Chicago is a world-famous city that is worth visiting any time of year. As a Chicagoan, of course I’d say that. ;) But during the winter, the windy city truly transforms into a magical, white winter wonderland. The snow gives the city an extra bit of sparkle, making it one of the most popular winter travel destinations in the country!
If you’re considering visiting Chicago this winter, here is a round-up of fun things to do in the city.
What To Do In Chicago In The Winter
Chicago Weather In Winter
Winter in Chicago typically lasts from December to March. Of all the winter months, January is usually the coldest. Brrrrrr. Seriously, it’s so cold in January! If you’re headed this way, definitely bundle up!!!
Chicago gets an average of about 37 inches of snow per year, with the most snow usually falling in January. On average, the daily high temperature during winter is between 30 and 28 degrees F.
Now that you know what to expect when you get here, here are some of our favorite Chicago winter activities:
Go ice skating in Millenium Park.
Ice skating is one of the best ways to spend some time in Chicago during the winter. After all, you can’t ice skate just anywhere!
The McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millenium Park is situated right on Michigan Avenue, so as you glide across the ice skating rink, you’ll get to enjoy some gorgeous views. Cloud Gate, the magnificent mile, and of course, the huge Christmas tree. Admission is free but online tickets are required.
Or go ice skating at Maggie Daley Park.
At Maggie Daley Park, you can glide around a skating ribbon that is twice as long as a regular ice skating rink. Enjoy some time on the ice, and whenever you’re ready for a break, step off and grab yourself some tasty hot chocolate and snacks.
Ride the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier.
You’re probably thinking “A ferris wheel? In the winter?” but hear me out! The Centennial Wheel at the Navy Pier has climate-controlled cars so you can stay warm and cozy while you take in the views of Lake Michigan from two hundred feet up.
You might want to dress in layers in case you have to wait in line, but rest assured, you’ll be totally comfortable once you’re riding The Centennial Wheel.
Appreciate nature’s beauty at Chicago Botanic Garden.
Chicago Botanic Garden is beautiful year-round, but there’s something extra special about seeing it covered in snow. As you explore the botanic garden, you’ll notice some of nature’s most beautiful sights and smells.
Don’t worry, there are several greenhouses that will keep you warm amid some of the more tropical greenery like banana plants and orchids. It’s truly a wonderful way to spend a few hours on a cold winter day and great for the whole family.
Or visit Garfield Park Conservatory for more natural beauty.
The Garfield Park Conservatory is another great place to go in Chicago where you’ll find some gorgeous, natural greenery in the dead of winter. Yes, please! It’s open year-round and is often considered one of the most visually stunning botanical conservatories in the U.S.
Head to Soldier Field for a Bears game.
Sports fans can head to Soldier Field to see the Chicago Bears in action. Watching the local NFL team is a great way to spend some time in Chicago in the winter, but tailgating before the game is an especially popular winter activity. And so fun! Gather up some of your buddies and head to the lakeside field for a memorable gameday experience.
See SUE the T.rex at the Field Museum.
Also situated on the shore of Lake Michigan is the Field Museum. A natural history museum that houses the largest and most complete T.rex specimen, SUE. The Field Museum is one of several world-class museums that you can visit in the city.
While you’re there, also be sure to check out the giant sloth, the Tully Monster, and the model of Lucy, a hominid that is an estimated 3.2 million years old! How cool?!? This one is totally fun (as well as educational) for the whole fam!
Visit Skydeck Chicago for gorgeous views of the city from above.
For some of the best views of the city, head downtown to Willis Tower. (As long as you’re not crazy afraid of heights!!!) On the 103rd-floor observation deck, Skydeck Chicago, you can look out over the bustling city.
For a truly breathtaking view, step onto The Ledge. The glass-paneled boxes offer a clear, one-of-a-kind view down to the street.
Tour the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago is worth visiting year round, but when you’re looking to escape the bitter cold, it’s an especially welcoming place. There are more than 300,000 objects to see, spanning more than 5,000 years of history, so adults and children are guaranteed to be entertained for a while.
Learn more about aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium.
The Shedd Aquarium offers fun for the whole family. During your visit, you’ll get to check out aquatic and amphibian life in 80 different habitats. There are also live shows featuring penguins, dolphins, and Beluga whales!
See the lights at Lincoln Park Zoo.
If you haven’t been to Lincoln Park Zoo in the winter, then you’ve never seen it quite like this. From November through early January, the zoo is lit up with thousands of lights, creating a spectacle truly unlike any other.
This activity is another one that the whole family can enjoy. Plus, it’s super affordable! Heads up: you’ll need a ticket, even on free admission nights.
Enjoy dinner and drinks on a rooftop bar.
Even in the winter, there are rooftop bars scattered across the city offering a wide selection of delicious food and drinks. One of the most popular spots is LondonHouse Chicago, where you can stay warm and cozy inside a rooftop igloo. It’s definitely one of the more unique dining experiences in the city and perfect for date night.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Chicago during the winter?
Did your favorite thing make this list? If not, tell me about it! I love to hear all the ways people enjoy the city, especially during the winter. Plus, it might inspire Mitch & I to try something new!
Then, head over to the blog to hear more about how my family and I make the most of our time in Chicago!