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13 places offering virtual classes and workshops in Chicago this winter

It's easy to pick up a new hobby when you tune in to online courses from Chicago institutions.

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Written by
Emma Krupp
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Stuck at home and want to try out some new skills? Whether you've already got jars of sourdough starter stored away in your kitchen cabinets or you're looking to dip your toes into the world of at-home hobbies for the first time, you've come to the right place—online classes are some of the best things to do in Chicago this winter. Learn how to make impressive new dishes with classes from the chefs behind the best restaurants in Chicago, create knitted masterpieces to gift to family and friends or learn the basics of a new language; there's truly something for everyone (and every budget). Keep your brain busy with the help of these online classes and workshops available in Chicago this winter.

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The best online classes and workshops

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Uptown
  • price 2 of 4

Our favorite online classes this winter: Learn to paint lush-looking food in Watercolor Special Topic: The Succulent Still Life or add some color to old clothes using kitchen scraps with the First Time Natural Dye class (both $100).

This Ravenswood arts center and gallery space offers just about every type of art class you could hope for, including ceramics, photography, painting and tons of other creatively-inclined topics. Some disciplines are more suited to the virtual realm than others—the available metalsmithing classes, for example, are mostly focused on 3D modeling and design—but you'll find your home studio (or living room) work just fine for practicing watercolor and embroidery skills. Note that you may have to furnish your own supplies for classes, though many come with an optional kit for an additional fee.

  • Shopping
  • Kitchen and bath
  • Lincoln Square
  • price 1 of 4

Our favorite online classes this winter: You can't go wrong with building your mincing, chopping and slicing prowess in a knife skills class ($50), but we also like fun one-off cooking classes like a December session on how to prepare duck à l’orange ($15)

Arguably Chicago's most well-known recreational cooking school, The Chopping Block has migrated many of its regular classes—including the popular knife skills course—to an online calendar this winter. Looking for something a little more personalized? For $200 an hour, you can splurge on a two- to four-hour session with a private chef, who will walk you through a customized menu that centers on key kitchen skill sets like braising, sauteing, butchery and more.

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  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Suburbs
  • price 2 of 4

Our favorite online class this winter: Banish your black thumb with Succulents 101, which will teach you how to tend to the low-maintenance plants ($32 member, $40 nonmember).

Novice and master gardeners alike will find something to appreciate in the Chicago Botanic Garden's roster of online workshops, which run the gamut from houseplants 101 to an instructional course on how to shape and care for a Bonsai tree. There are also options for folks who are more generally interested in the natural world, like a seminar on how to spot and recognize the 25 most common resident and migratory birds in your backyard.

  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Kenwood

Our favorite online classes this winter: Make and customize your own masks in a one-day sewing workshop (suggested contribution of $70) or learn how to capture your pet's likeness in a pet painting class (suggested contribution of $50).

The community-centric Hyde Park Art Center is offering nearly all of its online classes on a pay-what-you-can basis this season in an effort to keep the center accessible to folks on a budget, with courses that cover drawing, painting and kids art. More advanced students can also take advantages of programs like a six-week home wheel rental, which gives intermediate to experienced ceramic artists the opportunity to temporarily bring a throwing wheel into their home.

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  • Shopping
  • Liquor stores
  • Uptown
  • price 1 of 4

Our favorite online class this winter: Whip up classic cocktails from the '20s—and learn a little more about their history—in a class focusing on the Prohibition era ($10).

For around $10–$15 a session, you can channel your inner mixologist with virtual classes from Koval Distillery. You'll learn how to make classic and complex cocktails from Koval experts and other bartenders—an ongoing series, for example, brings in guest mixologists from a variety of U.S. and international cities. And don't worry if you don't have fancy booze on hand; as long as you have the necessary type of spirit in your liquor cabinet, you should be good to go.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • East Garfield Park

Our favorite online classes this winter: Get schooled on how to build your own worm composting bin ($24 member, $30 general public) or tune in to regular virtual yoga classes (free).

