We only have to look out our windows to confirm that Chicago winters are the real deal: icy, snowy, windy, and above all, cold. So it seems reasonable that many Chicagoans would rather curl up on the couch with a book or binge Netflix than venture outside. But why should summer get all the love? Winter is just a state of mind! There’s a whole wonderland of winter adventure to be had in Chicago – both indoors and out. It just takes a couple of extra layers to enjoy it.
For a lot of us, the first stop for cheap and fun winter activities is the Chicago Park District. If you’re after the perfect Instagram, Maggie Daley Park’s ice ribbon and Millennium Park’s ice skating rink make for some photogenic fun, but you can also visit neighborhood parks like Warren Park, Midway Plaisance Park and McKinley Park for outdoor ice skating. And while sledding hills can be tough to come by in our prairie city, you can pick up a little speed on hills at Palmisano Park, Gompers Park, Cricket Hill and near Soldier Field. A couple of park district parks, like Riis Park and Warren Park, have both sledding hills and ice rinks.
You can get a taste of wintry nature in the parks, too. Peggy Stewart, Chicago Park District assistant director of culture, arts and nature, suggests a visit to Northerly Island for Polar Adventure Days for face-to-face encounters with animals, outdoor activities, and crafting, or the Family Prairie Prowls, where younger children can get more guided outdoor experiences. Stewart also recommends the North Park Village and Nature Center for snowy walks.
And there’s even more. Kids missing their summer sports can try out the Park District’s Blackhawks Hockey Clinics, and everyone can light up the night at the Lantern Festival in Maggie Daley Park, or snap their fingers to the best of Chicago’s jazz community at a Jazz City concert.
After all that outdoor fun, Jason Lesniewicz, director of cultural tourism for Choose Chicago, points to Chicago’s theaters and restaurants as good places to warm up. Chicago Restaurant Week is just around the corner and Chicago Theater Week is close on its heels, offering affordable ways to enjoy the best of Chicago’s cultural scene. He also recommends the Chinese New Year Festival to bring color and verve to the greyer days of the season.
Lesniewicz and Stewart join us to convince you to bundle up and get out there this winter.