31 of the Best Things to Do This May Around Chicago and the Suburbs

Spring is in full swing around Chicago, but don’t let the season pass you by — make plans to attend these socially-distanced events, including a Spring Flower Show, a reopened Navy Pier, baseball and more.

Don’t forget to tag us in your posts on Instagram @betterchicago!

All Month

Fireworks at Navy Pier

Fireworks at Navy Pier
Fireworks at Navy Pier © Josh Ohms Photography

Navy Pier officially reopened April 30, with a 10-minute fireworks show May 1 to highlight the opening weekend. The fireworks will continue every Saturday in May at 9 p.m. until Memorial Day weekend. Read more about Navy Pier’s reopening

“Balloon Bomb a Business”

Want to shine a light on a local business? Nominate them for Luft Balloon’s “Balloon Bomb a Business” and they could be chosen to receive a beautiful surprise balloon bomb!

Baseball’s 2021 Season

Cubs v. Sox

Chicago baseball is back and in full swing, with fans can returning to the stands at reduced capacity and with modifications. Between The Chicago Dogs, Cubs and White Sox, there’s more than enough games to help you catch up on the last year.

Mini Golf at Maggie Daley Park

The best mini golf in town is finally back open, with safety precautions in place. You can play with groups of five or less, five days a week for only $11 (educators, veterans and seniors receive special discounts).

“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.

Streaming: Lyric Opera of Chicago

In 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.

“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.

Yoga at the Immersive Van Gogh Experience

Courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh.

Roll out your workout mat at the Immersive Van Gogh’s unique yoga and mindfulness sessions this summer. In partnership with CorePower Yoga, enjoy your practice in the all-encompassing projections of Vincent Van Gogh’s illuminating art. 

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

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Science and History

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

Clothing The Friends Experience
Clothing at The Friends Experience

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.

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 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.

May 5: Mix Up a Margarita for Cinco de Mayo

Courtesy of The Gage

Here’s a fresh and spicy margarita recipe perfect for Cinco de Mayo, courtesy of The Gage.

The Gage’s Habañero Margarita


  • 1oz blanco Tequila
  • .5oz mezcal
  • 2oz fresh lime juice
  • .5oz orange curaçao
  • 1oz habañero-infused syrup*


Shake all ingredients with ice and pour into a glass rimmed with mild powdered chile mixed with a bit of salt.
*The Gage makes their habañero syrup in-house. For those who want to take a couple extra steps the recipe is as follows: Combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of boiling water and 2 chopped habañero chiles. Stir gently until sugar is dissolved, and let steep until it reaches an appropriate level of heat/flavor (start with 15 minutes and taste).

May 6: Hotel Zachary & Primrose Mother’s Day Pop-Up

Courtesy of Primrose & Hotel Zachary

Lakeview flower shop Primrose will be popping up on Hotel Zachary’s patio from 4-7 p.m. on May 6. Specializing in custom floral designs for all occasions, Primrose will offer a range of signature bouquets, spring arrangements and small plants, all perfect for mom. During the event, The Bar will be serving a Primrose Cocktail ($11), including Gin, Elderflower Liqueur, Lemon, Simple Syrup and topped with a sparkling rose. Guests in the area can also enjoy our Homefield Advantage offer, providing those who live in the 60613, 60640, 60657 zip code (with a state ID or driver’s license as proof) 15% off their bill.

May 7: Yannis Tsarouchis, Dancing in Real Life

The first U.S. exhibition devoted to the work of Yannis Tsarouchis, widely regarded as one of the greatest Greek painters of the 20th century, opens at Wrightwood 659 this month. View Fridays and Saturdays through July 31.

Thru May 9: 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.

Ends May 9: 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.

May 9: Mother’s Day

Shower your mom or the mother figures in your life with love this Mother’s Day with the perfect gift, a home-cooked breakfast in bed, or a delicious brunch or dinner out now that Chicago’s dining scene is coming back strong. 

May 11: Rush Woman’s Board Annual Luncheon

The annual luncheon will be held virtually on Tuesday, May 11 at 11 a.m. It will include a musical welcome, introductions, and remarks and a Q&A with Cindy McCain. McCain will share about her experiences as a humanitarian, philanthropist and businesswoman and how those roles have shaped her. The luncheon will raise funds to support the medical center’s programs including The Woman’s Board’s 2021 principal project: The Woman’s Board Fund for Precision Oncology Research.

May 14: Prairie Grass Cafe & Saigon Sisters Dinner

Treat yourself to an exquisite four-course dinner for two in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The collaboration of Prairie Grass Cafe & Saignon Sisters is here to bring you a flavorful evening with dishes from parmesan crusted crispy chicken bahn mi to a chocolate pudding pie with pecans. Portion of the proceeds will be donated to the civil rights organization, Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

May 17: Lincoln Forum’s Obama Presidential Center Virtual Panel

Join the Lincoln Forum, Wintrust and Union League Club on May 17 at 11:00 a.m. for a free virtual panel about the Obama Presidential Center and its investment on Chicago’s South Side. The discussion will feature Valerie Jarrett, Toni Griffin and Michael Strautmanis, and will be moderated by Cheryl Burton of ABC 7.

May 21: Pivot Arts Festival

Danielle Ross (L) and Oluyinka Akinjiola by Chelsea Petrakis
Danielle Ross (L) and Oluyinka Akinjiola by Chelsea Petrakis

After an all-virtual festival in 2020, Pivot Arts Festival returns in person this year at several indoor and outdoor performance spaces with the theme “Reimagining Utopia.” Twelve hand-selected artists and companies will create small, live works of theatre, dance, music and/or video installations honoring the theme. Audience members will also have the chance to share their own ideas for a brighter, more just future. 

May 22: “Together Center Stage” – Goodman Theatre Virtual Gala

Heather Headley at Lyric Opera Chicago
Heather Headley at Lyric Opera Chicago © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2020

Tony and Grammy Award winner Heather Headley will headline the Goodman Theatre’s annual fundraiser, which will be held virtually this year. In addition to a performance by Broadway and Netflix star Headley, “Together Center State” will also feature performances by Curtis Bannister under the music direction of Jermain Hill as well as local stars Sydney Charles, Lucy Godinez and Bethany Thomas. Support for the event starts at $1,000 and proceeds benefit the Goodman’s education and engagement programs.

May 26: City Year Chicago Ripples of Hope Celebration

At 6:30 p.m. on May 26, join City Year Chicago for their Ripples of Hope Virtual Gala. This year’s theme is “serving to rebuild the foundation for our future together.” City Year Chicago has continued to strive towards their mission of advancing educational equity, and during the event they will honor their work over the past year, with appearances by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Liz Thompson, President, Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education and Janet Foutty, Executive Chair of the Board, Deloitte.

May 28: Chicago Dogs Baseball

The Chicago Dogs

More baseball returns to town when the Chicago Dogs kick off their 2021 season with a May 28 home opener at Impact Field in Rosemont. Mustard lovers, take note: Every fan in attendance will receive a complimentary commemorative mustard costume and a full squeeze bottle of Vienna Yellow Mustard (imagine the photo ops!). Tickets for the first 15 games are now on sale.

May 28-31: Get Grilling

Kick off summer grilling season this Memorial Day weekend with a good old-fashioned cookout. Get grilling pointers from top Chicago chefs like Windy City Smokeout co-founder Doug Psaltis, learn how to make grilled vegetables even meat eaters will love, and make sure you’re doing it as healthfully as possible with safe and healthy grilling tips from Cancer Treatment Centers of America. 

More from Better:

  Who We Are       NFP Support       Magazine       Programs       Donate