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Lollapalooza 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

The best time to visit Chicago

Not sure what season is the best for a visit to Chicago? We've come up with the ideal times for a trip to the city.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long
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Chicago is primarily known for its beautiful summers and frigid winters, but that doesn't mean that you should only consider a trip when the beaches are open. Every season offers a compelling reason to spend some time in neighborhoods throughout the city, whether you're sampling the cuisine at our best restaurants or appreciating gorgeous public art. We took a look at the weather, events and major attractions that characterize spring, summer, fall and winter in Chicago. You can use our seasonal suggestions to plan the perfect trip and find the best time of year to visit Chicago, depending on what you're looking for.

RECOMMENDED: Your essential Chicago travel guide

Visiting Chicago by season

Spring
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Spring

Spring is typically Chicago's wettest season, whether there's rain or snow falling from the sky. Winter chills often stick around through March and into April, but once the city thaws out, you can expect temperatures in the 60s and 70s—the perfect climate for enjoying Chicago's best parks. If you can handle some precipitation (we suggest packing boots and an umbrella), it's a perfectly pleasant time of year to visit before the summer crowds appear.

Both of Chicago's baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, typically host their respective home openers in April, and the beginning of June kicks off with the EDM-centric Spring Awakening Music Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival.

Summer
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

Summer

It's a good thing that Chicago is located directly next to a lake (and some picturesque beaches) because summer in the city can be a hot and sticky affair. Days with temperatures that are usually in the 70s and 80s give way to stormy nights, so bring an umbrella if you're staying out late. The summer months offer Chicago's most beautiful weather, but you'll still have to deal with the beating sun and a bit of humidity.

The city moves outside once June arrives, when summer music festivals and outdoor movie screenings take over Chicago's parks and streets. You'll find people flocking to giant events like the Taste of Chicago and enjoying the weather on patios and rooftops.

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Fall
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

Fall

The first month of fall can feel like an extension of summer in Chicago, with temperatures that reach into the 70s. But once the mercury begins to drop—usually sometime in late October or early November—it starts to feel a lot more like winter. Unless you're craving the chill of temperatures in the 30s and 40s, you should plan on an autumn visit to Chicago when the colorful foliage is still on the trees.

The beginning of fall is the perfect time to go on a boat tour of the city (minus the summer crowds) or spend an afternoon walking through the Lincoln Park Zoo. You can also see punk-rock bands in a park at Riot Fest, catch a flick during the Chicago International Film Festival or see how the Midwest does Oktoberfest.

Winter
Photograph: Grace DuVal

Winter

Chicagoans may like to complain about winter in the city, but if you can handle an average cold snap in the Midwest or East Coast, you'll do fine during a snowstorm by Lake Michigan. Temperatures drop to the 30s and below during most of the winter (which can sometimes extend all the way until April) and there's usually a bit of snow on the ground. Thankfully, Chicago has public transportation (and a network of underground tunnels downtown) that makes getting around in the frigid weather relatively easy.

The city greets winter and the holiday season at Christkindlmarket—a German-style bazaar in the middle of the Loop. When the snow begins to fall, you can head inside and warm up at an arcade bar or somewhere with a toasty fireplace. But if you packed a warm coat, you should definitely take advantage of Chicago's many ice skating rinks.

Find things to do once you're here

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