Discover a Windy City Wonderland in Chicago
Visiting Chicago during an Illinois winter may not top your list of things to do – but maybe it should. The city offers plenty of indoor attractions, as well as some fun, cold-weather outdoor activities. And if you’ve never seen the city dressed up for the holidays, that’s reason enough for a visit.
Brave the winter temperatures and experience the season in Chicago with fun activities only available in the winter. For example, lace up your skates at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in iconic Millennium Park, or try Maggie Daley Park for a more advanced ice skating course. Visitors can get in the holiday spirit at the annual Christkindlmarket, an authentic German holiday market set up in Daley Plaza from mid-November through Christmas Eve, or at the Lincoln Park Zoo during its ZooLights celebration each year. You can also stop by Navy Pier for Winter Wonderfest. And of course, finish (or start) your Christmas shopping at Macy’s on State Street, the former Marshall Field’s, or anywhere on the Magnificent Mile, which will also be decked out for the season.
Museums and More
Avoid the cold while learning about history, science or another culture at one of Chicago’s many museums.
Located in the heart of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, the 10,000-piece permanent collection at the National Museum of Mexican Art connects visitors to the diversity of Mexican culture.
10 Must Do's in Chicago
1. Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza
2. DuSable Museum of African American History
3. Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker at Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
4. Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
5. Millennium Park: Skating at McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
6. National Museum of Mexican Art
7. Northerly Island
8. Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier
9. Wreathing of the Lions at The Art Institute of Chicago
10. ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo
“Our visitors are generally surprised at the range of our permanent collection. From ancient Mesoamerican artifacts to the most contemporary installations by Chicago-Mexicans, the array of artwork and artifacts is truly impressive,” says Cesáreo Moreno, visual arts director/chief curator.
Get a deeper look at the museum’s permanent collection when you visit Nuestras Historias: Stories of Mexican Identity from the Permanent Collection. A popular piece within this exhibition is the Huichol mural, “The New Awakening,” which required a team of eight artisans in the Huichol village 18 months to create. If you’re really looking to pass the time while staying warm, try counting the approximately 1,523,520 hand-laid chaquira beads set in beeswax in this work of art.
“Our visitors will better understand the culture and profound history that exists in Mexico,” Moreno says. “They will hopefully also better understand their neighbors here in the U.S. and begin to recognize some of the remarkable contributions Mexicans have given the Midwest.”
The DuSable Museum of African American History also offers much to experience while you escape from the cold. One of the oldest institutions of its kind in the country, the museum offers an expansive exhibition entitled, “Freedom, Resistance, and the Journey Toward Equality.” The permanent exhibit takes visitors through several key historical periods, including the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Reconstruction, the Great Migration and the Jim Crow era of racial segregation. It travels through the civil rights and black power movements, concluding with the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States.
Satisfy Your Hunger
After all those activities, you’re bound to be pretty hungry, and a trip to Chicago – during any season – wouldn’t be complete without trying a new restaurant or enjoying an old favorite. Grab a seat at Park Grill or The Berghoff, both Chicago staples. Goddess and The Baker offers a mid-century style with sweet baked goods, nutritional salads and more at three locations throughout the city. If you’re looking for nightlife, check out ROOF on theWit. It features a glass-enclosed rooftop 27 stories above the city with stunning views. Before heading home, stop by traditional Chicago favorites such as Garrett Popcorn, Eli’s Cheesecake and any deep-dish pizza joint.