Winter is often considered one of the main drawbacks to living in Chicago, as the city holds a reputation for a long and harsh season. Most people tend to avoid spending lengthy periods of time outdoors during the colder months, however, as winter is so long, eventually one needs to blow off some steam and get outdoors. Once you’ve pushed yourself to brave the lower temperatures, you’ll find that Chicago does have some fun winter activities to offer.
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
Michigan Ave. and Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
One of the most popular outdoor winter activities has always been ice skating. Keep moving to keep warm and have fun gliding across the ice with friends. It’s a perfect outing for dates or just for casual fun. One of the more popular rinks in Chicago is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Skate rental is only $10, but you can skate for free if you have your own skates and enjoy a beautiful view of the city at the same time. There is a cafe at the rink and benches positioned so you can watch the other skaters if you need to take a break. Small lockers are also available for rental with four quarters, but the staff will store your shoes for free if you rent skates.
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Each year, an open-air holiday market is set up in Chicago’s Daley Plaza in the loop with various holiday vendors and makes for a fun place to explore with the entire family. The market is inspired by similar European markets and is styled to resemble them. The Christkindlmarket opens immediately following the tree-lighting ceremony in Daley Plaza and remains open throughout the holiday season, closing on Christmas Eve. Admission is free and the market offers a fun and unique way to get started on your holiday gift shopping with vendors selling everything from food to handcrafted ornaments, jewelery, wooden toys and other accessories. Click here for a lineup of the non-food vendors.
The Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
The Lincoln Park Zoo puts on a fabulous free light display each year on its grounds. The lights are on every Friday through Sunday starting on November 23rd. After December 26th, the lights stay on every night until January 6th. Families can come and enjoy the light display along with other holiday-themed activities including visiting Santa Claus, who stays at the park until December 23rd. If you’re a member of the Lincoln Park Zoo, even better. Members will enjoy free hot chocolate, cider, tea, cookies and crafts in the Members Lounge which is located on the lower level at Park Place Café.
Sledding at Cricket Hill
660 W. Montrose Drive
Chicago, IL 60613
Sledding is right up there with snowman construction as a festive wintertime activity and there are several spots to participate around Chicago. Cricket Hill by Montrose Harbor is one of the more popular local spots with picturesque views of the lake and cityscape. For a list of more sledding spots in Chicago, click here for an article on the best sledding hills around town. You don’t have to be coordinated to ride a sled down a hill, so bring the whole family and your camera and shoot some Christmas card shots while you’re at it.
Blizzard Ski and Snowboard School
P.O. Box 1051
Oak Park, IL 60304
You don’t have to plunk down thousands on a family trip to the Rockies to give the kids a chance to ski. Starting in early December, Chicagoland kids from ages eight to 18 can take lessons from certified instructors on skiing or snowboarding. Blizzard Ski and Snowboard School buses kids from Chicago to surrounding snowy areas on weekly trips and provides instruction and advancement from beginning students on up. If your child has their own equipment, they may bring it with them, or rental is available on a daily or seasonal basis.