Winter Got You Down? These 10 Chicago Activities Will Help.

Escape the cold 96 floors up, in a salt room or among tropical vegetation

February 17, 2023 7:22 am
The Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois, a perfect activity for escaping the cold during the winter
You can feel the cold leave your body at the balmy Garfield Park Conservatory.

We’re in that period of winter where, no matter how excited you were by the season’s first snowflakes, the cold is starting to get a little tedious. Again with the head-to-toe insulated gear? To help you make it to the other side, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the best activities around Chicago when you need to get out of the cold. Instead of hibernating at home, put on that scarf, face the weather and seek out these cozy locales.

Bonus: the following suggestions are not only for cold weather. They’re also fun activities for the brutal, humid summer heat. They’re just that much better when you’re trying to escape freezing temps.

Get warm in the Garfield Park Conservatory

There’s something magical and cruel going from freezing temperatures outdoors to 80 degrees indoors, with the express purpose of admiring vegetation. The Garfield Park Conservatory is a gem, and there’s a reason they’re booked up for private events throughout the year. If you don’t get enough plant life on the west side, head northeast to the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

Change your perspective at the Chicago History Museum

There’s no shortage of world-class museums in Chicago. But one that sometimes gets overlooked is the museum that’s actually about Chicago. And if there’s one thing Chicagoans agree on, it’s that Chicago is the greatest city in the world. Go learn the history that will back up this entirely correct claim. FYI: there are plenty of free days for Illinois residents, including much of February. Another fine, non-Loop, non-Museum Campus option is the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. 

Enjoy at concert at Stan Mansion

I used to think this was only a wedding venue. It’s not. The Logan Square mansion hosts the occasional concert, most recently a celebration of music from the 1920s. Think of it as your local, not-insane version of the Stanley Hotel from The Shining.

Get a reservation at The Duck Inn

The cozy restaurant on the border of Pilsen and Bridgeport has an old-school feel. It’s a pre-Prohibition-era tavern that feels like a comfortable living room on dark nights. 

Sample a bit of everything at Revival Food Hall

This Loop food hall offers 15 fast-casual options. Whether you’re craving doughnuts or pizza (you also crave more carbs when it’s cold, right?), empanadas or burgers, you’re covered. We especially like Smoque BBQ. Sometimes it’s easier to meet up in the Loop rather than Old Irving Park, where the original Smoque BBQ operates. Related, you can use the Pedway to stay out of the cold as much as possible. 

Also related, another fine food hall option is the Time Out Market in the West Loop. Or you could do what we did before all these food halls opened and stop in at a bunch of restaurants in Chinatown, both the original and “new” addition that’s been around for 30 years, for dim sum.

Chicago’s 7 Best Cheese-Centric Dining Experiences
We’ve got elevated cheese boards, of course, but also pecorino cocktails and French onion éclairs

Play Skee-Ball at Slippery Slope

Skee-Ball takes less skill and is more fun than bowling. Both of these points are debatable, but what’s not is you do not need special shoes to play at Slippery Slope.

Roll with the Windy City Rollers

Chicago’s roller derby team has been going strong since 2006. The athletes are tougher than you and me, but you may nonetheless be inspired to strap on some roller skates after taking in a bout. This is a bad idea. The weather should prevent you from doing this. It’s one of the reasons why a roller derby bout is better in the winter. 

Tour the Goose Island Brewery

For quite a long time, Goose Island was the only independent Chicago brewer. Really. When Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011, it may have spelled the end of the most popular ’90s and ’00s local beers. It did not. You can still find Goose Island in most local bars and definitely in every local grocery and liquor store. See how it’s made on a weekend tour at the Fulton Street brewery. 

Look down from the Signature Lounge

The 95th floor of the John Hancock Center is The Signature Room, a restaurant near the top of the Cock. But on the 96th floor you’ll find a cocktail lounge. You’re not going for the food. The drinks taste the same as they do on the ground, but the views are what you’ll remember. 

Drive to the suburbs for King Spa

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, King Spa is a somewhat beloved not-exactly-unknown destination. After a decade-plus of love from the Tribune, Reader and over a thousand positive reviews, know you’ll be in a pleasant, warm setting designed to make you feel good. Personally, I’m not a big fan of spas. I’m a fan of H Mart. H Mart is next door. Stop at H Mart before you head home.


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