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Best Things to Do in Chicago in the Winter (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 January, February and early March in the city and suburbs.

Things to Do in Chicago in the Winter

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.

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.

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

When: 4–10 p.m. on select dates from November 19, 2021–January 2, 2022. Reservations are required and tickets will be available beginning in mid-October.

Cost: Monday and Tuesday nights are free and Wednesday-Sunday tickets are $5.

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

Go Ice Skating

Skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park in Chicago

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 downtown is the skating ribbon at Maggie Daley Park which has a path twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink.

When:  Open daily (weather permitting) through end of February. See the official website for hours.

Where: 337 E Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601

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

Watch Digital Art at Art on the Mart

Art at the Mart light show during the winter holiday season

Art on theMART is the largest permanent digital art projection in the world, projecting contemporary artwork across the 2.5-acre river-façade of theMART.

When: 30-minute program of projections are shown nightly at two times every evening.

Where: The Merchandise Mart, 222 W Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago, IL 60654. Spectators can watch the show from the jetty section of the Chicago Riverwalk on Wacker Drive between Wells Street and Franklin Street.

Cost: Free.

Immerse Yourself in The Office Experience

The Office Experience pop-up opens in Chicago in October for a three month run. Visit Schrute Farms, walk through the Dunder Mifflin set, and relive Jim and Pam’s iconic romance. The world of The Office will come to life with iconic set recreations, original show costumes and props, and opportunities for fans to engage with the show in new ways. Timed tickets are now on sale online.

When: Until January 17, 2022

Where: 540 N Michigan Ave on the Mag Mile.

Cost: General admission is $37.50 plus taxes + fees for off-peak times or $45 plus taxes and fees for peak times. Children 3 and younger are free. Groups can also purchase private access tickets or book the space for a private party.

Outdoor Curling

Curling is a winter sport in which players slide stones on a sheet of ice or a lane towards a target. Two Chicago hotels have outdoor curling rinks on their rooftops.

Curling at The Gwen

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Gwen Hotel (@thegwenchicago)


The Gwen Hotel, a luxury hotel, has custom-designed, an iceless Curling Rink on its outdoor rooftop terrace. Come on in and experience our Winter Wonderland by curling with the skyline view!

Where: Upstairs at The Gwen, 521 North Rush Street, Chicago, IL, 60611

Curling at The Kennedy Rooftop
The Kennedy Rooftop, on top of the new Hyatt Place Wicker Park, also offers outdoor curling with amazing skyline views.

Where: The Kennedy Rooftop at Hyatt Place Chicago / Wicker Park, 1551 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

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 are required).

Kennedy Rooftop: 1551 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Joy District: 112 West Hubbard Street, Chicago, IL 60654
I|O at The Godfrey Hotel Chicago: 127 West Huron Street, Chicago

Enjoy Tropical 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.  Visitors can enjoy the lush flora and tropical temperatures indoors year-round!

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. Walk-ups are welcome if there is space available.

Cost: FREE (suggested donation)

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).

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)

Cost:  Prices vary. 


Admire Famous Works of Art 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. There are discounts for Chicago and Illinois residents.

 

Visit the Shedd Aquarium

Visit the Shedd Aquarium is one of the best and most visited aquariums in the United States.  

When: Open 9am to 6pm daily. Advance purchase of timed tickets is required.

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

Cost: Admission is $39.95 ($19.95 for Chicago residents) for adults; $29.95 ($14.95 for Chicago residents) for children (3–11)

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.

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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