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The 15 Things To Do Outdoors This Winter In Chicago


When winter arrives, Chicago transforms into a winter wonderland with a host of outdoor activities. From ice skating to sledding, there are plenty of things to do outdoors this winter in Chicago.

Whether you're a local or just visiting, there's no shortage of fun to be had in the Windy City. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the best things to do outdoors during winter in Chicago.

Weather and Things to Do in Chicago in Winter (2022-2023)

Ice Skate At Millennium Park

Ice skating at Millennium Park is a must-do activity in winter in Chicago. The ice rink is located in the heart of the city, right underneath the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as "The Bean." This popular outdoor ice rink is open from November to March, depending on the weather conditions.

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Visitors can rent ice skates and enjoy gliding on the ice with the beautiful Chicago skyline in the background. There are also various food and drink vendors nearby, making it a perfect spot for a winter evening out.

See The Christmas Lights At Lincoln Park Zoo

Every winter, Lincoln Park Zoo transforms into a magical wonderland of twinkling lights and holiday cheer. The zoo's annual ZooLights event features millions of colorful lights, holiday displays, and festive activities for all ages.

Visitors can stroll through the zoo's winter wonderland and marvel at the dazzling light displays, warm up with hot cocoa and cider, and even meet Santa and his reindeer.

Visit The Christkindlmarket

Chicago's Christkindlmarket is a beloved tradition that takes place every year in Daley Plaza. This German-inspired outdoor market features handmade gifts, ornaments, and crafts, as well as traditional German food and drinks like hot spiced wine, sausages, and gingerbread.

Visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere, shop for unique gifts, and experience a taste of old-world European charm in the heart of Chicago.

Take A Winter Walk Through The Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a stunning oasis of nature and beauty, even in the winter months. Visitors can take a leisurely winter walk through the garden's many paths and trails, admiring the snow-covered landscapes and winter flora.

The garden also offers special winter events and activities, such as winter bird watching tours and holiday light displays.

Go Sledding At Soldier Field

For a thrilling outdoor winter activity, head to Soldier Field for some sledding. The stadium's south lawn transforms into a giant sledding hill during the winter months, offering a fun and exciting way to enjoy the snow. Visitors can bring their own sleds or rent them on site and enjoy a day of snowy fun.

Explore The Winter WonderFest At Navy Pier

One of the top things to do during the winter season in Chicago is to explore the Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier.

This festival transforms the pier into a winter wonderland with a wide range of attractions such as ice skating, Ferris wheel rides, holiday-themed games, and more.

The festival typically runs from November to January, and it is a great place to visit with family and friends.

Ski Or Snowboard At Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports

If you are a winter sports enthusiast, head to Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports to experience skiing or snowboarding in the city.

This ski resort is located just 30 minutes west of Chicago and offers a variety of trails for all skill levels. You can rent equipment and take lessons if you are a beginner. There is also a snow tubing hill for those who prefer a less intense activity.

Take A Horse-drawn Carriage Ride Through Downtown

One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Chicago during the winter season is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown.

This leisurely ride through the city streets will take you past some of the city's most iconic landmarks, such as the Magnificent Mile, the Chicago Riverwalk, and Millennium Park.

The carriage ride is an excellent way to experience the festive atmosphere of the city during the holiday season.

Cross-country Ski At Northerly Island

For a unique winter experience in Chicago, head to Northerly Island to cross-country ski on the trails. This nature preserve is located on a peninsula along Lake Michigan and offers beautiful views of the city skyline.

The trails are groomed regularly, and ski rentals are available on-site. You can also explore the nature center and learn about the wildlife that calls the island home.

Enjoy The Ice Sculptures At The Chicago Ice Festival

The Chicago Ice Festival is a yearly event held in February that features some of the most impressive ice sculptures you will ever see.

The festival takes place in the heart of the city and features ice-carving competitions, live music, and a wide range of food and drink options. The festival is free to attend, and it is a great way to experience the city's winter culture.

Attend The Polar Adventure Days At Northerly Island

Polar Adventure Days is a free family event that takes place at Northerly Island during winter. It offers an opportunity for visitors to learn about the polar regions and enjoy various outdoor activities.

The event usually takes place in January and February, and features a range of activities, including dog sledding demonstrations, ice sculpture carving, and interactive exhibits.

Visitors can take guided tours to learn about the history of Northerly Island and its ecological significance.

They can also participate in educational activities that are designed to teach them about the polar regions, the animals that live there, and the effects of climate change. Other activities include arts and crafts, face painting, and photo booths.

Snowshoe At Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum is a beautiful natural preserve located in Lisle, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago. The preserve is home to over 4,000 species of trees and plants, and it offers a range of outdoor activities throughout the year. During winter, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing on the preserve's many trails.

Morton Arboretum provides snowshoes for rent, and visitors can take guided tours to explore the preserve's winter landscape. The trails are designed to accommodate all skill levels, from beginners to experienced snowshoers. Visitors can also bring their own snowshoes if they prefer.

Visit The Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic

The Brookfield Zoo is a popular attraction located in Brookfield, Illinois, about 14 miles west of Chicago. During winter, the zoo transforms into a winter wonderland with Holiday Magic, a festive event that takes place from November through December.

Visitors can enjoy a range of activities, including ice carving demonstrations, carolers, and a light show. They can also take a ride on the zoo's Holiday Magic Express train, which takes them through a tunnel of lights and past a variety of animals.

See The Lights At The Aurora Festival Of Lights

The Aurora Festival of Lights is a free event that takes place during the holiday season in Aurora, Illinois, about 40 miles west of Chicago. It features over a mile of holiday lights and decorations, including a giant Christmas tree, animated displays, and a lighted train.

Visitors can drive through the festival in their cars or take a leisurely walk through the displays. The event also features a Santa's Village, where visitors can take pictures with Santa, enjoy holiday treats, and shop for gifts.

Take A Winter Bike Ride On The Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail is a popular biking and jogging path that runs along Lake Michigan in Chicago. During winter, the trail is less crowded, making it an ideal spot for a winter bike ride.

Visitors can rent bikes at several locations along the trail and enjoy a scenic ride along the lakefront. The trail offers beautiful views of the city skyline and the lake, and it is well maintained throughout the winter months.

People Also Ask

What Outdoor Winter Activities Are There To Do In Chicago?

Chicago offers a variety of outdoor winter activities, including ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and winter hiking.

Where Can I Go Ice Skating In Chicago During The Winter?

There are several outdoor ice skating rinks in Chicago during the winter, including the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, the Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon, and the Lincoln Park Zoo's rink.

What Parks In Chicago Have Good Sledding Hills?

Some popular parks in Chicago for sledding during the winter include Lincoln Park, Warren Park, and Humboldt Park.

Are There Any Winter Festivals In Chicago?

Yes, there are several winter festivals in Chicago, including the Christkindlmarket, which is a German-inspired outdoor market featuring holiday crafts, food, and drinks, and the Chicago Polar Plunge, where participants jump into Lake Michigan to raise money for charity.

Can I Go Winter Hiking In Chicago?

Yes, there are several places to go winter hiking in Chicago, including the Morton Arboretum, Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, and the Chicago Lakefront Trail. However, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and be cautious of icy conditions on the trails.

Final Thoughts

Chicago has a lot of fun outdoor activities to offer during the winter season, from ice skating to skiing, and even a winter beach.

Despite the cold weather, the city doesn't slow down and offers a variety of options for all ages and interests.

Whether you're looking to stay active or just want to enjoy the winter wonderland, there are plenty of things to do outdoors this winter in Chicago.

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