Skip to main content
Shedd Aquarium

Fun Winter Activities in Chicago

Photo of the famous bean of Chicago.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is your kind of town square, home of the sculpture officially called Cloud Gate—aka The Bean (NOTE, the area around Cloud Gate is under constructions. Views & visitor access will be limited through Spring 2024). In winter, the park’s most popular winter activity is the ice skating rink which operates for four months a year. No matter the season, swing by the Park Grill restaurant in the heart of the park for beautifully plated American cuisine.

The Ferris Wheel illuminated in the evening

Navy Pier

The Centennial Wheel dominates the scenery at the state’s most popular draw, but there are plenty of other gems to discover here, too, including a gallery of stained glass and Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze. While admission to Navy Pier is free, note that fees are charged for individual experiences.  Make the most of special winter events including 'Light Up The Lake' and Santa Claus visits which make the holidays extra special in Chicago.

360 Chicago & The Ledge

Lean into winter with TILT at 360 Chicago as you take a deep breath and experience the thrill of a new perspective on the snow-covered city. Also, don't look down! (or do...that's sort of the point) at The Ledge, glass boxes offering unparalleled views of Chicago and four neighboring states. 

People ice skating in a park in Chicago

Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park

Think outside the rink when it comes to ice skating, this winding quarter-mile track offers gentle curves and rises, perfect for skaters hoping to simultaneously bask in city views. There are places to rent skates and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate but it's best to book in advance for skating sessions especially during holiday periods.

Stay Warm in Chicago's Museums

Explore Chicago's culture and history at the city's museums, art institutes and cultural centers.  It's the perfect indoor winter activity to stay warm on a cold day.

Person looking at art at the National Museum of Mexican Art

National Museum of Mexican Art

With an 8,500-piece collection, spanning over 3,000 years of history on both sides of the border, and the only Latinx museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, The National Museum of Mexican Art is a cultural treasure, located in the heart of the city’s Mexican community.

Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, University of Chicago

Browse artifacts from the ancient Near East, including Egypt, Persia, Syria and Nubia. Exhibits range from towering statues of King Tut to tiny fragments of the Qur'an and a child's pull toy from 2350 BC. 

A group of kids watch dolphins at Shedd Aquarium

Museum Campus

You can easily fill a day hopping among the world-class museums dotting this park along Lake Michigan: the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. Illinois residents receive free admission on select days (check individual websites for details).

The Art Institute of Chicago’s bronze lion head statues are festooned with lush evergreen holiday wreaths.

The Art Institute of Chicago

Hey, parents of budding artists: Admission is always free for kids 13 and younger. Architecture, medieval armor, photography, European sculptures and Impressionist art are just a few of the collections inside the eight-building complex in the heart of the city.

Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Stop in at this museum in Chicago’s financial district to take pictures with $1 million, learn how to detect fake bills and catch up on the history of U.S. currency.

Clarke House Museum

History enthusiasts will rejoice over the city’s oldest home, an 1836 Greek Revival, which today sits in a park and shows how a pre-Civil War middle-class family lived.

Interior of a building

Chicago Cultural Center

The world’s largest Louis Comfort Tiffany dome, composed of 30,000 stained-glass pieces, crowns the neoclassical 1897 Chicago Cultural Center (free tours offered). Also, enjoy complimentary concerts, performances, films and art exhibits.

Chicago's Zoos & Conservatories

Step into some of Chicago's conservatories and experience unique, exotic and tropical plants or visit a zoo and meet unique animals from near and far.

Close up of a Polar Bear at the Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo

Walk on the wild side—from aardvark to zebra—in the shadows of the skyline. It’s one of the nation’s few free zoos, and in winter the polar bears, red pandas and Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys) are extra active. 

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Located adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo, temporarily duck out of the snow with towering palms, ancient ferns and exotic orchids thrive in a charming Victorian-era glass house.

Indoor Greenhouse.

Garfield Park Conservatory

For a similar and delightful tropical activity, experience a greenhouse effect at this world-class indoor paradise of plants across 12 acres—the 3rd largest garden under glass in the world.

Chicago Igloo & Winter Dining Experiences

In winter some of Chicago's restaurants create unique winter experiences, we have listed a few for you to try this winter.

Winter Wonderland at the Godfrey Hotel

The rooftop bar at IIO's Godfrey Hotel is transformed into a winter wonderland with heated igloos for rooftop dining.  Each igloo is illuminated by lights creating a unique winter experience and can accommodate up to 8 guests, and one extra large igloo can fit 10 guests.  

Park & Field, Logan Square

Winter is always better with a roaring fire, and Park & Field in Logan Square have a vintage fireside lounge, farm-to-fork food, a craft beer bar and private event space.  The real winter treat is the outdoor patio on a sunny day with two fire pits which are often used for roasting s'mores.  What could be better than that on a cool winter day?

A group of friends celebrating and drinking at Cindy's rooftop bar

Cindy's Rooftop

On the 13th floor of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, you'll find Cindy's Rooftop bar in a glass atrium and a terrace overlooking Lake Michigan and Millennium Park.  Enjoy cocktails on the terrace warmed by firepits, or make a booking to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks to make the most of your visit.  The terrace is open year-round with seasonal-themed cocktails available.

Curling & Cocktails at The Gwen Hotel

In winter the terrace at The Gwen Hotel is transformed for winter with warm drinks and fire pits, with their own unique bucket list experience 'curling and cocktails'.  The terrace is open until 11pm each night, where you can try your hand at the winter sport with up to 12 guests.  Reservations are generally required, and after you finish your curling game you can sit by the fire with a drink.

Chicago's Winter Events

Chicago has new events happening every year, but a few winter events not to miss are below.

Chicago Theatre Week

During Chicago Theatre Week, many of the city’s 250 theaters offer steep discounts on tickets (as low as $15) for their productions. It’s all to celebrate Chicago’s world-class theater scene. This initiative allows visitors and residents to sample an extraordinary range of theatrical offerings, from musicals to improv to dramas and beyond. 

When it isn’t theatre week, you can score half-price seats a day or two before showtime via or in person at one of two downtown locations (72 E. Randolph St. and 108 N. State St.).

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get inspired by top travel stories, gain access to exclusive promotions and contests, and discover even more reasons to #EnjoyIllinois.