winter biker in the Loop, Chicago
Photograph: Page Light Studios /

Chicago in winter: Our ultimate guide

Bundle up and prepare to brave the cold weather while exploring some of Chicago's best winter offerings.

Emma Krupp

Ah, winter. Chicago’s most notorious time of year might not get a lot of love around here, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole season cooped up indoors, swaddled in blankets and counting down the days until spring. Embrace the chilly weather at ice skating rinks and snow-covered parks perfect for taking a midday stroll (and soaking up whatever limited amounts of vitamin D you can), or buoy yourself with holiday cheer by visiting glittering Christmas light displays throughout the city and suburbs. Determined to spend as little time outdoors as possible? Use winter as an excuse to explore the ins and outs of the best Chicago museums—several of which offer free days in the sleepier months of January, February and March—treat yourself to a spa day or admire humidity-loving foliage at the city’s two temperature-controlled conservatories. It might feel like forever, but winter in Chicago will be over before you know it—so here’s how to make the most of it.

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