Best Things to Do in Chicago in May

Wandering what to do in Chicago this May? Here are the best things to do in Chicago in May 2021 (from a local).

May is usually a good month to visit Chicago. Temperatures are typically pleasant but attractions are less crowded before the busy season starts on Memorial Day weekend. For out of town visitors, please note that the weather in Chicago in May is very unpredictable and temperatures can vary greatly. Be prepared for winter, spring or summer like temperatures as well as rain. Make sure to pack a travel umbrella, layers and and check the weather right before your visit to know what to expect.

Due to current events, a few Chicago indoor attractions might still be closed although most places have reopened. I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly with any new information or updates.

Things to Do in Chicago in May 2021

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission if you make a booking using my links at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Garfield Park Conservatory’s 2021 Spring Flower Show “Saturation”

The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the US. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Garfield Park Conservatory showcases thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens. Outdoor gardens remain closed. The Garfield Park Conservatory’s 2021 Spring Flower Show “Saturation” will immerse visitors in virtually the entire spectrum in the rainbow. Instead of typical garden design which incorporates different colors scattered throughout the landscape, Saturation concentrates groups of blooming flowers so that visitors will be able to see and understand the wide range of hues and tints within each color and enjoy their vivid, rich and intense nuances. All visits must be pre-booked in advance and bookings can only be made two weeks in advance.

When: Through May 9, 2021

Hours: Wednesday 10am-8pm; Thursday – Sunday 10am-5pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday

Where: Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60624

Cost: Admission: FREE but donations appreciated

FRIENDS™ Experience

If you loved the TV show Friends, this pop-up experience is for you. After a break, the FRIENDS™ Experience will reopened on March 17, 2021 and ending this May. Get ready to explore FRIENDS™ like never before, with 12 rooms of set recreations, original props and costumes, photo ops, a retail store and a Central Perk set. They will donate a portion of the proceeds to My Block, My Hood, My City, an organization that provides underprivileged youth in Chicago with opportunities beyond their neighborhood.

When: Through May 31, 2021

Where: The Shops at North Bridge, 540 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL (corner of N Michigan Ave and E Ohio St)

Cost:  Tickets start at $35 + tax + fees. Standby tickets can also be purchased at the door for an additional $2 fee. Children 3 and younger are free. See https://www.friendstheexperience.com/chicago/tickets/ to purchase tickets in advance.

Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart

Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART. Projections resumed (after a 3 month break) on April 1 with the world premiere of The Adler Planetarium’s Astrographics.

When: 30-minute program of projections are shown nightly at 8:30 p.m. & 9:00 p.m.

Where: The Merchandise Mart, 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654. Spectators can watch the slow from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

Cost: Free.

See the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

From the creators of the blockbuster show at Atelier des Lumières seen by over 2 million visitors in Paris and Toronto and featured in Emily in Paris (one of my favorite travel shows on Netflix), the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, is a massive indoor digital presentation of Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork. Tickets must be purchased online in advance and they are selling quickly!

Where: Lighthouse ArtSpace at Germania Place, 108 W. Germania Pl, Chicago, IL

When: Tickets for May are sold out but there is still availability for yoga sessions which include a 35 minute Yoga class + 45 minutes thereafter to enjoy the exhibit.

Cost:  Tickets start at $39.99 plus fees for off peak times. See https://www.vangoghchicago.com/ for full prices and to purchase tickets in advance.

See the Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History Exhibit at Chicago Gamespace

Are you a Pac-Man fan? Then you might want to check out the new Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History exhibit at Chicago Gamespace (a video game museum and gallery). Comprised of playable arcade cabinets and console titles, art and artifacts from its development and advertising, this exhibit explores the game’s development and evolution from its beginnings at Namco in Tokyo in the late 1970’s to its introduction in the U.S. market where it became a household name.

When: Through May 30, 2021. Hours are 1:00 – 5:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays by advance ticket purchase only.

Where: Chicago Gamespace, 2418 W Bloomingdale Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

Cost:  Admission is $5. Kids under 12 are free.

