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 events and attractions.

I suggest bookmarking this blog post as I will be updating it regularly with new events and activities.

Chicago in January

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.

Things to Do in Chicago in January

Below are the top things to do in Chicago in January including all of the best January events.

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.

Go Outdoor Ice Skating

Looking for a fun outdoor activity in Chicago? There are many places to go outdoor ice skating in the city for those willing to brave the cold January temperatures.

people ice skating in Millenium Park in Chicago 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

Disney100: The Exhibition

The Disney100: The Exhibition is in Chicago only for a limited time. This exhibition celebrates the magic of Disney with the Walt Disney Archives opening its vault of historical and special treasures, works of art, artifacts, costumes, and memorabilia. Wonder at more than 250 artifacts and props, see costumes from some of your favorite Disney classics, and explore enchanting galleries that bring the magic of Disney to life. Featuring the latest members of the Disney family (Pixar, Star Wars, and MARVEL) along with renowned classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and recent releases such as Encanto.

Where: Exhibition Hub Art Center Chicago, 2367 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

Cost: Price varies. Click here for full prices and to purchase tickets in advance.

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!

Through January 7, visitors can also enjoy the annual Winter Flower Show which features beautiful silver foliage, lush poinsettias in pink and white hues and more winter flowers and plants.

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)

Attend a Candlelight Concert

Chicago’s Candlelight Concerts is a series of special classical music concerts that take place in beautiful venues bathed in candlelight. Some of the concerts taking place this January include:

Candlelight: From Bach to the Beatles
Candlelight: A Tribute to U2
Candlelight: A Tribute to Rihanna

You can find the full list of candlelight concerts in Chicago here.

Join a Food Tour

January is a great time try some of the food that Chicago is known for. If your time in Chicago is short or you want to try a variety of dishes, consider a food tour like this Chicago favorites tasting tour. If you have a sweet tooth, you might like this underground donut tour. You can also join neighborhood specific food tours like this Chinatown food tour.

Visit the Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago holidays
The Art Institute of Chicago is a must on any Chicago bucket list year round but there are more reasons to visit during the holiday season.

The museum’s lions will be decked with their evergreen wreaths for the holiday season through the first week of January. You can also see the Art Institute’s spectacular 18th-century Neapolitan crèche, or Nativity scene, telling the story of Jesus Christ’s birth through more than 200 painted terracotta figures staged in an elaborate environment inspired by 18th-century Naples.

Click here to buy a skip the line ticket if you want to avoid long lines.

Where: 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

Cost:  Price varies by age; members and children under 14 are always free. There are discounts for Chicago and Illinois residents. Admission is free for Illinois residents on weekdays (Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays) all month starting January 8.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights Presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ at Lincoln Park Zoo is a cheerful, family-friendly holiday event in the heart of the city. Zoolights features hundreds of luminous LED displays and seasonal experiences, all under the glow of millions of lights. All dates require a timed reservation.

Where: Lincoln Park Zoo, 2400 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL

When: Through January 7.

Cost: $7–$10. Free on Mondays.

Winterland at Gallagher Way

Winterland at Gallagher Way offers family-friendly festivities and attractions inside historic Wrigley Field as well as the Gallagher Ice Rink.

When: Ends January 7.

Where: Gallagher Way, 3635 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60613

Cost: See prices and purchase tickets in advance here.

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

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.

(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 Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry 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.

Through January 7, entry includes The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light at the Museum of Science and Industry exhibit featurin a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 40 trees and displays which represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe.

Where: 5700 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL

Cost: Click here to purchase a skip the line ticket. Illinois residents receive free museum entry on January 9–11, 16–18, 23–25, 30–31.

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

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 9 – 16, 23 – 25, 30 and 31 (must be reserved online in advance).

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 Museum of Ice Cream

Museum of Ice Cream is one of Chicago’s newest attractions. 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.

Through January 15, the MOIC is celebrating Pinkmas with a life-sized snow globe as well as festive holiday treats, games and activities.

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

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

Visit the Color Factory

Color Factory is an interactive art museum located on the lower level of Willis Tower. Experience 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

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 $75 per person for standing room

Dine at a Discount During Chicago Restaurant Week

The 17th annual Chicago Restaurant Week is a 17-day celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene. Diners at over 350 participating restaurants can enjoy special prix-fixe menus for brunch ($25), lunch ($25), and/or dinner ($42 or $59).

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 (January 15-19, 2025) and Chicago Polar Plunge (January 25, 2025).

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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