30 of the Best Things to Do in Chicago and the Suburbs in April

Spring is in the air, baseball is back (with fans!), and the expanded Covid-19 vaccine rollout has us hopeful for brighter days ahead. Here are the best virtual and in-person things to do this April around Chicago and the suburbs.

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All Month

Major League Baseball 2021 Season

Chicago baseball kicks off on Thursday, April 1 with a Cubs home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the White Sox away against the Los Angeles Angels. Fans can return to the stands at reduced capacity and with modifications, but we’ll take it!

“Mandela: Struggle for Freedom”

Visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center this month and trace the history of the fight against apartheid in South Africa, with Nelson Mandela as one of its central figures. Kids and students can visit free during Spring Break (thru April 11).

Streaming: Lyric Opera of Chicago

To begin the second half of its 2020/21 season, Lyric Opera of Chicago is premiering previously announced programs and new spring experiences virtually. Offerings include “Sole e Amore,” “Twilight: Gods,” The Sonata Sessions and more, featuring the Lyric Opera Orchestra, the Lyric Opera Chorus, Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center Ensemble and artists from around the world.

“The Long Dream” at the Museum of Contemporary Art

This exhibition encourages viewers to see Chicago, the world and themselves through the eyes of 70 local artists. Organized by the Artistic Division which includes the curatorial, learning and content teams, “The Long Dream” features painting, performance, sculpture, video and sound art. The exhibition is in the Griffin Galleries on the fourth floor.

“Monet and Chicago” at the Art Institute of Chicago

Claude Monet. Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, 1877. The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection.

Explore Chicago’s connection to the Impressionist artist Claude Monet with this new exhibition. The Art Institute became the first American museum to purchase one of Monet’s paintings in 1903 and its collection has expanded since then. The exhibit requires an additional $7 ticket in addition to general admission and tickets are limited.

“Bisa Butler: Portraits” at the Art Institute of Chicago

Butler uses fabric to construct images of Black life. The quilts engage with themes such as family, community, migration and more. Ticket prices vary depending on area of residency. An exhibition ticket is not required to view “Bisa Butler: Portraits,” but guests must join the virtual line.

Immersive Van Gogh Experience

Courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh.

After debuting in Toronto, the Immersive Van Gogh experience is here in Chicago. The hour long, walk-through exhibit features more than 50 projectors showing Van Gogh’s works including “The Starry Night,” “Irises” and more, and music by Italian multimedia composer Luca Longobardi. Ticket prices for the digital art exhibition start at $39.99 for adults and $24.99 for children 16 or younger.

Starting this month, attend a 35-minute yoga class led by a CorePower Yoga instructor within the Immersive Van Gogh experience. Register for a yoga class and afterwards, you’re invited to stay and experience the art.

Lincoln Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show: Pretty in Pink

Spring is in bloom at The Lincoln Park Conservatory, and they are welcoming back guests to see azaleas, hydrangeas, peonies, tulips and alyssum arranged throughout a room that’s bursting with the familiar springtime color. Reservations can be made online, reserving a 60-minute timeslot.

Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes at the Museum of Science and Industry

Photo courtesy of Sandro Vannini

Explore Marvel history with artifacts including original comic book pages, costumes and props from the movies and more. The exhibit, running until Oct. 24, allows guests to learn about how characters have evolved over time. An additional ticket must be purchased to experience this exhibit. Tickets cost $18 for adults and $14 for children ages 3-11.

The Friends Experience

Photo courtesy of Justin Barbin

Step inside the popular TV show at The Friends Experience. The experience will run through May 31 and features set recreations, original props, costumes and more. Tickets are $35 plus tax for a timed entry to visit the 12 rooms and activations.

Taste of Lettuce Entertain You: Oak Brook

A brand new offering from Lettuce Entertain You, Oak Brook diners can choose from dinner packages for two available each week in April on Tuesday and Thursday nights from Antico PostoBeatrix and Mon Ami Gabi. Place your orders here.

Art on theMART

In collaboration with Adler Planetarium, “Art on theMART” is bringing the show “Astrographics” to the Chicago Riverwalk. The piece will include four movements  — Earth, Other Worlds, Stars and Beyond —  and it will explore the ways humans visualize their universe and how that has changed over time. The 30-minute program will be shown for free nightly at 8:30 and 9 p.m. April 1-30, and then at 9 and 9:30 p.m. May 1-Aug. 31. It is best viewed from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells St. and Franklin St.

