Things To Do During Winter in Chicago
As the cold weather descends on Chicago, it’s a good idea to plan a list of fun activities to keep warm. Head to one of the city’s numerous indoor attractions, including museums, theaters, restaurants, and more. If you’re willing to brave the cold, you can get outside and enjoy the city’s parks or even go ice skating. And don’t forget the many holiday attractions that will last well into the start of the new year. Winter can be brutally cold here in the Windy City, so warm things up a bit by visiting one of our top recommended Chicago attractions.
Explore Art Exhibits
No matter the season, you can always head to an art gallery or museum. The Windy City has an artistic side, and this is evident in the sheer number of art exhibits around. The Art Institute of Chicago is considered one of the world’s great art museums with rotating and permanent exhibitions. Or muse over the curious and interesting pieces housed at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For something truly unique, the Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Exhibition will transport you to the Sistine Chapel with its incredible photographic reproduction. The exhibition includes 34 of Michelangelo’s frescoes.
Soak in Some History at a Museum
If you want to continue exploring indoor attractions, add a few of Chicago’s museums to your itinerary. The Field Museum of Natural History is a classic favorite for all ages, with exhibits inspired by science and nature. For astronomy-enthusiasts, the Adler Planetarium offers a glimpse into the universe. Chicago itself has some incredible history, and you can learn all about it while viewing some 22 million artifacts at the Chicago History Museum. Other recommendations include the American Writers Museum, Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, and the DuSable Museum of African American History.
Chicago’s indoor attractions aren’t just for adults looking to escape the winter cold. There are plenty of family-friendly museums and attractions in the Windy City to keep your little ones entertained. Our favorites are the Chicago Children’s Museum and Legoland Discovery Center. For a combination of inside and outside, especially for nature-enthusiasts, be sure to visit Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory.
Go Out on the Town for a Craft Cocktail or Beer
Cocktails and Chicago are practically synonymous. In fact, there’s even a Chicago Cocktail which is a brandy-based drink often topped with Champagne. Whether you prefer an upscale craft cocktail venue or a grungy dive bar, there are plenty of places for libations in town. If the weather allows, check out one of Chicago’s popular and breathtaking rooftop bars. Start your afternoon at Tony’s Rooftop Bar in TimeOut Market. Then make your way to Z Bar, which offers panoramic views and globally-inspired cocktails. For an exclusive experience, book the private VIP greenhouse at Raised and enjoy craft cocktails or draft beer. If you’d prefer something indoors, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge offers a sophisticated and relaxed evening with drinks inspired by jazz.
Enjoy a Delicious Dinner
Chicago has hundreds of restaurants, cafes, and eateries to amaze your taste buds and fill your stomach. From luxury dining to casual fare, the options can be overwhelming, so we’ve included a few of our favorites here. Au Cheval is an upscale diner that doesn’t take reservations, but is known for its incredible burger. Alinea takes things up a notch with a multi-course tasting menu that’s earned them multiple accolades. If pizza is what you’re craving, Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria serves up thin-crust in a casual atmosphere. And of course, Hard Rock Cafe will always entertain everyone in the family.
Catch a Live Performance or Show
Heat up a cold night with one of Chicago’s many live entertainment venues. For Broadway performances, head to James M. Nederland Theatre, CIBC Theatre, or Cadillac Palace Theatre. The iconic Chicago Theatre is a destination for music, comedy, and other performances. Catch dinner and a show at Tommy Gun’s Garage, a speak-easy style venue that transports you to the Roaring ’20s. If you’re already at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge for a drink, stick around and enjoy some live jazz. And for the more sophisticated music lover, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has regular shows — check out their calendar.
Try an Adrenaline Pumping Indoor Activity
If you’re actually keen to get in on the action yourself, instead of watching someone else perform, plan a trip to iFLY Chicago. Here, you can experience sky diving in their state-of-the-art wind tunnels. Or step out on the ledge on the 103rd floor at the Willis Tower Skydeck, which towering over the city. A completely glass balcony is all that’s separating you from the epic city view unfolding below.
Visit Some of Chicago’s Top Holiday Attractions
If holiday theme is what you’re looking for, head to one of Chicago’s many themed attractions. There’s festive ice skating at Maggie Daley Park, Midway Plaisance Ice Rink, and other rinks around town. Or see Santa’s workshop, a Hanukkah celebration, and other festive entertainment at Winterland at Gallagher Way. The Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza will transport you across the world to Germany, with its authentic European holiday market. This is a great place to do some holiday shopping ahead of real winter weather in Chicago.
If the weather is mild enough and you’d prefer to be outside, visit one of Chicago’s city parks for their regular winter events. The Chicago Park District hosts events ranging from holiday craft workshops to winter drawing courses, Santa meet-and-greets, ice skating, and more. Lincoln Park Zoolights is also an excellent family-friendly option, where you can see the animals alongside 2.5 million lights synchronized to holiday music.
Keep Warm and Entertained in Chicago this Winter
Even if the weather outside is chilly, you can keep warm and happy at one of the Windy City’s many indoor attractions. On mild days, spend time in one of Chicago’s many parks or take advantage of outdoor seating at your favorite restaurant or bar. Make new winter memories in the city, whether you’re a local or a visitor, by visiting one or more of the venues we’ve listed here. Have we missed your favorite winter activity in Chicago? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.