Active targeting of nanoparticles through surface functionalization is a common strategy to enhance tumor delivery specificity. However, active targeting strategies tend to work against long polyethylene glycol's shielding effectiveness and associated favorable pharmacokinetics. To overcome these limitations, we developed a matrix metalloproteinase-2 sensitive surface-converting polyethylene glycol coating. This coating prevents nanoparticle-cell interaction in the bloodstream, but, once exposed to matrix metalloproteinase-2, i.e., when the nanoparticles accumulate within the tumor interstitium, the converting polyethylene glycol coating is cleaved, and targeting ligands become available for binding to tumor cells. In this study, we applied a comprehensive multimodal imaging strategy involving optical, nuclear, and magnetic resonance imaging methods to evaluate this coating approach in a breast tumor mouse model. The data obtained revealed that this surface-converting coating enhances the nanoparticle's blood half-life and tumor accumulation and ultimately results in improved tumor-cell targeting. Our results show that this enzyme-specific surface-converting coating ensures a high cell-targeting specificity without compromising favorable nanoparticle pharmacokinetics.