Chicago’s a beautiful city year-round, but it can feel a little intimidating to visit in the winter with its reputation for chilly temperatures. Fortunately, there are plenty of seasonally-appropriate (and winter-friendly!) Chicago attractions to visit on your next trip the windy city. Plot a few winter attractions into your itinerary and you’re guaranteed to have a great time.
If you’re traveling with kids, you can’t miss out on a visit to a museum or two. The Museum of Science and Industry is always a big hit with the whole family, and younger kids will love the Chicago Children’s Museum. If you’re looking to include a few educational options, a visit to the Museum Campus is also a good idea when visiting Chicago in the winter. The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium are some of the most popular and highly regarded attractions in the city –and they’re conveniently located within mere yards of each other to minimize your exposure to the weather. In fact, you can hop on a bus from downtown to deliver you right to the Museum Campus without the hassle of parking or messing with directions. (Insider tip: The CTA is often a convenient, wallet-friendly way to get around Chicago.)
Of course, you don’t want to forget the charming and beautiful things going on in Chicago during the winter! The entire city gets dolled up for the holidays, with festive lights, elaborate window displays, and traditional trees going up late November and sticking around into January (expect more wintery décor like white lights to stay up longer). You won’t regret a visit to the downtown Macy’s; their holiday window displays are the stuff of legend, and the Walnut Room’s Christmas Tree is a longstanding Chicago tradition.
Michigan Avenue hosts Chicago’s famous shopping district, and it’s a gorgeous Chicago attraction in the winter. Each store tries to outdo the other in the creativity and beauty of their displays, and you’ll find yourself snapping more photos of store windows then you ever thought possible. A stroll down Michigan Avenue is a great way to spend the day; a little window shopping, perhaps some actual shopping, and a bit of dining for lunch and dinner, and you’ve just spent a day in Chicago like a native! As a bonus, you can duck into a store for the heat whenever you’re feeling a bit chilly.
Then, of course, there’s the snow. You’ll see a fair amount of it on the ground – like on the statuary and artwork in Millennium Park or Lurie Gardens (and unfortunately, on the sidewalks) – but the real treat is to see it from above. You haven’t seen a winter view of Chicago until you’ve seen a frozen Lake Michigan from atop the John Hancock Observatory or the Willis Tower. Pick a clear day and head up in the late afternoon to catch the magic of the setting sun on a snow-covered Lakefront. It’s a truly breathtaking sight, and an iconic Chicago Attraction. Don’t forget about old favorites! Ice-skate at the Tribune Plaza, build snowmen in Grant Park, or say hello to the furry winter creatures at the Lincoln Park Zoo (which also hosts the popular Zoo Lights during winter).
So don’t let rumors of bad weather scare you away from a visit to Chicago this winter. Chicago Winter Attractions are some of the best of the whole year!