The Windy City is a winter wonderland this time of year. From ice skating at Millennium Park to sipping mulled wine at a real Christmas Market, find out how you can enjoy all that Chicago has to offer during the coldest season of the year. Don't forget about deep dish pizza and holiday cheer!

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Glowing Christmas lights. Actual German Christmas markets. Deep dish pizza – and deep snow. Chicago won’t be recognized for its, let’s consider, balmy winters, however there are lots of intrepid locals and guests who embrace the blistering chilly winds and snow-covered sidewalks!

Winter in Chicago is the perfect time traipse by means of shimmering vacation lights with a mug of scorching mulled wine, glide round one of many metropolis’s many out of doors ice rinks, or cozy up in a museum cafe. Apart from, everybody is aware of scorching chocolate tastes higher whereas strolling down snow-covered streets!

We tapped an area to create this information to all the perfect issues to do in Chicago within the winter. Take it away, Allison!

Chicago At-a-Look ✍

Right here’s a bite-sized snapshot of every part it’s worthwhile to know to plan your journey!

Psst: Planning extra travels across the midwest? We’ve acquired some posts that will assist! Examine these out:

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Printable Winter Packing Listing

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A sunny winter day overlooking Millennium Park and skyscrapers in Chicago, Illinois
The snow-lined banks of Millenium Park and the enduring Bean statue!

Winter in Chicago FAQs

You in all probability have some questions on Chicago within the winter. Particularly, “am I going to freeze to dying?” or “wait, what do you imply the Windy Metropolis isn’t known as that due to the wind?”

Properly, I can’t reply all of your questions (this article will assist, although) however I can reply a couple of of the stuff you’ll have to know earlier than planning your journey to the Arctic Chicago within the winter.

How chilly is Chicago within the winter?

Winter in Chicago begins wherever from late October and lasts till a minimum of March and typically past. Temperatures often vary from the teenagers to the thirties, however you’ll be able to anticipate it to be chilly

And typically, actually chilly. Like, we-made-the-news-in-Germany-cold. In January 2019 town bundled up for a Polar Vortex inflicting a file temperature of -23°. Blame the “Lake Effect.

Apart from the frigid, toe-curling temperatures, lake-effect snow makes frequent appearances between December and March, and snowstorms have been recognized to fall even within the Fall and Spring. Should you’re coming from a spot that doesn’t get snow, get excited: I can’t assure something, however the possibilities of snowflakes swirling throughout you whereas strolling by means of a winter wonderland are very excessive.

However the excellent news is there’s a joke amongst locals: if you happen to don’t just like the climate, don’t fear. It’ll change in 5 minutes! The infamous four-seasons-a-day climate signifies that positive, winter can suck, however you may need a forty five° day in January and a 30° day in June.

Whereas normally extremely unpredictable, the harshest months are nonetheless sometimes January and February. You ought to be ready for any and all seasons that the Windy Metropolis would possibly impose upon you, so pack accordingly! 


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A Chicago Transit Authority train going through snow in daytime in Chicago, Illinois
Take the “El” is a proper of passage whereas in Chicago! (Photo Credit)

How do I get round Chicago?

The most cost effective and best strategy to get round is through the use of town’s public transportation, particularly the prepare system known as the “El” (for elevated prepare) and bus system. Guests should purchase one-day, seven-day, and 30-day passes from the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)

In case your go to occurs to fall on an unseasonably heat and nice day, you may as well decide to transit by river utilizing the Chicago Water Taxi or Divvy, the bike-sharing system providing each customary and electrical bikes. Strolling—whatever the climate— is all the time an effective way to admire town. 

Driving tends to be a problem (particularly when it snows!) and comes with hefty parking charges, so go away your automobile at house (or at your lodging). After all, Taxis and ridesharing like Uber and Lyft are extensively obtainable in Chicago as properly.


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Giordano's Pizza in the Winter in Chicago, Illinois
Lia right here: I will not be an area, however I simply need to say that Giordano’s deep dish pizza is the perfect pizza I’ve ever had in my complete life. I’m absolutely braced for offended feedback from Chicagoans with robust opinions!

What’s Chicago recognized for?

Chicago is a global metropolis of immigrant enclaves and a world-renowned culinary scene. 

However earlier than any Chicagoans have the possibility to let you know what number of Michelin-star eating places we boast, the Algonquian Indigenous people known as this swampy, low-lying plot of land “Checagou” after the smelly wild vegetation (some say leeks, others say onions) that grew on this area.

When the primary non-Indigenous settler Haitian Jean Baptiste Point du Sable—for whom Chicago’s lakefront thoroughfare was lately renamed—arrived within the space in 1779, Chicago was a buying and selling hub and residential to the Potowatomi, Miami, and Illinois Native nations. 

Over time, Chicago would turn into a producing powerhouse and will come to be referred to as “The Second Metropolis,” a nickname that really has nothing to do with the inhabitants (although it’s the third largest metropolis within the U.S., after New York and Los Angeles). In accordance with some, it’s as a result of it has all the time competed in opposition to New York, and lots of others level to the truth that the Nice Chicago Hearth of 1871—the most important city fireplace in historical past—was devastating, however gave the metropolis a clear slate to rebuild for a second time (and an enormous cause we’ve got so many brick buildings—fire safety!). 

Due to that disaster, Chicago dared to be revolutionary and at this time nonetheless homes a number of the most spectacular structure on the earth. Mix our cutting-edge design with town’s deep dish pizza (adore it or hate it!), improv comedy, fervent sports activities followers, and wealthy African-American historical past, guests will rapidly see that tradition occurs right here year-round. 

