Winter is one of the most magical times of the year in Chicago when snow gives the city an added sparkle. Embrace the season and set off on a wintry adventure, from ice skating in the shadow of Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) to sledding and snowshoeing within view of the snowy lakefront. You’ll find lots of reasons to love Things to Do During the Winter in Chicago

  • Free things to do in Chicago in winter
  • Outdoor things to do in Chicago in winter
  • Indoor things to do in Chicago in winter

Go ice skating at a unique rink.

Are you looking for the ultimate winter experience in Chicago? The iconic ice rink in Millennium Park is a bucket-list spot to take a spin on your skates. You’ll be surrounded by breathtaking winter views of Chicago, including bustling Michigan Avenue, the downtown skyline, and The Bean dusted in snow.

Nearby, strap a pair of skates and glide through a winter wonderland along the curvy Skating Ribbon that meanders through scenic Maggie Daley Park. The winding path, twice the length of a lap around a traditional skating rink, passes by pine trees and a rock climbing wall. Skates are available for rental. These rinks are open from November through early March, weather permitting.

In Hyde Park, head to the Midway Plaisance Ice Rink on the University of Chicago campus. Fun fact: The rink stands on the exact spot where the first-ever Ferris wheel was erected for the 1893 World’s Fair. A bonus is the warming center, where you can duck in and shake off winter’s chill before heading back out to the rink for more skating. And don’t miss the Sky Rink at the Peninsula Chicago, the only hotel ice skating rink in the city, perched high above the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue.

Enjoy cocktails and curling.

Head upstairs to the charming curling rink on the rooftop of The Gwen. The fifth-floor hotel rooftop features an iceless curling rink, where guests can play this classic winter sport while enjoying a signature curling cocktail. The rooftop terrace is also decked with fire pits, where diners can cozy up and enjoy the complete food and drink menu.

Kaiser Tiger is known for its bustling beer garden with bocce courts in the summer, which transforms into outdoor curling rinks in the winter. The cold-weather beer garden features infrared heaters to keep you cozy between rounds, plus boozy hot chocolates and warm cocktails.

And don’t miss a brand new curling experience in the West Loop. Stone’s Throw at The Emily Hotel includes four Olympic-size courts, hot cocktails, heated yurts, and more.

Go sledding and snowshoeing.

Located on parkland surrounding historic Soldier Field (home of Chicago Bears football), the Soldier Field sledding hill features a slope spanning more than 200 feet on a towering cliff that makes it a must for thrill-seeking sledders. And the panoramic view of Lake Michigan from the top can’t be beaten.

Go snowshoeing on Northerly Island, a human-made peninsula located just east of Soldier Field that juts out into the waters of Lake Michigan. Whoosh, along winding nature trails, where you can catch a glimpse of winter birds and views of the stunning Chicago skyline. Don’t miss the free Polar Adventure Days, when visitors can make nature-inspired winter crafts and encounter Siberian huskies, wolves, and birds of prey.

Meet the cold-weather zoo animals

Chicago’s free Lincoln Park Zoo is open 365 days a year. In the colder months, admire majestic polar bears, penguins, and snow monkeys as they play outside. Many animals move indoors during the winter, so warm up inside the animal houses, where you can watch penguins, gorillas, and more.

Snap a snowy selfie with The Bean

Millennium Park is even more magical in the winter. This is where you’ll find one of Chicago’s most iconic sights: The Bean. Please take off your gloves to snap a selfie on its reflective surface, then head down the steps to skate on the park’s free ice skating rink. Check out more ways to experience Millennium Park in the winter.

Sip cocktails on a winter rooftop

Stay warm while enjoying Chicago’s acclaimed bar and restaurant scene with cozy fire pits, personal greenhouses, and heated outdoor dining options this winter. Some of the most unforgettable experiences include a rooftop ice skating rink, a winter wonderland-themed pop-up, and personal igloos that make you feel like you’re in an enchanted snow globe. Grab a reservation at these all-seasons rooftops.

Visit a stunning indoor garden.

Get inside and warm up at one of Chicago’s free indoor botanic gardens and conservatories. The Lincoln Park Conservatory is a free experience in historic Lincoln Park, with multiple rooms dedicated to exotic flora and flowers. And the Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest conservatories in the nation, occupying two acres of lush greenhouse space. Find more indoor gardens to explore in and around Chicago.

Warm up with hot cocoa

Chicago has plenty of spots to indulge in a cup of cocoa. Head to Katherine Anne Confections to try its decadent drinking chocolate or a mug of Mexican hot chocolate from Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery in Pilsen or XOCO in River North. And don’t miss the over-the-top, Instagram-worthy cups at BomboBar, a popular walk-up window in the West Loop.

Admire the frozen lake

One of the best things about the chilly weather? When Lake Michigan freezes over and makes for some epic views. Head to the Lakefront Trail for an up-close look and a picture-perfect skyline angle. Plus, you can easily experience some of the city’s best shopping destinations (like The Magnificent Mile) and fabulous museums (like the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Adler Planetarium, or the Museum of Science and Industry) to warm up before you continue your winter exploration.

Free things to do in Chicago in winter

  • Ice skating at Millennium Park
  • Sledding at Soldier Field
  • Experience Polar Adventure Days at Northerly Island
  • Explore Millennium Park
  • Walk the Lakefront Trail
  • Go to Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Visit an indoor botanic garden

Outdoor things to do in Chicago in winter

  • Ice skating at Millennium Park
  • Skate the Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park
  • Go curling on a rooftop or outdoors
  • Experience Polar Adventure Days at Northerly Island
  • Go to Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Explore Millennium Park
  • Walk the Lakefront Trail

Indoor things to do in Chicago in winter

  • Sip cocktails at a winter rooftop bar
  • Warm up with hot chocolate
  • Visit an indoor botanic garden
  • Explore a museum or art gallery
  • Check out iconic attractions
  • See acclaimed live theatre
  • Catch a comedy show at The Second City
  • Cheer for the Chicago BearsBulls, or Blackhawks

Here are a few things to do in the fall. Check out the Chicago Fall Activities

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By Choose Chicago

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