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BEST Things to Do in Chicago in the Winter 2022/2023 (From a Local!)

The best things to do in Chicago in the winter. You will find something for both adults and families with kids to do in December, January, February and early March in the city and suburbs.

Things to do in Chicago in the winter


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Where to Stay in Chicago During the Winter

If you are visiting Chicago in the winter, it is even more important to stay somewhere centrally located so you don’t have to walk very far while sightseeing or spend money on ride sharing. I recommend these Chicago hotels for winter – they are not only centrally located but many also offer winter attractions and activities like heated rooftops and even curling.

The Peninsula Chicago.  The Peninsula Chicago is a 5 star hotel with a central and convenient location right off the Magnificent Mile, close to shopping and less than a block from the Water Tower and 360 Chicago. This is the only hotel in Chicago with a seasonal skating rink. Other hotel amenities include a world renown spa and a half-Olympic length swimming pool. Click here to see the latest prices and click here to read reviews.

Gwen Hotel Chicago.  The Gwen Hotel Chicago is conveniently located off the Magnificent Mile and is connected to The Shops at North Bridge, which provides guests with enclosed access to shopping. The hotel was ranked #1 in Chicago and #8 in the world according to Condé Nast The Best Hotels in the World: 2021 Readers’ Choice Awards. It has an outdoor winter rooftop with fire pits and heaters as well as outdoor curling and igloos. Click here to see the latest prices and click here to read reviews.

LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton.  LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton is located on the iconic Chicago River, on the corner of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue, just minutes away from Millennium Park and the city’s theater and business districts. Many of their rooms as well as their tri-level rooftop bar have amazing views of the Chicago River. Click here to see the latest prices and click here to read reviews.

Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.  Chicago Athletic Association Hotel is a unique boutique hotel conveniently located right across The Bean and Millennium Park. It is a short walking distance to two ice skating rinks as well as The Art Institute of Chicago. The hotel has several bars & restaurants including Cindy’s, the popular rooftop restaurant and bar which offers panoramic instagram worthy views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. Families will enjoy spending time in their Game room where you can play billiards, shuffleboard, foosball, and other games for free. Click here to see the latest prices and click here to read reviews.

What to Pack for Chicago in the Winter

For out of town visitors, winter in Chicago is typically very cold and it frequently snows. Layers are key because the temperature can vary greatly (from below zero to more than 60 Fahrenheit). Here are some things to pack if you are visiting Chicago in the winter for the first time:

• Winter coat – I recommend a longer coat with a hoodie to keep you warm
• Knit hat
• Scarf
• Gloves – Thin touchscreen gloves are best so you can use your smartphone without having to take them off
• Boots – Boots are a must if it snows but some people like to wear them even if there is no snow because they are warmer. Make sure your boots are water resistant with good traction.
Reusable water bottle
External battery for your phone – To recharge your phone’s battery when you are outdoors

Things to Do in Chicago in the Winter

Wondering what there is to do in Chicago this winter? Below are the best things to do in Chicago during the winter – whether looking for fun outdoor winter activities or the best Chicago indoor attractions.

Go Outdoor Ice Skating

Outdoor Ice Skating in Chicago in the winter

There are several places to go outdoor ice skating in Chicago during the winter.

One of the best and picture perfect spots to go ice skating is at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park right in front of The Bean. The rink is open until March 5, 2023 (weather permitting). Admission is free, but online ticketed reservations are required.

Skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago

Another ice skating rink with great skyline views is the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park located next to Millennium Park. The skating ribbon has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink. The skating ribbon is open until March 5, 2023 (weather permitting). Reservations are strongly encouraged. See the official website for hours and prices.

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 winter include:

Candlelight: A Tribute to Taylor Swift
Candlelight: A Tribute to ABBA at Stan Mansion
Candlelight: A Tribute to Juan Gabriel
Candlelight: The Best of Hans Zimmer at Music Box Theatre
Candlelight: Holiday Special featuring “Silent Night, “Jingle Bells,” and More
Candlelight: Holiday Special featuring “The Nutcracker” and More
Candlelight: A Tribute to Adele
Candlelight: The Best of Joe Hisaishi at Music Box Theatre

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

Harry Potter™: Magic at Play

The Harry Potter™: Magic at Play is in Chicago for a limited time run. Discover the Wizarding World and celebrate Harry’s adventures in this new hands-on experience, filled with magical moments and active play for witches and wizards of all ages with fun for the whole family. Harry Potter™: Magic at Play is a unique, hands-on experience that will engage imaginations of all ages to bring out the young witch or wizard in all of us. Explore, climb, and play your way through three floors of fun packed with playful celebrations of your favorite places and moments.

When: Through January 29, 2023

Where: Water Tower Place, 835 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611 (corner of N Michigan Ave. and E Pearson St.)

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

Join a Food Tour

Winter 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.

Prince: The Immersive Experience

Celebrate the Artist known as Prince at Prince: The Immersive Experience, an interactive, multisensory experience perfect for Prince fans and music lovers alike. Tour 10 immersive spaces and explore his life, revolution, and talent as you step inside the iconic Purple Rain album cover and an audiovisual dance party designed by Prince’s lighting and production designer. Explore exclusive artifacts curated by The Prince Estate and play music producer with the original sessions from one of Prince’s greatest hits in Studio A.