WNDR Museum

Recently reopened, the famed WNDR Museum offers a reimagined immersive experience with one-of-a-kind installations from artists, collectives, and studios locally and globally. Explore brand new touchless installations and experience the famous Yayoi Kusama “Let’s Survive Forever” Infinity Mirror Room for one minute as the artist intended. Tickets are $30 plus taxes and fees, and must be purchased online. 1130 W. Monroe St., Chicago

Spring Flower Show: “Saturation” at Garfield Park Conservatory

Every Saturday and Sunday through May 9, this year’s spring flower show will be on display. Instead of typical garden design, the show features groups of blooming flowers so guests can view the range of hues within each vivid color. Reservations must be made in advance, less than 14 days before your desired visit. Admission is free but donations are welcome.

Through April 4: Chicago Restaurant Week

Ending Sunday, Choose Chicago’s Restaurant Week is the perfect opportunity to branch out from your usual take out and try something new. Here are some of our Dining Editor’s top picks that are sure to please.

Opens April 7: “Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition” at the Museum of Science and Industry

As the longest running exhibit of African-American art in the country, “Juried Art Exhibition” showcases over 100 pieces by professional artists and local student artists. This year an online gallery will also be available for those unable to visit in person. The Black Creativity Innovator Gallery will feature five leaders in an onsite gallery and video interviews. The exhibition is included in general admission tickets.

April 8: Grapes and Grains Open Mic Night

Grapes and Grains in the West Loop is encouraging all local singers to showcase their talents with an open mic night on Thursday, April 8th. All inquiries will require a short audition video and after being approved, singers can book a 30-minute to perform.

April 8: Virtual Commemoration: Never Forget: Holocaust Remembrance Day

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), join Illinois Holocaust Museum and other community partners for a virtual gathering honoring the memory of those who were murdered during the Shoah and paying tribute to survivors.

The commemoration will include stories of survivors and grandchildren of survivors; remarks by Illinois Holocaust Museum, Sheerit Hapleitah, and Jewish Community Relations Council leaders; memorial prayers and song chanted by Cantor Pavel Roytmanof Wilmette’s Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah; a reading of the Legacy of Holocaust Survivors and the Pledge of Acceptance of the Second Generation, and more. Register for the virtual commemoration.

April 8 – 12: EXPO CHGO ONLINE


A curated digital exposition of contemporary and modern art, EXPO CHGO ONLINE will feature 81 galleries in a curated digital experience, with a portion of proceeds from the event benefitting the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). The event will also include five days of public panels, film screenings, exhibition tours, and music and dance performances, including a performance by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Programs will be free and open to the public. Get the full schedule of dates, times and streaming links. 

April 11: Shedd Aquarium Action Day at Montrose Beach for Piping Plovers

Shedd Aquarium Piping Plover Volunteer Day Montrose Beach Chicago
©Susan Szeszol

The endangered Piping Plovers, first spotted in 2019, will begin their spring migration ahead of their nesting and breeding season, and Shedd Aquarium is asking for volunteers for a special habitat restoration effort on Montrose Beach. On April 11 at 10 a.m., volunteers can join in for a beach cleanup to prepare the habitat for the birds and help give potential chicks the best chance at survival. All ages welcome and participation is free, but registration is required.

April 13: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation: Lincoln Leadership Prize Ceremony

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation will host its Lincoln Leadership Prize Ceremony virtually Tuesday, April 13. The 2021 prize recipient is Gary Sinise, an actor and humanitarian who is being honored for his efforts on behalf of military families. The event serves as a fundraiser for the presidential library and museum.

Begins April 15: “In Focus: The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Fight for Fair Housing”

This month, take part in thought-provoking public programming at Elmhurst Art Museum’s critically acclaimed photography exhibition. Virtual artist talks and expert discussions take place on April 15 and 29th, and including talks with Alisha Wormsley, Ayanah Moor, Tonika Johnnson, Michal Raz-Russo and more.

April 16: George Pocock Rowing Foundation Row to the Future Benefit Breakfast

The George Pocock Rowing Foundation believes that rowing changes lives and is a means to foster physical activity, health, leadership, and community engagement. The foundation, through their Row for the Future Youth Development Initiative, helps create access to rowing for youth, raising funds for their programs during their Benefit Breakfast. You can join in the cause on April 16 by purchasing virtual tickets or donating. Register or learn more here. Better is proud to be a sponsor of this event and will launch a Matching Grant campaign early this month.

