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15 Things To Do Outside In Chicago This May: Bike Swap, Birdwatch, Kayak The Fox River And More

You can also go to a bike garage sale, help identify native bird and plant species, and volunteer to clean up the Chicago River. 

People kayak past the Wild Mile Chicago, a floating eco-park located on the North Branch Canal of the Chicago River, on July 7, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Outdoor enthusiasts can go on a guided bike camping trip to Milwaukee, birdwatch with local conservation groups, bring their Mom hiking on Mother’s Day and more this month. 

Here are 15 outdoor events happening in Chicago and beyond this May:

Illinois Science Council: City Nature Challenge

Tuesday, May 2 | 6 p.m. 

Metropolitan Brewing, 3057 N. Rockwell St.

Take part in the City Nature Challenge — a global movement to seek out and document wildlife in cities across the world. Gather with the Illinois Science Council and other citizen scientists at Metropolitan Brewery to learn how to use iNaturalist, a free app that helps identify wildlife and fauna. RSVP free online.

Chicago Audubon Society: Compelling Voices in Birding

Tuesday, May 9 | 6-8:30 p.m.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive

Learn how fear, empowerment, struggles and healing helped birder and ecologist Tiffany Kersten identify a record 726 birds in 2021. The talk is part of an ongoing speaker series organized by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Chicago Ornithological Society, and the Chicago Audubon Society, featuring compelling voices in the birding and conservation world. RSVP free online.

SparkVentures: Englewood Community Clean-Up

Saturday, May 6 | 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Bus leaves from 350 W. Wolf Point Plaza Downtown. Cleanup starts at Englewood Peace Campus, 6407 S. Honore St.

Celebrating it’s 10th anniversary, Unity Day will gather volunteers in Greater Englewood to support on community and neighborhood clean-up projects — from trash pick up and gardening to painting. A free Happy Hour will follow the day of service. Reserve your spot for $25 online.

Chicago BIPOC Birders: Action + Bird Walk

Saturday, May 6 | Noon-2 p.m.

Columbus Park, 500 S. Central Ave.

With the goal of bringing awareness to the missing and murdered Indigenous people, Chicago BIPOC Birders will lead a group bird walk, discussion and letter-writing session to mayor elect Brandon Johnson to change the name of Columbus Park. The event will raise funds for the Chi Nations Youth Council. All BIPOC community members welcome. RSVP free online.

BFF Bikes: 3rd Annual Garage Sale

Saturday, May 6 | 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

BFF Bikes, 2056 N. Damen Ave.

Swap your used bike gear and share resources with other members of Chicago’s cycling community. Shop friends’ and neighbors’ second-hand biking and outdoor goods or pick up clearance and discounted items from BFF Bikes. Proceeds and unsold items from the sale will be donated to Working Bikes and other local charities. Attended as a patron or reserve a table spot for $20 online to sell your used gear. 

Friends of the Chicago River: Chicago River Day

Saturday, May 13 | 9 a.m.-Noon

North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Road

Help give the Chicago River a good spring cleaning. This citywide river stewardship day gathers volunteers to clean up the Chicago and Calumet rivers. Take your pick of over 70 sites to volunteer, each led by local organizations, nonprofits and community groups. Volunteers who register before May 5 will receive a free Chicago River Day shirt. RSVP free online.

Mappy Hour Chicago: Family-Friendly “Mother Nature” Hike

Saturday, May 13 | 10 a.m.-Noon

North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Road

Celebrate Mother Nature and your own Mom this Mother’s Day on a family-focused group hike with Mappy Hour Chicago. You can also demo hiking boots with Merrell, get creative with arts and crafts, and meet local family-focused organizations on-site during the event. People of all ages are welcome to join this accessible group hike. RSVP free online.

Outdoor Afro: Container Garden Planting Party & Exchange

Saturday, May 13 | 1 p.m.

Join Outdoor Afro Chicago and NW Indiana for a container gardening party and plant exchange. Outdoor Afro celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. For more details on the event, RSVP online by creating a Meetup account and requesting to attend.

Chicago Ornithological Society: Humboldt Park Bird Walk

Saturday, May 13 | 7:30-9:30 a.m.

Humboldt Park, 1400 N. Humboldt Drive

Wander the 207-acre Humboldt Park while spotting migrating warblers with fellow birdwatchers. Expect to see Nashville Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart and many surprises. You can also borrow binoculars during the 1.5-mile walk, if you don’t have your own. Reserve your free spot online.

Active Transportation Alliance: Ride of Silence

Wednesday, May 17 | 5:30 p.m.

Event location TBD

Part of the Chicago Bike Month ride series in May, join Active Transportation Alliance for a silent group bike ride to promote public cycling awareness and honor those who have been killed or injured while riding. RSVP free online.

Outsiders Chicago: Kayak Adventure

Saturday, May 20 | 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Departs from The Long Room, 1612 W. Irving Park Road

Explore the Fox River by kayak with Outsiders Chicago, a meet-up group that organizes outdoor adventures in and around the city. After, head to a local eatery for drinks, food, and new friends. Transportation provided with ticket price. Reserve your spot for $80 online.

Friends of Big Marsh: Afterglow Bike Race

Saturday, May 27 | 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Big Marsh Park, 11559 S. Stony Island Ave.

Race bikes (or cheer on riders) on a BMX pump track and on dirt trails at Big Marsh Park on the South Side. Afterglow is all about creating a more accessible and inclusive bike racing community in Chicago. This fundraiser event benefits local organizations that work with BIPOC youth in and around the city. Reserve a spot in one of the races online.

Chicago Cycling Club: Major Taylor Trail Ride

Saturday, May 20 | 9 a.m.

Departs from Dan Ryan Woods, 83rd Street trailhead

Join the Chicago Cycling Club for a group bike ride on the Major Taylor Trail, an 8-mile paved trail that connects Dan Ryan Woods to Whistler Woods. The partner event between Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago, the Evanston Bike Club, and other cycling groups aims to celebrate and bring together Chicago’s expansive bike community. Everyone’s welcome to join on some or all of the 16-20 mile ride. Reserve your free spot online.

Out Our Front Door: Bikepacking To Milwaukee

Saturday May 20 – Sunday, May 21 | 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Departs from The Perfect Cup, 4700 N. Damen Ave.

Love biking? Love camping? Combine the two on a 2-day bike camping trip with local bikepacking group, Out Our Front Door. Friendly and knowledgeable guides will lead you on the 80-mile journey by bike from Chicago to Milwaukee, where you’ll camp out at Cliffside Park Campground in Southeast Wisconsin. Sunday’s agenda includes a bar crawl by bike in downtown Milwaukee before returning via Amtrak. Reserve your spot (which includes your train ticket home) for $140 online.

Chicago Mountaineering Club: Climb & Camp At Devil’s Lake

Saturday, May 27 | 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Devil’s Lake State Park, S5975 Park Road, Baraboo, WI

Outdoor rock climb on quartzite bluffs formed over 1.6 billion years ago with the Chicago Mountaineering Club at Devil’s Lake State Park. The climb is open to the public but limited to 30 spots for non-members. You’ll camp at the club’s private campground too. Transportation is not included. Register online for only $20 for the weekend trip. 

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