When people think of springtime activities, baseball games are usually near the top of the list, but while going to a Cubs game is one of the most iconic Chicago pastimes, an afternoon at Wrigley Field can be a trying and uncomfortable place for someone in recovery. Being surrounded by drunk fans and hearing “beer” shouted by vendors is distracting to even the most strong-willed person and can take your mind off of having a good time.
Don’t worry, though, because there are plenty of other great springtime activities that you can enjoy in substance-free spaces! Whether it’s getting in touch with nature or riding roller-coasters, you have lots of options. Here are just five ideas to get you started on a fun-filled spring!
1. Chicago Botanic Garden
The arrival of spring means more sunlight and warmer temperatures. It’s the perfect time to catch nature’s beauty in action!
A trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden only costs you as much as it takes to get there, because admission is free! Some events and exhibitions require visitors to purchase a ticket, but a tour of the Garden won’t cost you a dime.
Last April, the main attraction of the Garden was the titan arum, or “corpse flower.” Said to smell like a rotting corpse, the plant drew crowds of people from all over the world to experience its exceedingly rare bloom. With over a dozen of these plants in the Garden’s collection, there’s a good chance you will be able to catch a bloom this year!
If encountering a giant flower that smells like a dead body isn’t something you’re looking to cross off your bucket list (and who would blame you), there are other, more pleasant-smelling collections. The cinnamon-scented Asian star jasmine, for instance, belongs to one of the most popular places in the Garden – the world-renowned bonsai collection. A permanent fixture of the Chicago Botanic Garden, you can soak in the majesty of miniature trees that have been masterfully trained for years – some for longer than a century!
With such a vast array of horticulture available to be seen, a day at the Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the best ways to spend a spring afternoon.
Maybe you’re the kind of person who would rather experience nature in a more exciting and hands-on manner. In that case, spending the day in a kayak can be a great way to be active and enjoy the world around you. Due to the low number of flying insects like mosquitos, spring is the best time of year to set off on the rivers and lakes of Illinois.
Because of recent efforts to clean it up, kayaking on the Chicago River has seen an increase in popularity among adventure-seekers. Companies such as Kayak Chicago offer inexpensive rental services, classes for learning the basics, and even tours of the city!
If you can’t make it into the city, there are still lots of great places to kayak. Many state parks and organizations, such as the DuPage County Forest Preserve, offer kayak and other boat rental. Take a day to visit the Fox River, Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area, or another one of Illinois’ beautiful rivers and lakes.
3. Visiting the Zoo
You might think that the zoo is a place mainly for children, but that’s not true! The zoo is a valuable resource for people of all ages to learn about animals and witness exotic creatures with their own eyes.
In the heart of Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo is open year-round and always free. Boasting a formidable assortment of animals from around the world, the Regenstein Macaque Forest might be one of the most interesting attractions that the zoo has to offer. Catch these social snow monkeys playing in the treetops, soaking in the hot spring, or – more impressively – interacting with the habitat’s built-in touch-screen computers! Let’s hope this doesn’t end up like Planet of The Apes…
The Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL, is another great zoo to visit that has a lot to offer. Last summer an Amur leopard cub was born, and made its debut late last year in its outdoor enclosure! A critically endangered species, the Amur leopard gives visitors a chance to appreciate the magnificence of a big cat that is on the brink of extinction in the wild.
There are other zoos to explore as well, such as the Phillips Park Zoo in Aurora, IL, and the Cosley zoo in Wheaton, IL.
4. Six Flags Great America
For those of you who are more into seeking thrills than seeking out the ape house, a trip to Six Flags Great America is the ideal activity for an action-packed spring day. There are usually ticket promotions available, and tickets are always cheaper if bought in advance.
Unless you’re a big fan of the water park (which doesn’t open until the end of May), spring is the best time to visit Six Flags, if only because kids are still in school! This means that there will be less waiting in line and more of what’s important – the rides! Not only that, but there’s no overwhelmingly hot and humid weather to drain the energy out of you while you walk around the park.
This year, Six Flags is unveiling a new roller coaster called “The Joker.” Following the tradition of the other superhero-themed rides, The Joker pushes the limits of what a roller coaster is supposed to be. With seats that extend beyond the track so that nothing is above or below you, this ride looks like it will be an instant classic!
It’s worth mentioning that, while some of the restaurants within the theme park’s walls serve alcohol, they’re few and far between and easy to avoid.
If action-packed is your mantra and Six Flags isn’t enough, paintball might be the perfect spring activity for you.
While paintball is, admittedly, a somewhat dangerous activity, that can be part of the appeal. You will definitely walk away with welts and bruises the size of coins all over your body – something veteran paintball enthusiasts consider badges of honor.
Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned paintball vet, Challenge Park in Joliet, IL, offers one of the best paintball experiences in Illinois. With unique and creative field maps to play on, Challenge Park will challenge your abilities – regardless of skill level.
Just over the border in Hobart, IN, Blast Camp is another fantastic paintball park which doubles as a national historic landmark. The structures that make up the park once served as a missile defense base during the Cold War! One of the main attractions of Blast Camp is its themed games, which follow scenarios based on movies such as Star Wars and Mad Max.
Both locations offer full gear rental and do not allow alcohol or drugs on the premises.
Whichever activities you choose to partake in this spring, keep in mind that there are tons of great options out there that take place in substance-free spaces. If you’re ever out of ideas and looking for something to do on the weekend, stop by The Other Side! We’d love to have you!
The Other Side
93 E Berkshire Dr, Unit G
Crystal Lake IL 60014