BEST Things to Do in Chicago in January (From a Local!)

Searching for what to do in Chicago this January? Here are the best things to do in Chicago in January (from a local) – from fun outdoor winter activities to the best indoor attractions.

January is an interesting month to visit Chicago. In the beginning of the month many holiday activities and events are still taking place and they are less likely to be crowded after Christmas. As the month goes on, there are fewer things to do, but there are still plenty of things to do in Chicago in January both indoors and outdoors. If you are willing to brave the cold and snow, January is still a good time to visit Chicago as attractions are less crowded and accommodation is more affordable.

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I plan to update it regularly with any new events and activities.

Things to Do in Chicago in January

Disclosure: 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. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Enjoy Warm Temperatures Inside the Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory 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.  Even if it is cold outside, you can enjoy the lush flora and tropical temperatures indoors!

Where: 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60624

Hours: Wednesday 10am-8pm (last entry at 6:30pm); Thursday – Sunday 10am-5pm (last entry at 3:30pm); Closed Monday and Tuesday. Click here to make reservations online in advance.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation)

Visit the Museum of Ice Cream

Museum of Ice Cream is Chicago’s newest attraction. Step into an ice cream wonderland that is bound to ignite your senses through a theatrical experience with unlimited ice cream treats as you journey through 14 installations. Ride on the pink Sprink-L line, put your golf skills to the test on the Putt-Putt course, or take a dip in a pool filled with millions of sprinkles.

Where: Tribune Tower, 435 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Cost: You can see full prices and purchase tickets in advance here.

Go Outdoor Ice Skating

people ice skating in Millenium Park in Chicago in January
There are many outdoor ice skating rinks in Chicago open in January.

One of the best and instaworthy places to go ice skating in downtown Chicago is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink right in front of The Bean.

Skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago

Another picture perfect spot is the nearby skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park which has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.

READ: Outdoor Ice Skating Rinks in Chicago for more of the best places to go ice skating in Chicago and the suburbs in January

Outdoor Curling


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A post shared by The Gwen Hotel (@thegwenchicago)

Curling is a winter sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice or a lane towards a target.  Below is a list of places offering outdoor curling (along with drinks):

Upstairs at The Gwen, 521 North Rush Street
Harry Caray’s Tavern – Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave
Kaiser Tiger, 1415 West Randolph St

Have Dinner or Drinks in an Igloo


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A post shared by IO Godfrey (@iogodfrey)

Having dinner and drinks in an outdoor igloo has been trendy for a few years. Here are some of the best outdoor igloos in Chicago open this winter.

Kennedy Rooftop: 1551 W North Ave
I|O at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago: 127 West Huron Street

Admire Famous Works at The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago 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.

Where: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Cost:  $25 for adults, $19 for seniors, students and teens (14-17); members and children under 14 are always free. Admission will be free for Illinois residents on weekdays (Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays) starting on January 9. Click here to buy a skip the line ticket if you want to avoid long lines.

Visit the Field Museum

The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Inside the museum you will see Maximo, the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur that ever lived. Illinois residents can spend a day at the Museum for free on January 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31.

(Click here to purchase an Early Access VIP Tour if you want to avoid crowds).

Where: Chicago’s Museum Campus, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605 (detailed directions and parking information is available here)

When: Open daily 9am to 5pm (last admission at 4pm)

Visit the Shedd Aquarium

Visit the Shedd Aquarium, one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums, for unforgettable encounters with aquatic animals including belugas and bluegills, stingrays, sturgeons and more.

Where: 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605 (detailed directions and parking information is available here)

Hours: Open 9 am – 5 pm. Advance purchase of timed tickets is required.

Cost: Price varies depending on day. Admission will be free for Illinois residents on January 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 (must be reserved online in advance).

Enjoy the Views from 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck

360 CHICAGO is another must see attraction. The observatory on the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Building has the best views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan.

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.

(Click here to buy a skip the line ticket).

Where: 875 North Michigan Avenue, 94th floor, Chicago, IL 60611

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.

Visit the Color Factory

Color Factory is a new interactive art museum located on the lower level of Willis Tower. Named one of the 22 Best New Experiences in the World in 2022 by Time Out, the Color Factory is a sensory celebration of color, with interactive installations, immersive rooms and carefully curated moments inspired by the city of Chicago including its signature ball pit and confetti room. Through the end of January, grab your goggles and parkas and slide on into some winter whimsy. Their snow squall is bringing new photo opportunities (including a ski lift through their confetti snow storm) and exclusive Winter Colorland treats and surprises.

Hours: Hours vary, advance tickets are required.

Where: Willis Tower, 320 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60606

Cost: Tickets start at $28 per person.

Go Sledding

Chances are that by January there will be enough snow on the ground to go sledding. There are several sledding hills in parks and forest preserves in Chicago that are fun for kids or kids at heart.

Where: Various. See Best Sledding Hills in Chicago.

Cost:  Free

Go Cross-Country Skiing & Snowshoeing

Looking for a fun outdoor winter activity? If there are four or more inches of snow on the ground, take a trip to the Morton Arboretum in the suburbs for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Trails are marked and groomed. There are rentals available or you can bring your own cross-country skis or snowshoes.

When: Rentals start January 7 (as soon as snowfall permits it).

Where: Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL-53, Lisle, IL 60532 (about 26 miles west of downtown Chicago)

Cost:  Cross-country skis (includes boots and poles) for 2-hour rental: $20 member/$22 guest (costs apply to adults and children); Snowshoes: Adults – $13 members/$15 guests; Children – (Ages 10 and younger) $11 members/$13 guests.

Buddy Guy’s January Residency at Buddy Guy’s Legends

Looking for something different to do in Chicago at night? January is the only month of the year when you can find blues icon, Buddy Guy, performing in his namesake blues club.

When:  Thursdays through Sundays

Where: Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Cost:  Tickets start at $65 per person for standing room

Hold and Feed a Bunny

Looking for a unique thing to do in Chicago? Visit the Cuddle Bunny in Chicago, where visitors can pet and feed bunnies.  Cuddle Bunny also hosts special events like yoga and story time.

When: Open daily from 10:00 am – 08:00 pm. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Activities and bunny interaction after 6pm are by reservation ONLY.

Where: Cuddle Bunny, 2901 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60657

Cost:  Price varies.

READ: Best Indoor Things to Do in Chicago on a Cold Day for more indoor Chicago attractions.

Chicago January Events

In addition to the activities mentioned above, other January events in Chicago include: Chicago Boat Show, Chicago Cubs Convention, Chicago Polar Plunge, Mac and Cheese Crawl (January 27, 2024), Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and Chicago Restaurant Week.

As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago in January.

Planning a trip to Chicago? Check out my Chicago guides and itineraries:



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