April 17: Northern Illinois Food Bank Fight Hunger 5K/10K

To fight against hunger during the pandemic, the Northern Illinois Food Bank is hosting a 5k and 10k that can be completed virtually or in-person in Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Registration proceeds go toward providing groceries for people in Northern Illinois. Adult registration is $45, and youth 12 and under is $25.

Begins April 19: Savor Lincoln Park 2021

Savor Lincoln Park oysters
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce

The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce (LPCC) is expanding Savor Lincoln Park from a one-night indoor food festival to a two-week virtual celebration. The event runs April 19 – May 2 and features prix fixe menus, tasting menus, and take-home kits available for carry out from Lincoln Park restaurants as well as virtual tasting and cooking demonstrations featuring Lincoln Park chefs, bartenders and owners. Menus will be be released April 12. 

Thru April 20: “Quantum Mirror” at Artspace 8

quantum mirror
Inside Quantum Mirror. Photos by Caroline Hetzel.

New-media artist Adrian Stein recently unveiled what he describes as the world’s first immersive NFT art experience, “Quantum Mirror.” Tickets are free, but a limited number of people are allowed to visit per hour.

April 22: Leadership Greater Chicago Celebrate Leaders: A Celebration of Community

This annual event, beginning at 5:30 p.m., recognizes LGC Fellows, community leaders and organizations who’ve made a significant impact on the greater Chicago region. This year, Allstate is the corporate chair and JPMorgan Chase will receive the Corporate Civic Leadership Award. Additionally, Sol Flores, deputy governor of Illinois, will receive the Distinguished Fellow Award and Civic Consulting Alliance will receive the Civic Catalyst Award. Proceeds from the event will support LGC’s Signature Fellows Program.

April 22: Start Early Luncheon

The luncheon will take the form of a 45-minute virtual show from 12-12:45 p.m. this year. Start Early’s focus is investing in early childhood education through professional development, early learning programs and more. The show will feature stories from individuals sharing their journeys to success.

April 23: Clearbrook 33rd Annual Shining Star Ball 

Clearbrook provides opportunities, services and supports for people with disabilities. This year the group’s Shining Star Ball will be held virtually on April 23 at 6:30 p.m. and will include an update on how the pandemic has affected the individuals the organization serves and the impact of supporters. Of every dollar raised, 92% goes toward programs and services.

April 24: Earth Day: A Party for the Planet at Brookfield Zoo

Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald

Honor Earth Day this year with a visit to Brookfield Zoo and while you’re there, do double duty by donating or disposing of unwanted items around your house in an earth-friendly way. On Saturday, April 24, between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Brookfield Zoo will be collecting electronics, textiles, and used books to reuse and recycle. Get the full list of accepted items.

Note: Reservations are not required for dropping off recycling, but ticket reservations are required if you plan to visit the zoo.

April 24: North Suburban YMCA Healthy Kids Day 5K Run/Walk

Grab the family and get moving on Saturday, April 24 from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.! The 4th Annual Healthy Kids Day event can be completed virtually or in-person, with prizes given to the live overall adult male, female and youth race winners. Safety precautions will be followed, which include staggered start times, face masks and smaller corrals. Entry fees start at $10 for virtual participation and up to $50 for a family of four to run in-person.

Begins April 26: Leading for Good 2021: Power Chats

Presented by the Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise & Responsibility, Leading for Good is an annual conference for executives and rising leaders operating at the intersection of profit and purpose. Ahead of the official start of the virtual conference May 7, 11 Power Chats will be held with industry-leading executives and will include opportunities for small group discussion and virtual networking. SPECIAL OFFER FOR BETTER READERS: Receive a discounted registration of just $20.21 for the entire conference — register using the code 2021.

April 29: American Red Cross Heroes Breakfast

American Red Cross will honor local heroes who contributed to their community in various categories. The breakfast will take place virtually Thursday, April 29. Scott Falk will posthumously receive the Heritage Award in addition to heroes in 11 other fields.

April 30: Joffrey Ballet & Action Lines for 150 Media Stream

Interim Avoidance

“Interim Avoidance” features six dancers experiencing loneliness and solitude who launch into movement. The video installation is the inaugural work by the Chicago-based production company Action Lines, in collaboration with The Joffrey Ballet. It can be viewed Monday through Friday 8-9:30 a.m. and 4:30-8 p.m., and Saturday 1-7 p.m.

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