A view of Cloud Gate or the Bean in Millennium Park on a snowy winter day in Chicago, Illinois
The “bean” displays snow so superbly within the chilly wintertime. (Photo Credit)

Issues to do in Chicago within the Winter

As tempting as it could be to curve up and watch Netflix within the winter, Chicagoans bundle up and brace themselves to get out and discover. With a lot fascinating structure, seemingly limitless foods and drinks choices, vacation surprises, and a number of the finest leisure within the nation, this metropolis has no excuse to remain house. 

Discover Chicago’s Downtown, known as “The Loop”

Named for the El’s round sample across the metropolis’s industrial and enterprise district, the Loop is an space of town that’s closely trafficked by guests and professionals and averted by many locals. Nonetheless, it holds essential cultural and historic context and is price spending time in. Right here are some things it is best to do whenever you’re within the space:

  • Head to the highest of the world’s tallest constructing (properly, it was till 1998). The Willis Tower (referred to by locals as “Sears Tower”) stands at 110 tales excessive. The constructing’s Skydeck gives spectacular views of town and Lake Michigan. Should you’re not afraid of heights, stroll out onto the glass ledge with its glass ground and stare down on the over 1,300 ft beneath you. On a snowy day, you’ll be able to see a winter wonderland for miles round and really feel such as you’re in a real-life snowglobe!
  • Purchase a Chicago City Pass to discover the highest downtown museums and experiences. That is good if you wish to expertise the snowy Skydeck and see tropical fish on the Shedd Aquarium.   
  • Stroll the sculpture backyard and grounds of the Loop’s inexperienced areas, together with Grant Park. You’ll discover artwork, structure, and iconic buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition
  • Envision what the “vice district” was like when well-known gangster Al Capone roamed town within the Nineteen Twenties and Thirties on this history and ghost walking tour.
  • Take a selfie at Millenium Park’s Cloud Gate, the big, reflective sculpture locals seek advice from as “the bean.” 
  • Take this food, architecture, and history tour of the Loop for a number of the finest views, historic context, and culinary treats the world has to supply. You’ll marvel on the beautiful Chicago skyline and uncover why Chicago’s structure is among the many finest on the earth, uncover why locals have a lot ardour for his or her Chicago-style classics, attempt a few traditional made-in-Chicago snacks like Chicago-style popcorn and do-it-yourself chocolate, and get a style for town’s most well-known meals in a historic neighborhood!


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Tree lights and traditional stands at the German Christkindlmarkt Christmas market in Chicago, Illinois
Skating, Christmas lights, and an actual Christmas market make for an amazing vacation go to! (Picture Credit score: Guy Bauer)

Go to a (Legit) Christmas Market

Among the finest issues to do in Chicago within the winter is to take in Vacation cheer at its two European-inspired Christmas markets! Seize a contemporary pretzel or a bratwurst and a mug of Glühwein and stroll beneath the glowing Christmas lights within the heart of Chicago as cheerful Christmas music and the scent of roast nuts wafts by means of the air.

The Christkindlmarkts are a number of the finest, most genuine, and solely legit Christmas Markets within the USA – so even if you happen to can’t make it to Germany this yr, you may get fairly darn shut.

There are two Christmas Markets in Chicago within the winter, every open from round mid-November:

  • Christkindlmarkt in Daley Plaza: The biggest Christmas Market in Chicago is the Christkindlmarkt. The market is a long-standing German-inspired native vacation favourite in downtown’s Daley Plaza. Seize a glass of the mulled wine and stroll beneath twinkling lights down aisles of distributors promoting handcrafted items and irresistible meals like sausages, raclette and cookies! The market closes on Christmas Eve.
  • Christkindlmarkt in Wrigley Sq.: Throughout the holidays, Wrigley Sq. turns into “Winterland at Gallagher Way,” together with an enthralling (if on the small aspect) Christkindlmarket, Santa’s Workshop, wreath-making lessons, vacation films, ice bumper automobiles, and ice skating! Stroll by means of the sweet cane-striped picket huts with a mug of scorching spiced wine (Glühwein) and store for native delicacies and hand-crafted ornaments. The market closes on New Yr’s Eeve.

Have a good time the Holidays, Chicago type 

It’s barely November when Chicago decides it’s able to get into the vacation spirit – which is nice, as a result of it’s already chilly!

Listed here are a number of the finest methods to have fun: 

  • See the vacation sights: This three-hour holiday walking tour takes you thru Millennium Park and different iconic places in The Loop to see its dazzling Christmas tree and ice-skating rink. Alongside the best way, you’ll even be having fun with brownies, scorching apple cider, and a few Chicago classics: pizza and scorching canine!
  • Admire twinkling vacation lights: You recognize what will get me hyped for Christmas? Heading to Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo! From mid-November by means of New Yr’s you’ll be able to go to this dazzling expertise on the zoo’s grounds. We’re speaking rainbow tunnels, big bushes made out of dazzling lights, and hundreds of twinkling vacation cheer in all places. You’ll additionally be capable of snack on some vacation treats and even sip wine as you make your method by means of the festivities. 
  • Store (or window store): Buying districts just like the Magnificent Mile and alongside State Road are decked out in elaborate mild shows and window decorations. The well-known Macy’s home windows have a different theme each year which they’ve been doing since 1870(!) and their Walnut Room—the first-ever restaurant in a division retailer—options an impressively massive Christmas tree. 

Journey Tip: Be certain that to take public transportation through the holidays— you would possibly catch one of many CTA’s special Santa-driven trains and festive buses!

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