Though it's closed for the season, Garfield Park Conservatory's nature-centric digital programming continues well into winter—and best of all, most of its classes are either free or less than $30. In the coming months, you can learn about beekeeping, Indigenous communities in Chicago, composting and more. Have specific questions about gardening? Submit them to the Conservatory ahead of their free master gardener Zoom Q&A sessions.

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  • Things to do
  • North Center

Our favorite online classes this winter: Flaunt an Emily in Paris look by learning to knit your own beret ($40) or craft a pair of Gryffindor mittens as a gift to the Potterhead in your life ($75).

Maybe you know how to knit a basic scarf, but how about a pair of socks, or a wrap, or a hat? You can take your needlework skills to the next level with virtual classes from this boutique yarn shop, which walks students through knitting and crocheting at various stages of difficulty. Plus, if you're stuck on a particularly difficult bit of an ongoing project, you can always book a 30-minute virtual help session for just $10.

  • Comedy
  • Comedy clubs
  • Lincoln Park
  • price 2 of 4

Our favorite online classes this winter: Learn how to actually record and produce that podcast you've been talking about starting ($95) or practice your jokes in a stand-up class ($95).

Is all that time indoors starting to turn you into a social recluse? Break in your funny skills with a course from The Second City, where you can try out improv, stand-up and other comedy basics. Drop-in classes are available if you're looking to test the waters before committing to a four-week session—and if the thought of doing improv in front of strangers feels less than appealing, sign up with a couple of friends.

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Our favorite online classes this winter: Book a class with a Boka chef or hone your palate with a virtual wine tasting class (prices available upon request).

The massive Chicago restaurant group shares some of its culinary know-how through a series of online courses, which offer opportunities for folks to cook alongside dining industry luminaries like Lee Wollen of Boka and pastry chef Meg Galus, among others. Aspiring wine snobs can also opt for a three-part wine class, a sommelier-taught crash course on regions, grape varietals and appropriate dinner pairings.

  • Things to do
  • United Center

Our favorite online class this winter: Embark on a comprehensive six-week course that promises to teach you the basics of sewing, from how to wind a bobbin to must-know stitches ($295).

Don't let that sewing machine gather dust in your closet! Fashion designer Anastasia Chatzka offers online classes to help people understand the fundamentals of sewing, where you'll learn more than 40 stitches and techniques for mending and creating clothes. You can also book one-on-one classes if you'd like assistance on a specific project.

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  • Art
  • Arts centers
  • Lincoln Square

Our favorite online class this winter: Create homemade journals during a four-week course that will teach you the basics of at-home bookbinding ($150).

Learn how to make basic books—the kind that are perfect for journaling or gifting as holiday presents—with an online course taught by this independent print shop, taught via weekly Zoom meetings. If you're comfortable with doing in-person (and socially distanced) classes, you can also opt for private lessons in topics like etching, lithography, bookmaking and more at the Collaborative's Lincoln Square studio.

  • Things to do
  • Suburbs

Our favorite online classes this winter: Start to notice the flora flourishing on your block with the help of courses focusing on how to identify trees and plants (both $16 member or $23 nonmember).

Are you an amaeteur naturalist on a tight schedule? Many of the Morton Arboretum's online classes are self-guided, meaning you can tune in to seminars at your own pace—an appealing feature for those who can't commit to a weekly schedule. Choose from a catalog of courses centered around all aspects of the natural world, whether you're looking to sharpen your birding skills or revamp your backyard with a garden design workshop. 

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  • Things to do
  • River North

Our favorite online classes this winter: Personally, we're going for a five-week, Spanish A1 beginners class ($230).

Your high school-level Spanish is only getting rustier as the years pass—why not use your extra indoor time this winter to brush up on some conversational skills? The Instituto Cervantes Chicago provides Zoom courses to people at all levels of language attainment, from beginner to near-fluent. Opt for a five-week series of classes with up to four people per session, or level up with a private tutor.

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