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posted: 2/26/2013 5:00 AM

Spring break, Chicago!

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  • The busier you get in the city, the more you may want to travel by wheel, like this family taking a quadcycle from Bike and Roll Chicago through Navy Pier.

      The busier you get in the city, the more you may want to travel by wheel, like this family taking a quadcycle from Bike and Roll Chicago through Navy Pier.
    Bike and Roll Chicago

  • If you're starting in the suburbs, you can ditch the car and take Metra to the city for your staycation.

      If you're starting in the suburbs, you can ditch the car and take Metra to the city for your staycation.
    Metra/Meg Reile

  • Kids enjoy playing at Chicago Children's Museum.

      Kids enjoy playing at Chicago Children's Museum.
    Courtesy of Chicago Children's Museum

  • Hands-on activities will keep kids playing for hours at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier.

      Hands-on activities will keep kids playing for hours at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier.
    Courtesy of Chicago Children's Museum

  • What better way to herald spring than to go exploring at the Chicago Children's Museum?

      What better way to herald spring than to go exploring at the Chicago Children's Museum?
    Courtesy of Chicago Children's Museum

  • Shedd Aquarium is fun any time of year, but even the animals can tell when spring is in the air.

      Shedd Aquarium is fun any time of year, but even the animals can tell when spring is in the air.
    Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

  • Shedd Aquarium is fun any time of year, but even the animals can tell when spring is in the air.

      Shedd Aquarium is fun any time of year, but even the animals can tell when spring is in the air.
    Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

  • Shedd Aquarium is fun any time of year, but even the animals can tell when spring is in the air.

      Shedd Aquarium is fun any time of year, but even the animals can tell when spring is in the air.
    Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

  • Tour the city on "foot" without breaking a sweat -- on a Segway.

      Tour the city on "foot" without breaking a sweat -- on a Segway.
    Steve's Segway/freddy atkins

  • Children explore "The Universe: A Walk through Space and Time" exhibition.

      Children explore "The Universe: A Walk through Space and Time" exhibition.
    Adler Planetarium

  • If you've never been to Chinatown, why not try it during spring break?

      If you've never been to Chinatown, why not try it during spring break?
    Chicago Chinatown Chamber of Commerce

  • Greektown offers gyros, Greek fries and wallet-friendly sit-down restaurants.

      Greektown offers gyros, Greek fries and wallet-friendly sit-down restaurants.
    greek islands restaurant/Angelo Petratos

  • Silverback gorilla Kwan leads his group at Regenstein Center for African Apes, mirroring the gorilla social setting of the wild. Lincoln Park Zoo has long been a leader in preserving this endangered species.

      Silverback gorilla Kwan leads his group at Regenstein Center for African Apes, mirroring the gorilla social setting of the wild. Lincoln Park Zoo has long been a leader in preserving this endangered species.
    Lincoln Park Zoo

  • The Chicago River runs green for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago.

      The Chicago River runs green for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago.
    DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

 
By J. Hope Babowice

Chicago is:

• Unpredictable. Spring temps last year were in the 60s, nearly 20 degrees above normal.

• Beautiful. Between the architecture, museums and the lakefront, Chicago is amazing.

• Action packed. You can visit for a day, a week or a month and still have more to do and see.

"March is a great month to see Chicago," said Steve Beier, owner of Steve's Segway Tours at Millennium Park. "We count on a lot of tours with people coming to Chicago on vacation or from the suburbs during a staycation."

Free in March

• Lincoln Park Zoo: Always free.

• Millennium Park: Always free. Ice skating (bring your skates) available through mid-March, weather permitting. Free online audio tour.

• Chicago Cultural Center: Free music and entertainment for tots on alternate Fridays at 10:00 a.m., free noon lunch concerts most weekdays. Daily building tours, art exhibits.

• Museum of Science and Industry: March 4 (Illinois residents only; proof required).

• Shedd Aquarium: March 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 (Illinois residents only; proof required).

• Art Institute of Chicago: Thursday evenings 5 p.m.-8 p.m. (Illinois residents only; proof required).

• Chicago Children's Museum: March 3 for ages 15 and under, Thursday evenings 5-8 p.m. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Thursdays (Illinois residents only; proof required).

• Adler Planetarium: March 5-6. (Illinois residents only; proof required.)

• Field Museum: March 6-7. (Illinois residents only; proof required.)

Are we there yet?

Leave your car in the suburbs and take the Metra train. Hop on the L (elevated train) if you start your trip in the city or at the airport. Drivers can find parking discounts at spothero.com. Find your way around town by car, bike, train, L, bus or on foot using goroo.com. Also available as a Smartphone App.

Water taxi service from the Metra train stations to Michigan Avenue resumes March 16. See wendellaboats.com for up-to-date information.

Get a deal

Pay one price for entry to as many as 25 Chicago attractions with the Go Chicago card. Cecilia Dahl, founder and president, lists family favorites. "Everyone loves the Shedd Aquarium. Families with kids also enjoy the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry plus the Chicago Children's Museum, LegoLand Discovery Center and the Lincoln Park Zoo." See smartdestinations.com for pricing. Chicago CityPASS offers reduced rates for five top attractions. See citypass.com/chicago.

Strollin' around

Until he started kindergarten, 5-year-old William Hughes was a weekly regular at the Chicago Children's Museum at Navy Pier. His grandmother, Kathy Vant of Wood Dale, promises to bring him back over Spring Break. "We like to go where the kids can make things. We spent two hours building our own submarine," Vant said.

On the north end of town, stroll over to meet the Lincoln Park Zoo's baby gorillas Patty and Nayembi. Check out the zoo's website for special March events. Head off to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, home to butterflies, birds and bugs, only a few blocks from the zoo.

Spring is here

In March, spring fever is all over town. The Shedd Aquarium's Roger Germann said even the animals feel it. "Our animals do spring-like things. Our rare Blue Cayman Iguana gets bright blue this time of year. It'll be the first spring break for our dolphin calf, Sagu, and our soon-to-be named beluga whale calf."

Two-wheelers for bigger people

See the sites on a Segway. Steve's Segway Tours offers three-hour Chicago lakefront tours and has electric Trikke rentals. "The lakefront tour includes Buckingham Fountain, Soldier Field, the museum campus and Michigan Avenue," said owner Steve Beier. For prices, times and tours see stevessegwaytours.com.

Don't miss

Spring fever cures: Adler Planetarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, Navy Pier, Art Institute of Chicago.

All around the town

And then there's: Chinatown, John Hancock Observatory, SkyDeck Chicago at the Willis Tower, Pritzker Military Library.

Bring on your inner Irish

St. Patrick's Day Parade, Saturday, March 16, noon.

See the Chicago River go green: March 16, 10 a.m. Find out more at chicagostpatsparade.com.

Feed me

Pack a lunch or grab a bite of Chicago's best food. Museums offer dining options --- brown bag lunch rooms, concessions and restaurants. Try deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's Pizza, Gino's East or Pizzeria Uno and Due, or grab a bite at the food courts at Macy's on State Street and Water Tower Place. Don't miss Greektown's gyros and Greek fries and the sit-down restaurants that don't break the bank.

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