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Best Indoor Things to Do in Chicago on a Cold or Rainy Day

Looking for indoor things to do in Chicago on a rainy day or on a cold snowy winter day? I have put together the ultimate list of the best indoor activities in Chicago.


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. I may make a small commission if you make a booking using my links at no extra cost to you.

Tip:  If you are visiting a few museums and indoor attractions, consider purchasing a Chicago CityPASS or Go Chicago Card to save money on entrance fees.

Best Indoor Activities in Chicago

These are the best indoor attractions in Chicago that are worth visiting any time of the year (even when the weather is nice).

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago in one of the best Chicago indoor attractions
The Art Institute of Chicago (111 S Michigan Ave) is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States and is frequently found on lists of the top museums in the world. (Click here to buy a skip the line ticket if you want to avoid long lines).

Museum of Science and Industry

cherry blossoms in front of Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago
The Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S Lake Shore Drive) is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere with 14 acres of hands-on exhibits including a 40-foot tornado, a World War II German submarine and a human-sized hamster wheel.

Until October 24, MSI is home to the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit, an interactive exhibition celebrating more than 80 years of the Marvel Universe.

Field Museum

The Field Museum (Museum Campus, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr) is one of the largest natural history museums in the world with more than 40 million specimens and artifacts. Inside the museum you will see Maximo, the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur that ever lived. (Click here to purchase an Early Access VIP Tour if you want to avoid crowds).

360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

360 CHICAGO (formerly John Hancock Observatory), a public observatory on the 94th Floor of 875 N Michigan offers breathtaking 360 degrees views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. Visibility can be limited on a rainy day but the views should be great on a cold sunny day.

If you prefer to enjoy views over a meal or a drink, 875 North Michigan Avenue has a restaurant on its 95th floor named The Signature Room at the 95th and a bar on the 96th floor called The Signature Lounge at the 96th.

The 360 Chicago observation deck is also home of TILT – Chicago’s highest thrill ride – an enclosed moving platform that literally tilts you out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th Floor.

 

Skydeck Chicago

Skydeck Chicago in Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) (233 S Wacker Dr) has returned with a transformed experience that will allow you to see, hear & be immersed in Chicago from street to sky. Skydeck offers spectacular views spanning up to four states. Make sure to visit The Ledge, a glass balcony extending four feet outside the 103rd floor of Willis Tower. Visibility might be limited on a rainy day but the views should be great on a cold sunny day.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum

The The Richard H. Driehaus Museum (40 East Erie Street) is a museum of art, architecture, and design of the late 19th century to the present which is presented as an immersive experience in the 1883 Nickerson Mansion, one of the last remaining mansions of Chicago’s Gilded Age.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium (1200 S. Lake Shore Drive) is one of the best and most visited aquariums in the United States.

Free Indoor Things to do in Chicago

Below are the best free Chicago indoor attractions.

Chicago Cultural Center

Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St) is a free municipal cultural center. The stunning landmark building, opened in 1897, is home to two magnificent stained-glass domes, and presents hundreds of free cultural exhibits and performances annually.

The Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave) is one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the US. Often referred to as “landscape art under glass,” the Garfield Park Conservatory showcases thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

The Lincoln Park Conservatory (2391 N. Stockton Drive), a public conservatory full of tropical palms and plants, is the perfect warm escape on a cold or rainy day.

Free Museums in Chicago

Chicago has more free museums that you might want to check out on a cold or rainy day. (Read: Free Things to Do in Chicago)

National Museum of Mexican Art
National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC)
Design Museum of Chicago
Oriental Institute Museum
Smart Museum of Art
DePaul University Art Museum
Museum of Contemporary Photography

Chicago Indoor Activities for Toddlers and Kids

While older kids will enjoy the museums listed above, these indoor attractions are especially geared towards babies, toddlers and younger kids.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.) is a natural history museum operated by the Chicago Academy of Sciences which focuses on the natural history of the Chicago region, and offers educational programs for children and adults. It is also known for its live butterfly house.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier (700 East Grand Avenue) is a children’s museum geared for ages 0-10 where play and learning connect. The Chicago Children’s Museum has many hands-on exhibits including The “Dinosaur Expedition,” where kids dig for bones and conduct archaeological research.

Fun Indoor Things to do in Chicago

Museum of Illusions Chicago

The Museum of Illusions Chicago (25 E Washington St) offers an interactive, immersive and fun experience for both adults and kids. Visitors can engage in over 80 astonishing and mind-bending exhibits that will teach you about vision, perception, the human brain and science.

WNDR Museum

The WNDR Museum (130 W Monroe St) is an ever-evolving immersive art & technology experience in Chicago that is designed to ignite the curiosity that exists within and around each​ of us. WNDR reimagines the traditional museum experience through interactive, immersive experiences from artist, collectives, and studios locally and globally.

Hold and Feed a Bunny

Looking for a unique indoor thing to do in Chicago? Visit the Cuddle Bunny 2901 N Clark St, where visitors can pet and feed bunnies.  Cuddle Bunny also hosts special events like yoga and story time. You can read more about the experience here.

More Indoor Things to Do in Chicago

Still looking for indoor activities? Here are more indoor things to do in Chicago.

• Explore the Chicago Pedway, a huge indoor walkway system that connects several buildings in downtown Chicago.
• Shop or window shop inside the Merchandise Mart, the world’s largest commercial building which houses architectural and interior design vendors and traders in addition to restaurants, office space and a few other stores.
• Read or study in the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State Street), the central library for the Chicago Public Library System. In addition to work space, the large building contains a beautiful rooftop winter-garden to enjoy some sun.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA)
American Writers Museum in Chicago
DuSable Museum of African American History
Chicago History Museum
International Museum of Surgical Science

For even more indoor Chicago attractions, see the complete list of all Chicago museums and cultural attractions here.

What are your favorite indoor attractions in Chicago?


Visiting Chicago for the first time? Check out my Chicago travel guides:



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savvyglobetrotter

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