The car’s all packed, the cooler’s full and your friend made what he promises to be “the best road trip playlist ever, seriously dude.” It’s spring break, and you’re road tripping down to PCB or PBR or whatever acronym the kids are flocking to these days. That is, unless, you don’t live in a low budget spin-off of “American Pie.” The reality is that many people are paying their own way through college, balancing several jobs along with the slow grind toward a degree. Spring break, for many, isn’t, “where am I going for vacation,” it’s, “how many more hours can I pick up since I don’t have class?” Spending money on a vacation is totally out of the question.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, though. Part of the beauty of Chicagoland is there’s always something going on somewhere. The suburbs can be sleepy, but there are plenty of cool bars and theaters with stuff going on any given night. With the weather starting to improve a bit, outdoor activities are more and more accessible, and – as always – the city is only a train ride away. Whether you like art or theater, comedy, music or poetry, there is plenty to do to help you enjoy your spring break in Illinois.
There are always concerts happening all over the city, and even if a big name isn’t coming through you can always find some good vibes somewhere. In the suburbs, Evenflow in downtown Geneva has great live music all the time. It’s a cool bar, with a city feel that will make you forget you’re out west. In the city proper, the Gallery Cabaret on Oakley has excellent open mics, with some really impressive artists performing. If you do want the bigger name experience, Shpongle is at Concord Music Hall on March 28, Bastille is playing the Riviera on March 30, and Taking Back Sunday is playing at Concord Music Hall on April 5.
April is national poetry month, and if you’re into poetry, there’s no beating The Green Mill on Broadway in Uptown, Chicago. The birthplace of slam poetry hosts the Uptown Poetry Slam every Sunday night, during which you will see some phenomenally talented people share their work. On other nights, you can find great jazz at the Mill as well. The Gallery Cabaret also features poetry at its open mics, and writers are always giving readings around the city. On April 5, the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society Poetry Festival is at the Poetry Foundation in the city, if you want to get worldly with it.
The quality of the art museums in Chicago are absolutely fantastic. The Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago are great places to spend an afternoon. It also puts you right in the middle of Museum Campus along south Lake Shore Drive, so you can walk over to the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, or the Field Museum, all of which have free days (check the websites!).
The weather is fast improving, so doing things outside might be an option. For a day trip, Starved Rock is a great option. It’s about an hour and a half away, but you can easily spend a whole day hiking and exploring in the state park. If you have a night off, there are several campsites right at the park for an overnight stay. It can serve as a mini-vacation, getting you away from home for a little bit and out in the world. If that isn’t your scene, there’s a 5k Spring Gallop on March 29 in Aurora, which can help you knock the dust off your running shoes after these past few months of being cooped up.