10 best things to do during the holidays
Theater shows, DIY Christmas lights tours and more essential holiday happenings
New Year's Eve parties
2015 is almost here and it's time to start planning your evening
Indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks
Strap on a pair of skates and practice your figure eights at one the city's best ice rinks
Snowboarding and skiing near Chicago
Beginners and semi-pros can enjoy the white powder at these Chicago-area slopes
Things to do in Chicago
Events and festivals
Head to the Lincoln Park Zoo to see the lights (and maybe a few animals) at this annual winter tradition. The first 1000 people through the gates each night...
Ice Skating at Parson's Chicken & Fish
This winter, you can finally combine your love of ice skating and fried chicken at Parson's newly opened ice skating rink. The sheet of ice resides in...
Ice Skating at Lincoln Park Zoo
Lace up your ice skates and become part of a new winter tradition at the rink at Lincoln Park Zoo's Farm-in-the-Zoo on select dates from November 28–March 1....
Things to do with kids
The best holiday events for kids
There's no shortage of things to do with kids in Chicago, but during the holidays that's especially true
Santa sightings in Chicago
Bowlin alleys, department stores and even bars host visits from the North Pole's jolliest elf
The best indoor playgrounds
Is it raining outside? Let your kids run wild in one of our favorite indoor playgrounds
8 great playgrounds
Where to find the best wings, slides, climbing structures and mazes
The best things to do in Chicago
The 25 best sights and attractions in Chicago
Entertain out-of-town guests or act like a tourist in your hometown by revisiting these iconic Chicago attractions
The best contemporary art galleries
Look beyond the Art Institute or Museum of Contemporary Art to find cutting edge art in the city
The 10 best Chicago museums
These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture
The 50 most beautiful buildings
We round up the most exemplary architecture in Chicago, from the skyline to the suburbs
This 24.5-acre park features Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion and serpentine bridge; sculptor Anish Kapoor's 110-ton Cloud Gate (a.k.a. “The Bean”); and Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain, with its ever-changing array of locals' faces spewing water very five minutes in the summer months. The Lurie Garden wows with year-round flower displays and monthly garden walks.
Lincoln Park Zoo
See some 1,200 animals, from apes to zebras, at the oldest and one of only a few free zoos left in the country. It is small, only 35 acres, but attractions like the Kovler Lion House and the Regenstein Center for African Apes pack a big punch. The newest feature: A 2010 rehab transformed the pond adjacent to Café Brauer into the Nature Boardwalk harboring Illinois wildlife.
This tourist hot spot features shops, eateries, an IMAX cinema and a bevy of sightseeing boat tours. Pier Park is home to a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, plus an old-fashioned swing ride and 18-hole mini-golf course. You'll also find the Chicago Children's Museum and a rotating roster of live entertainment on the Family Pavilion Stage. Most offerings may not turn locals on, but the seasonsal events, indoor activities and great people-watching provide plenty of entertainment, no matter what the weather.
Chicago Cultural Center
Since being converted to the Cultural Center in 1991 (it used to be the Chicago Public Library), this city-block-wide institution now offers free classical concerts Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays. Most of the center’s classical offerings take place in Preston Bradley Hall on the second floor near the Washington Street entrance, but the Claudia Cassidy Theater (named for the Tribune’s venom-penned theater and music critic from the ’40s) on the Randolph Street side is used for experimental concerts, too. Concerts are always free.
Even when baseball’s not in season, there’s plenty to do at this legendary stadium, erected in 1914 and reinvigorated by an ownership change in 2009. Seasonal tours offer an insider peek at the Friendly Confines, and, come winter, you can skate on an ice rink just outside of the field. Keep your eyes on the website for quick-to-sell-out special events; in the past, they’ve included ice-hockey games, a college football match and inexpensive charity events that allow the public to prance on the field.
Art Institute of Chicago
You could spend the next four years getting to know this encyclopedic institution, which owns more than 300,000 artworks and artifacts from all over the world and every era from antiquity to the present. Our favorite pieces include the Japanese prints, fragments of local buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Thorne Miniature Rooms. We’re also in love with Renzo Piano’s light-filled Modern Wing, which is the perfect place to enjoy the Art Institute’s architecture and design collection, modern and contemporary art, and gorgeous views of Millennium Park.
Museum of Science and Industry
If you’re into exhibits loaded with interactive bells and whistles, this expansive Hyde Park locale is your ticket. The museum’s focus is broad, with permanent displays that include the popular, health-focused new "You! The Experience" gallery, the new whiz-bang "Science Storms," plus the old faves: a restored U-505 German submarine, a simulated coal mine and a glass-covered hatchery of chicks.
Though it’s staffed by world-class researchers at the forefront of their field, the museum’s real draw will always be the virtual-reality trips through time and space in the Sky Theater, which—thanks to a 2011 rehab—features the "highest resolution and quality possible." Themes usually center around the known and unknown universe and how humans have engaged with it throughout history.
Museum of Contemporary Art
The Museum of Contemporary Art houses one of the largest collections of modern art in the nation and frequently hosts major touring exhibits. In addition to its galleries, the MCA also boasts a gift store, bookstore, restaurant, 300-seat theater, and a picturesque sculpture garden.
Anchoring the aquatic offerings at this 75-year-old institution are enduring favorites such as piranhas, frogs and snakes of the Amazon; rays, turtles and moray eel of the Caribbean; frightening predator sharks and, the most storied of them all, a 100-plus-year-old Australian lungfish believed to be the longest-living fish in any aquarium in the world. A 2009 rehab of the Oceanarium gave Shedd a lifelike river and tide-pool, a reworked otter habitat, and an attempt to revamp its daily mammal presentations with choreography.
Things to do in Chicago neighborhoods
Take a dip in the lagoon at Humboldt Park or go for a stroll in Palmer Square Park
Take in jazz at the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge or visit the Argyle Night Market
Go kayaking at Ping Tom Memorial Park or celebrate Chinese New Year at a parade
Head north to explore a historic lighthouse and several small museums