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Chicago in Winter | Indoor Activities in Chicago

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Chicago in WinterYes, Chicago in Winter is cold, but this can still be a great time to visit. But that does not mean that you can't enjoy our city, feast your eyes upon our architecture, and indulge in our cuisine!  There are ways to survive the infamous Chicago Winter.

Experiencing Chicago in the cold is more "the Chicago experience" than the summer. This is what people in the city live through 9 months out of the year and they are so proud. Chicago in winter is crisp, cold, and still beautiful.

Things to do in Chicago in Winter

Ice Skating in Chicago

Nothing is more Midwestern Winter than ice skating. One of our favorite places is the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park.

The Millennium Park Ice Rink opens mid November and remains there until early March 2018. This is a public rink so it's free of charge to use but ice skate rentals are $10.

On Fridays-Sundays, one hour before the rink opens, free ice skating lessons will be offered.

Each Thursday will feature ice sports skills and drills for Noodle Hockey, curling and speed.

Chicago in WinterRegular Hours for the season are as follows:

  • Monday-Thursday, Noon—8 pm
  • Friday, Noon—10 pm
  • Saturday (Through Jan. 4), 10 am—10 pm
  • Saturday (Beginning Jan. 11), 10 am — 9 pm
  • Sunday, 10 am—9 pm

Special Holiday Hours:

  • Thanksgiving Thursday 10 am—4 pm
  • Black Friday 10 am—10 pm
  • Christmas Eve Dec. 24, 10 am—6 pm
  • Christmas Day Dec. 25, 10 am—4 pm
  • Dec. 26 through Dec. 30, 10 am—10 pm
  • New Year’s Eve Dec. 31, 10 am—8 pm
  • New Year’s Day  Jan. 1, 10 am—10 pm
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day 10 am—10 pm
  • Lincoln’s Birthday 10 am—10 pm

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Chicago in Winter

Indoor Activities

Take advantage of our amazing INDOOR activities like the

Get museum passes or better yet, get tickets to a show.  Chicago has AMAZING theatre.  Try the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Broadway in Chicago, Looking Glass Theatre or see some comedy.  Laughing keeps you warmer.  Check out Second City, I.O. or The Annoyance.

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Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

Part of the Navy Pier, until early January, this part of Chicago becomes a giant playground. It opens daily at 10am and each day the Mayor of Chicago picks a lucky guest to open the Wonderfest, get there early to have your chance at the honor!

Chicago in Winter

Inside the Festival Hall at Navy Pier are rides, games, and more ice skating. It's free to enter, where you can enjoy the carnival atmosphere and watch the crowds. But you'll need an activity wristband to take any of the rides. You can purchase a wristband for $19, which includes ice skating or $15, which does not. Always the deal seekers here at Free Tours by Foot, if you purchase tickets online or as part of a family pack, you'll get a discount! Certain weekdays are also sold at a better price.

Within the Wonderfest you can find:

  • Indoor Ice Skating Rink - rent skates or bring your own
  • Ferris Wheel - get a bird's eye view from 50 feet high
  • Zero Gravity – spin at high speeds on a new, 45-degree-tilted thrill ride
  • Kringle Carousel - hop aboard your favorite animal on this colorful classic
  • Reindeer Express Train Ride - take a ride around the holiday village
  • Snowy Summit Climbing Wall - challenge yourself to reach the rock wall's top
  • Winter Wind Glider - hang onto the soaring glider as you fly 40 feet into the air
  • "Power Wheel" Mini Adventure Track - cruise the course in a mini-Jeep "Hurricane" or mini-Dodge "Police Cruiser"
  • Winter WonderFest Jr. - bounce and tunnel through this section made for the youngest set

There are stages for live entertainment from magicians to jugglers. Each Sunday features a new Latin genre where you can listen and learn the dances and grooves yourself. At the Craft Corner, in December only, you'll be able to find a FREE Mickey Mouse ornament to decorate and remember your time. You do not need a wristband to make an ornament!

And of course, Santa Claus will be stopping by to visiting the children and listen to their Christmas lists.

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About The Author

Canden Arciniega

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 4 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the BBC, NPR, Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the producer of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 28 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 4) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.
Updated: September 26th, 2021
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