Check out our Chicago Visitors Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Chicago attractions
Chicago’s weather can be hard to predict. We have a saying here in Chicago that goes “If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.” And it is true! You can experience rain, sun, fog, humidity, hot, cold, and wind in a day. But Chicagoan are tough and so are its visitors.
You can certainly enjoy a tour with Free Tours By Foot if the weather isn’t too extreme. Our pay-what-you-like public walking tours are offered rain or shine. For those among you who want to avoid the weather and enjoy an indoor activity, here are a couple of suggestions.
Be sure to read our guide to Chicago weather to help prepare for your stay.
Go to a museum. If it is raining, it is the perfect day to spend indoors at one of Chicago’s great museums. Stroll through the halls of the Field Museum and ponder the existence of a world that included dinosaurs like Sue the t-rex. Head to the Shedd Aquarium to ironically see animals, fish, and plants who spend all of their time being wet! Take the bus to the Museum of Science and Industry and discover the science of a person’s DNA. Check out the Modern Art Museum to experience something brand new!
Explore the Pedway. Did you know that there are INDOOR walkways in downtown Chicago? The entire path links more than 40 blocks! Some of the paths are underground, some are bridges above the street, and some sections are lobbies or buildings. Some of the best hidden stores and restaurants can be found on these paths. The entire Pedway is open during weekdays from 9am-5pm but large sections of it are CLOSED on the weekends. Also, during the winter months, we offer walking tours that spend some time underground in the pedway.
Eat, drink, and be merry. Chicago is known for food! There are a lot of options for every budget. But if you are spending the day avoiding the rain, why not pick a place where you can really indulge and make the food an experience. There are many James Beard Award winning restaurants in Chicago (this is like the Oscars of food). Fun tip: venture outside of the loop to discover a lot of the restaurants that locals enjoy that have a “Bring Your Own Booze” or “BYOB” policy. You might also want to check out our tips on Where to go out in Chicago.
Book a spa experience. Use the time to pamper yourself with a spa day! You could book a massage, a mani/pedi, or a facial at your hotel or a nearby hotel. There are some amazing businesses in downtown Chicago that offer these sort of experiences.
See an IMAX movie. At the front of the pier, you can see a movie in the IMAX theatre. Stroll along the indoor hallways lined with shops and restaurants. The view from the Navy Pier is lovely with or without rain. If you find yourself in the Crystal Gardens upstairs you can literally watch the storm surrounded by tropical plants and fountains.
Go to an afternoon tea. There’s nothing more lovely than a hot cup of tea when it is rainy. Now add sandwiches and cookies. Perfect! Some delightful places to experience an afternoon tea are the Drake Hotel, the Four Seasons, Russian Tea Time, and the Peninsula Hotel. For folks with kids: The American Girl Store café offers an afternoon tea time that includes special seating for your doll.
Spend the day at the library. The Harold Washington Library is the largest public library in the world! You can spend your day reading. Head to the top of the building where the skylines will show all of the rain that isn’t falling on your head. The music section has personal practice rooms that you can play the piano or sing to with your choice of sheet music! The library often holds special events and exhibits as well. Explore the many floors to find history relics and art.
Find a random deal on Groupon. Have you ever popped onto the discount site Groupon. You can find some incredible deals for really neat experiences. Some examples of activities that may pop up are: A social painting event where you get taught to paint while drinking wine, a tea tasting, a beer tasting, a wine tasting, movie tickets, meal deals, laser tag, etc. Be sure to check the location of the activity and read all of the fine print before purchasing.
Embrace the rain! Buy an umbrella, a poncho, or even a garbage bag that you poke holes into and accept the fact that you will still be wet. Walk through the streets and watch the hurried locals trying to get their morning coffee on the way to their office and laugh! Be grateful that we are not in a drought and that Lake Michigan is full and provides Chicago with drinking water (which you can drink directly from the tap at your hotel/hostel.)
+++Bring your umbrella and come and join our famous pay-what-you-like walking tours of Chicago!+++
written by and photos by Mel Yonzon