival Theatre and First Folio’s outdoor stage entertain audiences with acts from Shakespeare to modern productions. Breathe in fresh air while you take in a top-notch play from some of Chicago’s most renowned theatre companies. However, if you’re dying to catch a glimpse behind the scenes of the city’s “movie palace” built in 1921, then sign up for the Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour. This attraction may be indoors, but it’s worth seeing even if the weather is to die for.

Views from the 1,353-foot glass box get clearer

Step out into a glass box suspended 1,353 feet above Chicago. Located in the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the Skydeck at Willis Tower touts views that can extend into four different states on a clear day. For competing views, head up to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center and stand in the “TILT” windows that fold out in a 30-degree angle for another unique view from above Chicago’s skyline. Either way, chances of a crystal clear view are much better this time of year than under the frequent cloud cover that seems to constantly hover over the city throughout the winter.

Kids can go to Dino-Camp

The Field Museum of Natural History has been a place of scientific discovery for people of all ages for more than a century. Among a slew of other events and exhibitions that the museum hosts during the summer, one of the highlights is Dino Camp, a day camp that lets young kids put on their paleontologist caps and dig for dinosaur fossils. Older kids can try out the Summer Explore Studio, which this year fuses dinosaur survival tactics with video game development in a mash-up kids are sure to love.

Baseball is in full swing

Wrigley Field GameEnjoying a day out at the diamond in Chicago is one of the best ways to get a taste of real Chicago culture. Chicagoans have been rooting for their beloved Cubs since 1870, and Wrigley Field stands as the second oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. The White Sox have been swinging bats since 1901, and have also established a loyal fan base. Whether you choose to enjoy your hotdog from the stands at Wrigley or U.S. Cellular Field, indulging in America’s pastime in one of the country’s most die-hard baseball cities is truly an all-star experience.

You can try your hand at pirate life

“Chicago’s Official Tall Ship” sets sail out of Navy Pier starting in May every year. Marked by giant, billowing sails, the four-mast schooner offers educational tours, relaxing cruises, and even haunted trips out to sea. Learn a little bit about pirate life, maritime history and more from one of the “Windy’s” official guides, and actively participate in adjusting the sails or setting off one of the ship’s cannons.

Options abound for summer-time fun in and around Chicago. The city has a way of welcoming people of all ages, interests and backgrounds and delivering a one of a kind experience worth traveling for.