When wind chills are below zero and snow is piling up, walking around Chicago isn’t fun – especially with kids. Fortunately, there are plenty of fun things for families to do indoors. So go outside and take a quick selfie in front of “The Bean” or a quick loop around Maggie Daley Park’s ice skating ribbon, and then head to these warm inside places where you can shed your coats, hats and boots and have some indoor family fun.
As a lifelong Chicagoan, even I find winter hard to take some days. Strolling through Millennium Park, shopping on the Magnificent Mile, or even waiting on an L platform can leave you feeling chilled to the bone. If you find you’re in Chicago, Illinois, on one of those bad weather days this winter, grab the kids and try one of these activities.
Here are some fun things you can do indoors in Chicago this winter:
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Chicago Family Palooza, Feb. 27 & 28
Kids complaining they’re bored? They won’t be at Chicago Family Palooza, an annual fest in the western suburb of St. Charles (about a 1-hour drive or train ride from Chicago). It’s packed with activities, including indoor train rides, a petting zoo, carnival games, inflatable slides, and much more.
“That’s Weird, Grandma,” at the Neo-Futurists Theater
This critically acclaimed play is written by kids, performed by adults, and created for an audience of both. Located on Chicago’s north side, it’s a great example of the creative, artistic improv comedy theater that Chicago is known for.
Free Museum Days
During January and February, admission is free (or discounted) at most of Chicago’s popular, world-class museums. Some of the free admission special apply only to Illinois residents, but some are for all visitors. The list includes the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the DuSable Museum of African American History. See each museum’s website for details.
iFLY, in Suburban Naperville and Rosemont
This is a really popular activity with suburban families right now. Parents and kids can try indoor sky diving without having to jump out of a plane at iFLY Chicago. Wearing a uniform, helmet and goggles, you float safely through an enclosed area. You even get a video of your experience which you can share on social media. Discounted tickets are available at Costco, and there are sometimes Groupons. So check for deals. Also – this is important – you need to make a reservation in advance. Weekends book up quickly.
Indoor Walking Tours (or Tours with Heated Coats)
Want to sightsee in Chicago, but it’s too cold for walking or boating tours? Consider “The Pedway Tour” by a new tour group, Chicago Elevated. It’s all indoors, and mostly underground. They also have a special winter tour, where you’re given high-tech heated coats to wear as you walk outside by Maggie Daley Park’s skating ribbon and the lakefront.
Chicago Wolves Hockey Game at the Allstate Arena
Chicago is a serious hockey town (um, hello Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks?). But getting Blackhawks tickets can be tough, and it’s an expensive outing for a family. An affordable, fun, and family-friendly option is to see the Chicago Wolves play at the Allstate Arena. My kids love the pyrotechnic show to start the game, and all of the entertainment between periods. Plus, they’re a great team!
Tilt over the Top of a Skyscraper
3…2…1…tilt! That’s what they say when “Tilt” begins, a new thrill experience on top of Chicago’s iconic John Hancock building. You stand in an all-glass box that literally tilts out over the side of the building. Afterward, you can enjoy the 360-degree views from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Another fun top-of-the-skyscraper activity is the Willis Tower Ledge, where you walk out onto a glass box 103-feet above Chicago. It’s one of the most popular Chicago photo-ops.
Schoolhouse Rock Live!
Conjunction junction, what’s your function? Emerald City Theatre stages “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” a who based on the beloved educational TV series, including its popular songs. Runs Feb. 26-June 5 at the Apollo Theater.
The Chicago Sports Museum, in Water Tower Place
It’s a small museum, but if you’re in the Water Tower Place mall and need a shopping break, it’s a fun stop for families. It’s packed with Chicago sports memorabilia and interactive sports games. If you eat at the adjacent Harry Caray’s restaurant beforehand, everyone’s admission is free. It’s one of several fun things to do in and around Water Tower Place. Read my other suggestions here.
For the Win Video Arcade
Midwest TravelingMom Andrea Guthman raves about For the Win, a new upscale arcade in downtown Chicago that is a winner for indoor family fun. And what kids don’t like video games? Read her review here.
Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, Ill.
A smaller, manageable and fun indoor water park in the far north suburbs, it’s unique feature is a kids spa. That’s a fun post-water park activity for young girls. They can have facials, mani-pedis, or makeup application. Read my review of it here.