It may come as a surprise to many that life does not stop in Chicago in winter. It actually thrives. People bundle up in their down parkas, don their scarves, hats, and mittens, and put on their best pair of waterproof boots. We enjoy the sunny days when we have them and the snow days too. Some might say it’s best to skip Chicago in winter, but you might think again after seeing everything the city has to offer.
Favorite Family Activities in Chicago in Winter
Living in Chicago, you realize you have to get outside during the winter to make the most of it. When the children were little it would take hours to bundle everyone up and get out the door. Now that they’re older, we’re teaching them to embrace and enjoy the cold weather. Chicago in winter is amazing and families would be crazy not to visit and enjoy the variety of activities found on the shores of Lake Michigan.
1. Go ice skating
Chicago has plenty of opportunities for ice skating outdoors. Many rinks offer free skating if you bring your own skates. Most have equipment rental availablle. Several towns set up community ice rinks, but you can find larger ones at Maggie Daley Park, where there’s an ice skating ribbon, Millennium Park, and the Rosemont ice rink. Talk about embracing the outdoors!
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2. Head indoors to a museum
Chicago has too many family friendly museums to list. Some of our favorites are the Museum of Science and Industry, Children’s Museum at Navy Pier, and the Chicago History Museum. Each one could entertain children of all ages for hours. If you’re looking to add some culture to your children’s lives why not try the National Hellenic Museum or the Swedish American Museum? Kids won’t even realize they’re learning because they’re having so much fun.
3. Try a new sport
Have you ever played bocce ball? It’s fairly simple to learn, and fun for all ages. We took our kids to Pinstripes where they have bocce playing areas and a bowling alley. It is also a restaurant, so a family could make a day of it. Other activities you might want to try are iFLY Indoor Skydiving, where you experience what it’s like to sky dive without jumping from a plane. There’s also TSNY Chicago, a trapeze school where you can learn to fly with the greatest of ease! Other options include snowshoeing or sledding, easy to do when there is plenty of snow!
4. Enjoy one of Chicago’s special winter events
There seems to be multiple events each month throughout the winter just to encourage families to leave their homes! In February there’s the Chinatown New Year’s parade which always draws a large crowd and the Chicago Auto Show which really gets people excited. In March there’s the Polar Plunge where people run into Lake Michigan (for fun), and there’s also the St. Patrick’s Day parade and festival when the Chicago River is dyed green. No matter the event, people will come out to support it. We like to be entertained in Chicago and the city knows how to put on a show.
5. Spend a day shopping in the city
Where to begin? There is so much to see and explore, but if shopping is your thing, you want to head downtown. Visit the shops along Michigan Avenue (aka The Magnificent Mile), or try Water Tower Place, home to Lego and Chicago’s American Girl doll store. Whatever your heart desires you can probably find in the city, just be sure to stop by Hershey’s Chocolate World or Dylan’s Candy Bar if you need a little something sweet for the kids (or yourself).
6. Head to the theater
Chicago has a multitude of theater companies and if you’re looking for a special performance, Broadway in Chicago always has fantastic shows. There are also several children’s theater companies such as The Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in the suburb of Lincolnshire (about 40 minutes northwest of the city), Emerald City Theatre, and the Chicago Children’s Theatre. All of the companies have very kid friendly performances.
7. Go up in the sky
There are some great places to catch a bird’s eye view of the city. Formerly the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago is just that, a 360 degree view of the city from 1,000 feet above Lake Michigan. There’s also TILT, which literally “tilts” visitors out from the building for a view while lying against glass tilting out from the building. Not to be outdone, the Willis Tower has the Skydeck which is a glass box that extends 4.3 feet out from the side of the building, 1,353 feet above the ground. Who wants to go?
It may not be a typical destination, but Chicago in winter sparkles. Dress warmly and get outside, there’s fun to be had everywhere!
For other Chicago fun check out: Best Things to Do with Kids at Chicago’s Water Tower Place and Christmas in Chicago with Kids