Take Comedy Classes or See a Show at Second City

If you miss live comedy shows, Second City is reopening on May 7, 2021 with in-person shows and classes. This well-known comedy club and school is well-known for being the starting point for many famous comedians and actors.

When: Tickets are on sale now for shows staring on May 7

Where: Mainstage, 1616 N Wells St, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60614

Cost: Prices vary. See their website to purchase tickets.

Visit the New Museum of Illusions Chicago

The new Museum of Illusions Chicago offers an interactive, immersive and fun experience for both adults and kids. Visitors can engage in over 80 astonishing and mind-bending exhibits that will teach you about vision, perception, the human brain and science.

When: Sunday – Thursday: 10am – 8pm Friday – Saturday: 10am – 9pm

Where: 25 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602

Cost:  Adult (ages 18+): $21; Child (ages 5 – 12): $15; Child (ages 4 and under): FREE;
Student (ages 13+), Teachers, Military / First responders and Senior Citizens (ages 60+): $18​ with ID; Family (2 adults + 2 children): $65

Admire Famous Works of Art at The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the best things to do in Chicago Illinois in May 2021
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. In addition to its large permanent collection of art from around the world, you can see the popular “Monet and Chicago” and “Bisa Butler: Portraits” exhibitions.

When: Hours are Monday and Thursday–Sunday from 11 a.m.– 6 p.m. (10–11 a.m. for members). Closed on Tuesday–Wednesday. Must purchase tickets online in advance.

Where: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Cost:  $25 for adults, $19 for seniors, students and teens (14-17); members and children under 14 are always free. Visit their website to purchase tickets in advance. (Free admission on May 1 and 2 for Bank of America credit or debit cardholders under the Bank of America Museums on Us program.)

Enjoy the views from 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

360 CHICAGO, the observatory on the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Building, has the best views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.

Where: 875 North Michigan Avenue, 94th floor, Chicago, IL 60611

Cost:  $25 for adults, $15 youth.

Get Some Culture at The Field Museum

The Field Museum is a natural history museum in Chicago, Illinois, and is one of the largest such museums in the world.

When: Open 9am to 5pm, Thursday through Monday. Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Must purchase timed tickets to enter.

Where: Chicago’s Museum Campus, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605 (detailed directions and parking information is available here)

Cost:  Prices vary. Click here to see prices and purchase tickets online in advance. Illinois residents get free admission on free admission days (May 3, 6, 10, and 13, 2021)

Take an Architecture Cruise

Taking an architecture river cruise is a must when visiting Chicago.

Admire Spring Flowers

tulip fields in and near Chicago one of the best things to do in May 2021
There are many places in and near Chicago to admire beautiful spring flowers in May. Some of the best spots to see flowers in the city and suburbs outside include:

Lurie Garden is a 2.5-acre garden located at the southern end of Millennium Park. The garden is a combination of perennials, bulbs, grasses, shrubs and trees and offers great skyline views.

Morton Arboretum (in Lisle about 26 miles west of downtown) is home to more than 4,000 different types of trees among 1,700 acres and publishes a weekly bloom report. The Morton Arboretum’s newest outdoor art installation, Human+Nature by renowned South African artist Daniel Popper, which opened on April 9, 2021. The exhibition will feature five 15- to 26-foot-tall sculptures which will be in various locations across the 1,700-acre Arboretum site to lead guests to areas they may not otherwise explore.

• The Chicago Botanic Garden (in suburban Glencoe about 24 miles north of downtown) is one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers with 27 gardens and four natural areas, situated on 385 acres on and around nine islands, with six miles of lake shoreline. You can check their seasonal bloom chart here to see what’s in bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden during your visit.

Richardson Adventure Farm (in Spring Grove about 65 miles northwest of downtown Chicago) will be hosting its first ever Tulip Festival through mid-May, 2021. They have planted 5 acres of tulips with 300,000 bulbs with 30 different varieties.

As you can see there are still many things to do in Chicago this May.

Planning a trip to Chicago? Check out my Chicago guides and itineraries:


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