Where: 540 N. Michigan Avenue (on the Mag Mile)

When: Extended through December 31, 2023

Cost: General admission starts at $39.50 per person. Click here for full prices and to purchase tickets in advance.
Push Pin Travel Maps

Experience the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

From the creators of the blockbuster show at Atelier des Lumières featured in Emily in Paris (one of my favorite travel shows on Netflix), the popular Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit is a massive indoor digital presentation of Vincent Van Gogh’s artwork.

When: Extended by popular demand through January 15, 2023

Where: Lighthouse ArtSpace at Germania Place, 108 W. Germania Pl, Chicago

Cost:  Tickets start at $39.99 plus fees for off peak times. You can see full prices and purchase tickets in advance here.

See the City of Chicago Christmas Tree

Seeing the City of Chicago Christmas Tree

The City of Chicago puts up a giant Christmas Tree annually at Millennium Park during the holiday season.

The Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park with the Christmas tree in the background

Make sure to stop by The Bean – a must on any Chicago bucket list. The Bean is located a few feet away from the tree and can even take photos of The Bean with the Christmas tree in the background.

When: November 18, 2022—January 8, 2023.

Where: Millennium Park near the intersection of Michigan Avenue & Washington Street.

Cost:  Free.

RELATED: Best Places to See Holiday Lights in Chicago for more places to see holiday lights in Chicago and the suburbs this winter.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier is a family-friendly winter event. Immerse yourself in interactive light displays, a whimsical skating rink, journeys through the birch tree maze, visits with Santa and more.

Where: Festival Hall at Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

When: Through January 7, 2023.

Cost: Prices vary depending on day. Tickets start at $15. Click here for full prices and to purchase tickets in advance.

Winterland at Gallagher Way

Winterland at Gallagher Way is back and will be bigger than ever. In addition to the Gallagher Ice Rink (now inside the ballpark) and Santa’s Workshop, there will be new family-friendly experiences inside Wrigley Field. Gallagher Way is also the site for the Wrigleyville location of Christkindlmarket, until December 31.

When: November 18, 2022 through January 8, 2023.

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

Cost: Admission to Gallagher Way activities, including the Christkindlmarket and Santa’s Workshop, is FREE and requires no tickets. Tickets are required to access the Wrigley Field portion of Winterland. Regular entry tickets start at $5.

Visit the new 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.

Admire Famous Works at The Art Institute of Chicago

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

When: Hours are Monday and Thursday–Sunday from 11 a.m.– 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays.

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.

Go Sledding

Chicago usually gets a lot of snow during the winter. If there is snow on the ground (usually at least 3 inches), grab a sled and head to one of sledding hills found in parks and forest preserves in the Chicago area.

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, 2023 (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.

Go Outdoor Curling

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) in the winter:

Upstairs at The Gwen (521 North Rush Street) – until March 1, 2023
Kennedy Rooftop (1551 W North Ave)
Harry Caray’s Tavern – Navy Pier (700 E. Grand Ave)

Eat and Drink 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 (advance reservations may be required).

Kennedy Rooftop (1551 W North Ave)
I|O at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago (127 West Huron Street)
Joy District (112 West Hubbard Street)
London House (85 E Wacker Dr 22nd Floor)

Enjoy Warm Temperatures at 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.

Through January 8, 2023 you can also see their Winter Flower Show: Snow Day! exhibit which features a 12-foot-tall tree made from over 200 white poinsettias as well as geraniums, pansies, sweet alyssum, poinsettias and more flowers in hues of white, silver and pink, creating an illusion of a snow-covered garden.

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

Hours: Wednesday 10am-8pm; Thursday – Sunday 10am-5pm; Closed Monday and Tuesday. Visitors are encouraged to make a reservation online in advance.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation)

See Flowers Inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory

Lincoln Park Conservatory is always green and lush year round, offering visitors a tropical experience within its four display houses: Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House.

Hours: Timed entry reservation is required.

Where: 2391 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

Cost: Free.


Visit the Field Museum

The Field Museum 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 and lines).

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

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

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. Beginning November 17, 2022, grab your goggles and parkas and slide on into some winter whimsy. Their snow squall is bringing festive new photo opportunities, seasonal sweet treats and giveaways, and even a ski lift through their confetti snow storm!

Hours: Hours vary, advance tickets are required.

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

Cost: Tickets start at $28 per person.

READ: Best Indoor Things to Do in Chicago for more indoor Chicago attractions.

Chicago Winter 2022/2023 Events

In addition to the activities mentioned above, other Chicago events taking place this winter include: Chicago Polar Plunge (January 28, 2023), Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown (January 29, 2023), Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival (January 19-29, 2023), Chicago Black Restaurant Week (February 12-26, 2023), Chicago Auto Show (February 11-20, 2023), and Chicago Theatre Week (February 16 – 26, 2023).

As you can see there are many things to do in Chicago in the winter. Have you visited Chicago during the winter? If you end up loving Chicago (most people do), you can always return when the weather is warmer for Chicago tourist attractions you can enjoy year round.


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



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