90 things to do in Chicago this winter

Cold weather? Bring it on! We're embracing the winter weather with something new to do every day through March.
Chicago Polar Plunge 2017
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan

The next three months are packed with festivals, cultural happenings, concerts and can't-miss events. To keep you from going into hibernation mode, we loaded your calendar with our favorite things to do this winter. You're welcome.

Things to do in January

Limor Garfinkle
Things to do

Jan 8: Saturday Night Live: The Experience

icon-location-pin Museum of Broadcast Communications, River North

This Museum of Broadcast Communications exhibit is spread over two floors and structured like a week at SNL. Each day of the week has a specific purpose and goal. The first room of “SNL: The Experience” is Monday (with Lorne Michaels’ desk and a replica of the original 1975 set), the next is Tuesday (with videos screening late-night stories from writers such as Seth Meyers and Paula Pell), and so on. It concludes, of course, with Saturday: a complete replica of Studio 8H.

Museum of Science and Industry
Photograph: J.B. Spector
Museums, Science and technology

Jan 23: Free admission at MSI

icon-location-pin Hyde Park

Interactivity is the name of the game at the Museum of Science and Industry, whose building was originally constructed for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Visitors can enter a confounding mirror maze in the "Numbers in Nature" exhibit, step into a simulated tornado in "Science Storms” or see a gigantic, restored U-505 German submarine. The best part? It's all free on January 23.

The ice ribbon at Maggie Daley Park.
Photograph: Martha Williams
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Jan 29: Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park

icon-location-pin Millennium Park

The Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon looks like a Mario Kart track, but you won't have to worry about dodging koopa shells or banana peels while you glide around the quarter-mile circuit. The Park Department claims that the slippery ring can accommodate up to 700 skaters, so you'll need to arrive early if you want to set a new course record. The rink runs through March.

Things to do in February

Museums, Art and design

Feb 1: Free admission at the Art Institute of Chicago

icon-location-pin Grant Park

Guarded by an iconic pair of bronze lions, the Art Institute of Chicago houses a permanent collection of more than 300,000 artworks, displayed in a sprawling complex of galleries and halls. You’ll find everything from Japanese prints to ancient Greek sculptures among the pieces housed in the museum’s central galleries. On February 1, you can see it all for free.

Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Sports and fitness

Feb 2: McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

icon-location-pin Millennium Park

McCormick Tribune Ice Rink opens to the public for skating, featuring some of the best views of the downtown skyline. Experience one of the city's most wonderful winter traditions until March 4, 2018. Admission is free and hours vary, but a great time is guaranteed.


Things to do, Markets and fairs

Feb 4: Maxwell Street Market

icon-location-pin West Loop

Open year-round from 7am to 3pm, this street market dates all the way back to 1900, when immigrant families would sell goods out of pushcarts. Today, the market has been moved and reestablished, but it remains an international bargain-hunting experience. Shop all kinds of merchandise—from furniture to clothes, household items, collectibles and more, to the tunes of a DJ and other live street performances. Even if scouring flea markets isn't your thing, the Mexican food alone is worth the trip.

Field Museum
Photograph: Courtesy the Field Museum
Museums, Science and technology

Feb 5: Free admission at The Field Museum

icon-location-pin Museum Campus

Founded to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, this massive natural history museum is still one of Chicago’s most beloved institutions. With more than 350,000 square feet of permanent exhibitions to explore, you could spend several days immersed in the thousands of artifacts on display. Enjoy free admission on February 5.

Photograph: Tom Harris
Museums, Special interest

Feb 9: Visit Stony Island Arts Bank

icon-location-pin South Shore

After purchasing it from the city for $1, local artist and philanthropist Theaster Gates turned this long-vacant bank into a cultural institution. Inside the Stony Island Arts Bank, visitors can browse the archives of Johnson Publishing, flip through house music legend Frankie Knuckle’s record collection or view art on display in the venue's ground floor gallery. Regular events and exhibitions make this South Side spot a must-visit for lovers of art, music, literature and more.

Museums, History

Feb 20: Free admission at Chicago History Museum

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park

Not so long ago this vibrant museum was the stodgy old Chicago Historical Society, which let you cull through thousands of archived photographs and curio. Well, that library still exists, but joining it are several permanent and temporary exhibits, the largest of which is "Chicago: Crossroads of America," a treasure trove of historical objects, including a chunk of the original Fort Dearborn. See it all for free on February 20.

Photograph: Courtesy Kaiser Tiger
Restaurants, Gastropubs

Feb 26: Ice Curling at Kaiser Tiger

icon-location-pin West Loop

Prep for the Winter Olympics at this West Loop bar, whose beer garden morphs into a frozen tundra with three curling rinks for the season. Curling is $40 per half-hour and guests must pay with cash.

Things to do in March

Attractions, Parks and gardens

March 12: Visit Garfield Park Conservatory

icon-location-pin East Garfield Park

Get a taste of the tropics when you visit this free fan-favorite attraction this winter. Described as "landscape art under glass" when it opened in 1908, the conservatory, while being one of the largest in the world, also boasts revolutionary architecture. About 120,000 plants representing some 600 species occupy the 1.6 acres, and four times a year flower shows premiere to herald the change in seasons.

Shrimp, leek and egg dumplings at at Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings
Photograph: Nick Murway

March 19: Dumpling crawl through Chinatown

When cooking is out of the question and delivery is too expensive, hop over to Chinatown and map out a personalized dumpling crawl through some of the area's finest restaurants. A few of our favorite stops include Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings, MingHin Cuisine and Yummy Yummy Noodles.


March 24: Randolph Street Market Festival

icon-location-pin Plumbers Hall,

More than 200 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this indoor-outdoor festival. Stop in for vintage clothes and jewelry, a vinyl swap meet, a fancy food market and global goods bazaar or bring your own items for appraisal. This event typically occurs on the last weekend of each month.

The Moonlighter
Photograph: Jude Goergen

March 26: Visit a bar with a fireplace

Grab a boozy beverage and thaw your winter bones at a bar or restaurant with a roaring fireplace. We're particularly fond of the toasty situations happening at Scofflaw, The Drawing Room and Park & Field.

Photograph: Kater Jayne
Nightlife, Alternative nightlife

March 29: Stardust

icon-location-pin Berlin, Lake View

Berlin has Thursday nights on lock like NBC in the '90s. This fab long-running weekly brings many flavors, many styles, from disco to house to new-wave. Check the calendar to find out what's happening this week, with parties ranging from the the women- and nonbinary-focused party Rosebud to queer-fashion showcase IT Presents.